As the snow begins to melt and the cold lifts after a long winter, now is a good time to start thinking about getting kids outdoors and planning nature-based activities. When a child is out in nature, all of their senses get activated: They’re seeing, hearing, touching, even tasting. It is truly one of the first times in their lives that they actively witness and are immersed in something bigger than themselves, and see the lifecycle nature undergoes.
In the natural world, a child’s brain has the chance to rejuvenate. Nature can also be their classroom. It is important for children to learn to connect to nature; to be in awe of it, learn how to support it, keep it healthy and clean, and to understand what it gives us in return.
A good way to start is with nature walks. There are many public hikes and trails that can be explored (check feedback on sites like Yelp.com to see which ones might be appropriate for younger, older, or stroller-bound children). A walk allows you time to stop, observe, and explain the questions asked regarding the basics of how plants and trees grow, life-cycle of leaves, the importance of sunlight, etc.
Another fun idea to get kids thinking about how things grow is to “follow” a vegetable. Pick a veggie out of your fridge like lettuce and have a conversation with your kids about where the lettuce came from. Then, take it back a step further and go to a farmer’s market. Talk to a vendor/farm stand that sells lettuce and ask (with your child) how the grow and pick their crop. You can also take time to research on the computer to show this process.
If you can, weather permitting, take it a step further back by planning a day trip to a “pick your own” farm where your children can pick fruits and veg first hand and see how the foods that nourish our bodies come into being. Most towns have farmer’s markets or fruit patches. (I used to love strawberry picking!)
Planting a garden of your own (even if it’s starting from growing seedlings on a damp paper towel or a single plant in a pot), also teaches children how living things grow and teaches them the responsibility of caring for them first hand. As most of you will know, I like to grow herbs, tomatoes, and peppers. Potting bulbs in the autumn is also a wonderful experience when they first start to see those bloom in the spring.
If you are a teenager, volunteering on a park cleanup crew is a great way of giving back as a family, and of course, it teaches children to respect the environment. It is an eye-opening experience when they see just how many pounds of litter can be cleaned up from a local stream or park. Even the beaches in your seaside town can be cleaned out with group effort. Most councils have calendar dates of when this happens. As someone who has done this with children, you come away with a sense of responsibility of taking care of the environment in which you live.
Cultivating an appreciation for nature and all that lives and grows around us is a respectful and good principle that is meaningful to instill in our children’s early in life. It helps them better understand the outdoors, our ongoing and symbiotic relationship with it, and gets them away from virtual reality and into the reality of our planet earth and the real world we inhabit.
Copywritten by Jo Frost