The David Suzuki Foundation estimates that the average North American child spends less than 30 minutes outdoors each day! If you’re looking for creative ways to nurture your child’s lifelong appreciation for nature, read on!
Every Day Tips
1) Bring indoor activities outside
Many of us are working and learning remotely, making it too easy to stay cooped up indoors. When the weather is nice, bring readings and homework outside. This allows your family to reconnect with nature without disrupting their schedules.
2) Talk about Nature
Kids have many questions about nature. Although answering these questions is important for their learning, asking kids questions can be just as beneficial. Can your children identify different plant species? Where will the sun’s rays fall at the end of the day? Pointing out interesting things that are happening in the ecosystems around you will fulfill kids’ need for social interaction while stoking their curiosities.
3) Allow Kids to get Close to the Earth
Allow kids to embrace nature with all of their senses. Encourage hole-digging, leaf-dissecting, and rolling around in grass. Give kids a special nature shirt and shoes that they can get messy, and set rules for safe outdoor play. According to the not-for-profit organization Active for Life, nature immersion stimulates kids’ senses.
4) Care for Nature
Children feel responsible and proud of themselves when they can care for something. Allow children to care for a pet, houseplant, or garden. When children care for nature, they will learn about how humans impact the natural world.
5) Give Kids a Nature Journal
Give kids a blank journal or sketchbook, and encourage them to write about the thoughts that they have as they interact with nature. Children who journal about their thoughts and feelings boost their communication, writing, and literacy skills. They also become more emotionally aware.
6) Use Positive Words to Talk About Nature
Is the insect that you found in your kitchen scary or unusual? Was the garden dirt icky or full of great nutrients? When talking about nature, use language that emphasizes its beauty rather than its perceived flaws.
7) Find a Special Nature Spot
According to Canadian paleontologist Scott D. Sampson, all children need a sitting spot: a special outdoor area close to home that kids can regularly visit to bond with nature. Beyond being perfect for reading and playing, a sitting spot enables kids to observe and become sensitive to the changes that occur in local ecosystems throughout the year.
8) Have a Weekly Nature Day
For one day each week, encourage kids to power off media devices to spend time with nature. In their 2019 census of media use by tweens and teens, Common Sense Media estimated that tweens spend over 4 hours per day engaging with screens, while teenagers spend 7 hours and 22 minutes. This doesn’t include the time spent using media to complete schoolwork, which is increasingly being done online. Taking a break from digital media to enjoy nature reveals that local ecosystems can be just as much fun as cyberspace.
9) Take Family Nature Trips
Many people think of loading up with heavy camp gear when they hear the term “nature trip.” However, travelling to exciting nature destinations doesn’t have to be laborious! Inspiring nature sites can be found right in your community. Visit local parks, urban greenspaces, farms, and beloved walking trails. Camp in your backyard, or have a family picnic! Regularly participating in nature-focused traditions means that kids will associate nature with positive memories about family, bonding, and safety. This positive view of nature will make children more likely to seek out and enjoy nature-focused activities in the future.
Changing seasons provide great opportunities for learning about nature. Summer is great for learning about insects and flowers. In the fall, changing leaves and migrating birds teach kids about how different organisms prepare themselves for cooler temperatures. Take advantage of every season’s offerings to highlight nature’s wonders.
10) Harvest Your Own Food
Get kids excited about nutritious, locally-grown food by harvesting your own! Many children already enjoy the challenge of finding and collecting things. Take your child to a farm where they can pick their own produce, and challenge them to collect as many vegetables and fruits as they can. Along with giving your family access to fresh produce, pick-your-own farms enable you to meet and learn about the hardworking agricultural workers who supply your food!
Furthermore, picking fruits and vegetables right off of the vine teaches children about how plants grow; an insight that may actually make them more excited to eat plant-based foods!
FUN TIP: Shake things up by harvesting maple syrup at a maple syrup farm!
11) Visit Nature-Focused Sites
Sites such as aquariums, zoos, and science centers are great to visit all year long! Visit sites that offer kid-targeted nature activities. The staff who run kid-targeted sites are committed to making sure that all kids are genuinely excited about nature. Check each site’s activity schedule before making plans to visit, so that you can see if there are any activities that directly align with your child’s interests.
12) Take a big family trip to a Nature Site
National parks have long been popular places for families to visit. If your family is able to make the trip, these sites can be great places to visit to get your child excited about nature. Moreover, by taking family trips to these sites, you will create family memories that stick with kids for life.
If travelling to a national park isn’t an option, local eco-tourism is another great way to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature while “getting away” as a family. Examples of eco-tourism activities include:
• visiting urban trails in your region
• camping at nearby camp sites
• supporting local businesses (such as restaurants) that promote sustainability.
13) Celebrate Nature-Themed days
Many kids are familiar with nature-themed days like Earth Day from school. Observing these days often involves engaging in recycling activities, yard cleanups, and energy-conservation initiatives.
As a family, observe initiatives such as Earth Hour (which takes place annually in late March), Earth Day (annually on April 22nd), and National Pollinator Week (annually in late June). On these special days, participate in nature-centered events in your community (like shoreline cleanups and festivals), and start conversations about little actions that your family can take every day to help the environment.
By embracing nature-focused traditions in celebration of the planet, you show kids that your family is committed to protecting the environment, and encourage them to follow your strong example.
There are plenty of amazing environmental organizations that are looking for members of all ages who are committed to saving the planet. Members of these organizations often have access to fun nature events, environment-focused newsletters, and access to online and in-person communities of like-minded individuals. Joining an organization is a great way to connect kids with nature. Encourage your kids to do some research to find one that aligns with their interests. Here are some great organizations to get you started:
Regularly connecting with nature supports children’s well being and the planet’s health.
You can help children to connect with nature by giving them access to exciting formal and informal learning opportunities.
What is your family doing to connect with nature? Let us know in the comments!