In an age where internet and television seem to overtake every spare moment of our children’s lives, it is more important now than ever to help our child develop a healthy connection with nature and experience the benefits the outdoors has to offer.
For instance, spending time outside will help to boost your child’s creativity and problem solving as well as improve their focus. Putting the tablet down and going outdoors also increases physical activities and reduces stress.
Not everyone is blessed with a sprawling backyard but being outside does not require widespread lawns, vast forests or stretches of sandy beaches. Simply walking out the door and into the fresh air is sufficient and these suggestions are relevant whether you are a city dweller or enjoy country living:
Explore The Outdoors
Go outside and follow your child’s lead – let them climb, dig and touch wherever they can safely explore. Ask lots of questions like, “What does that dirt feel like?” or “Wow! How heavy is that rock?”. Engage their sense of discovery by visiting different areas or drawing attention to different elements of nature.
Be Nature Detectives
Follow an ant trail, look for animals tracks in the dirt, find bugs under rocks or discover plant-life under stairs or between the cracks in the concrete. Try to uncover nature in every crack and crevice you can find and in places your child would not think to look. Talk about why certain creatures and bugs hide in dark places or how a plant can grow on the sidewalk.
Scavenger hunts don’t have to be limited to boring lists of common outdoor items. Try making a colour hunt where your child has to collect various objects of different colours. You can even incorporate number and letter learning into the activity. How many things can your child find that match the letters of the alphabet?
Print out simple pictures and help your child recreate them with elements from outdoors. Use grass, leaves, pine cones, rocks or whatever you can find to copy the pictures or even make some original creations.
Take a walk and listen for different sounds – birds, wind, rain, etc. Have your child identify the sounds. Write down what you hear.
Use sticks, rocks or reeds to make musical instruments with unique, natural sounds. See if you can perform simple classic like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.
No matter where you live, teaching your child to commune with nature is not impossible. You don’t need wide open spaces or expensive equipment to foster a connection with the outdoors. Starting young, or even starting now, will provide your child with innumerable developmental benefits.