With all the technology and stimulus out there from television and movies to cell phones and computer games, it can be challenging to get children excited about the outdoors and in nature – let alone, even get them outside to give it a try.
In combination with the book I’m reading called Sharing the Joys of Nature by Joseph Cornell, my own experiences as a nanny caring for children and being a nature enthusiast, I have come up with some fun outdoor activities that hopefully inspire your children and you to spend some time connecting with nature and enjoying all it has to offer.
Based on my research, getting them moving around in nature is a good first step that builds enthusiasm and gets their blood flowing shooting off “feel good” chemicals in their brains! For example, if you have just one or two children, have them choose an animal and then act out that animal. They can crawl around on all fours like a spider, howl at the sky like a wolf, rawr like a ferocious lion or do the crab walk. If you are working with multiple children, you can have them each take on a different part of the animal and work as a team – for example in Cornells book, the children participating chose to be a scorpion and they all came together to make one giant scorpion. Their excitement built and they felt connected to nature by becoming nature.
Working as a nanny, I had the two children (one 3 years old and the other 7 years old) go on a scavenger hunt. We went into their spacious front and backyard to look for the items I selected. Obviously, you can plan this out a bit more and be in an environment like the woods or a park where there may be more natural items to work with. You can make a written or picture list beforehand.
Some things you can have the children look for are: Flowers, rocks that are not brown or tan, feathers, a leaf that is larger than their hand – give broad items but make it a little challenging with some specifics so they can actually move around and explore their surroundings.
It helps to be sure to scout the area yourself first for some of the items on your list, for any poisonous plants like poison ivy and use a stick to rustle around in bushes or plants to make sure there aren’t possibly dangerous creatures like snakes lurking around.
Identifying and Learning About Nature:
Once the children have collected their items, if you know a little about plants, minerals, rocks, birds or flowers – you can teach them about the different things they collected. Bring a reference book with you or maybe you and the children can look it up together when you get home. This opens the door for both of you to learn more about nature.
These are a few planned ideas to get children enjoying nature but it can be even simpler than that. Here are some examples that have worked for me:
- Climbing trees
- Building a fort out of branches and foliage
- Having the children collect the wood and allowing them to watch you build a fire (always mentioning safety and precaution)
- Taking them on a hike or nature walk to a destination where they can go swimming in a quarry or lake
- Bringing them to a butterfly garden or nature preservation where animals and insects can roam freely in a natural environment
I have found one of the most important parts of children enjoying nature are when you – the facilitator, the parent or the guardian enjoys and interacts in nature with them. If you are excited, engaged and participate with them, there is a much better chance of the experience being a success!