Children, by nature, love nature! Allowed to run free and explore, I don’t know any child that doesn’t automatically connect with the natural world. It’s the perfect environment in which to learn, explore, inspire creativity and just let kids be kids. And the best part is that the great outdoors is free! Although some activities, like camping or outdoor sports, do come at a small cost, there are many activities you can do which are free or cost very little. Just being outside and getting fresh air is wonderful, and there are a million things you can do to encourage your kids to connect with and love the natural world. Below are some tips on how to teach kids to love nature.
- Take a Hike – Get outside and just have fun exploring your local forest. This is our favourite thing to do in the spring and fall especially, when the forest is starting to re-grow in the spring after winter, and then again in the fall when leaves are changing colour and starting to fall off. If you live in a more mild climate, you’ll have wonderful hiking weather all through the year – lucky you! We often collect items on our hikes, like K’s personal favourite, sticks, as well as any cool branches we see for craft projects and items to add to out nature table, like pinecones, fallen feathers and cool leaves and rocks. Look out for local birds and other creatures like deer, squirrels, caterpillars and butterflies.
- Ride Your Bikes – I still remember meeting up with friends in the neighbourhood on a warm summer’s day and riding our bikes around. K has a cool little Strider bike that he just loves and he can zip around pretty quickly on it, keeping up with us. We also have a carrier that he can sit in (it fits 2 kids too) and is perfect for longer bike rides. Just being out in the fresh air and being able to get to your destination on a bike instead of having to pile into the car is so refreshing.
- Go Camping – There’s nothing like spending 24/7 in the elements. Pack up the tent and hit your favourite camping spot. Most kids love the novelty of cooking over an open campfire, wandering through the forest, swimming at the local lake or ocean (if the site is near a body of water), and sleeping outside in a tent. There is so much to learn from living more simply this way and even if it is only temporarily, it really helps you get more connected to Mother Nature.
- Spend a Day at the Beach – One of our all-time favourite things to do is pack up a cooler of healthy drinks, snacks and lunch, grab a few beach toys and other necessities and hit the beach for the day. Building sand castles, splashing in the water, lying in the sand, taking walks on the beach, collecting shells and other beach goodies….there is so much to do! I don’t know any kid that doesn’t love the beach and spending a day here will teach kids to love nature and help connect them with the natural element of water.
- Garden Together – Teach children all about where our food comes from by getting them started early in the garden. Start seeds inside together if necessary and then let kids help dig the holes and plant the seeds or seedlings. If you have space, give your child a small plot of their own to grow whatever they would like in it and tend to it themselves. It’s so rewarding growing your own food and showing children the evolutionary process of a seed to a full vegetable or fruit is pretty amazing. This will definitely get them to appreciate nature.
- Take up Seasonal Outdoor Activities – To get the most out of each season, try to find activities or sports that each child loves and enjoys doing. Winter activities include skiing, skating and hockey, as well as fun things like tobogganing. There’s swimming in the summer, as well as soccer and baseball as soon as the weather warms up, and of course, bike riding. K started playing soccer last year and is super excited to play again this year. It’s totally just for fun but that’s the way it should be at his age and the little ones love it.
- Go Fruit Picking – Picking local fruit is one of our favourite things to do all season long, beginning with strawberries. We pick as many as we can so that we can freeze bags and enjoy them throughout the year in smoothies and baked goods. Kids can be a big help once they’re old enough to pick as well, and you can even wear the littlest ones. Fruit picking gets you outside and shows children where the fruit they eat comes from and how it’s grown. Bonus: you can snack while you pick!
- Respect the Earth and Creatures – Teach children to respect nature and all its creatures. Learning about the animals and what they eat, where they hibernate and where they live gives children a better understanding of the animals’ place in the world. Trees are also a thing of awe and beauty since they provide us with oxygen, shade and food. Just by naturally pointing out what each element does really helps kids appreciate the natural world. I realized this recently when we drove by a bunch of trees that had just been cut down to expand a roadway and K pointed them out, saying “Those trees are so sad to be cut down. We should plant new ones.”
- Bring the Outside In – Start a nature table or use small baskets to hold natural elements from outside. We have a small table that we use to welcome each season and we place little items their each season such as pinecones, beach shells, and handmade items like eggs in a basket for Easter or beeswax candles for winter. Since K is big into collecting items from outside (like many kids are), we also have some baskets in our play area specifically for smaller sticks, rocks and stones, and other fun items. We have a big stick collection at the front door as well as he likes to pick up a new walking stick on each hike. You can also use items you find to make nature crafts. Check out my Eco and Nature crafts Pinterest board for some good ideas.
- Spend as Much Time Outside as You Can – Whenever you can, just get outside. I’ll be the first to admit that I am a summer person, but trying to enjoy every season for what it offers (snow covered trees in a forest are absolutely beautiful as well) can help ensure you get outside as much as possible, even if it’s for a quick walk on those cold winter days. Try to walk or bike to your destinations as much as possible. Schedule playdates at local parks or ask friends to meet up for an outdoor hike or walk with the little ones instead of sitting inside. Enjoy that fresh air and oxygen and children will naturally learn to love and connect with nature.
These are great tips… love every single one of them 🙂
So many good ideas – I try to do most of them with my kids. Sharing:o)
Love this post!!! 🙂 Sharing on Natural Beach Living for This Bird Told Me Wednesday Linky Party.
Thank you Kimberly!:)
I love everyone of your ideas — and hope to someday take my kids camping! I just did a post about nature being like the library, which fits in with the idea of respect: http://wp.me/p3RU95-6X
Neat, I will check it out!