Get Outside! 15 Ways to Explore Nature With Your Kids
Getting your kids out in nature is not just about sending kids outside to play. Experts say that exploring the outdoors advances children's intellectual, emotional, social and physical health. And when parents take the time to share in outdoor exploration, there is the added benefit of strengthening the parent-child bond.
Even if you're not big on outdoor play, there are fun and easy ways to get your children excited about nature. You might even find that when you engage in these activities, you'll have a newfound appreciation of the great outdoors, too.
Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is a great educational activity for kids. Not only does it keep them connected to nature, it also challenges them. It can be a wonderful way to teach children about setting goals and how to handle disappointment.
They might not find everything on the scavenger-hunt list, but they can be taught that it's still worth trying to do so. And most of all, this is something that kids love doing! Check out Buggy and Buddy for a list of 30 free scavenger hunt printables that you and your kids can use.
Plant a Garden
You don't need a green thumb to plant an amazing garden in your yard. With a bit of guidance from Empress of Dirt, you can produce a garden that offers your children a chance to learn about responsibility that is just the right size for their growing minds and hands.
Whether you decide to have a vegetable garden or a flower garden, your children will be in awe of the way nature demonstrates the progression of growth. Knowing that they had a hand in the development of the garden's contents will also make your children feel proud. Getting to see their hard work literally blossom is truly a fantastic accomplishment.
Camp Out in Your Backyard
The highlight of most camping trips for kids (and, let's be real, adults, too) is undoubtedly the making of s'mores. But camping out is about more than just delicious treats. It's about connecting — with nature, with each other and with ourselves.
The beauty of camping is that you can do it right in your own backyard. Just set up a tent, leave the cellphones inside and embrace the authenticity of nature. You can set up a small portable grill for food (and yes, s'mores), gather up some board games or other activities and lay down to watch the stars at night. Your kids will not only enjoy spending time with you, they will also learn as they do it. And they will come to appreciate the luxuries of life more when they have to spend time away from them.
Create Rock Art
Get outside and go "rock hunting," and look for ones that have the potential to become works of art. The trick is finding rocks that are smooth enough to paint on, that can be used to encourage your miniature artist. Then, get some paint, and let your kids go to town.
This will allow your kids to express their creativity and also get more familiar with nature. You can even try painting on sticks and leaves, too. There are many different nature crafts to try with your children that are fun and educational.
Jump Into a Pile of Leaves
Sometimes, it's the little things in life that bring the most joy. Case in point: the excitement one gets when jumping into a pile of autumn leaves. Kids love simply raking them up and jumping.
You can also use this as an opportunity to talk about the seasons and the way leaves change throughout the year. Talk about the satisfying crunch they make, and ask your children to explain how the leaves feel. Get your children (and yourself) even more in touch with their senses while learning more about the world around them.
Make a Bird Feeder
Here's a fun fact: You can actually get more in touch with nature from inside your house. Okay, that's only partially true. A bird feeder will connect you more with birds that might live near your home. And you're only required to go outside to set the feeder up.
Then, watch from your window as the birds enjoy the food that you leave for them. At Growing a Jeweled Rose, there are several DIY bird feeders to try making with your children.
Walk Along a Nearby Trail
Get your kids moving and explore nature by taking a stroll along a nearby walking trail. Observe and discuss the various sights and sounds. This is an easy way to squeeze in some exercise and learn as you go.
Whether the trail requires hiking through the woods or is wide open at a park, there will be plenty to see and discuss. You might catch a glimpse of wildlife, a waterfall or other natural features as well.
Hit the Beach
If you're lucky enough to live close to a beach, take advantage of it. The beach is such a peaceful place, and there are many ways to explore nature there. Play in the sand, splash in the water or simply soak in the sun. Checkout the seagulls or seashells, fish or rocks.
The five senses definitely get awakened, and your children will be fascinated by the vastness of the water and its surroundings. Just building a sandcastle can be a great way for kids to get more in tune with nature.
Have a Picnic
Lunch is way more fun when it's had outside. Whether you sprawl out on a blanket or unload on a picnic table, kids love packing lunch to go. As you eat, you can observe the various plants and animals that surround you. You can talk about the foods the animals eat versus the foods people eat, chat about the way they live compared to how we live and discuss other nature-related topics.
Depending on the weather, you can also ask your children about why it's hot or cold outside and what causes rain and snow. This is an excellent chance to talk about the way climate affects plants and animals and their living environments throughout the year.
Dig in the Dirt
It's messy, and you don't know what you'll find, but that's what makes digging in the dirt so much fun! Some kids like using sticks; others use their bare hands.
Whichever methods your children prefer, they are bound to find something down under that excites, interests or educates them. Not only that, your children are bound to rouse their creative sides by coming up with ways to make dirt a work of art. As long as it all stays outside, let your kids go wild!
Collect Parts of Nature
Have a DIY-style scavenger hunt by collecting various things found in nature. Your child can collect everything in a large jar and then share each item and talk about it. Each day, ask your child to pull something from the jar and observe it — how it looks, feels and smells.
Take the opportunity to emphasize the uniqueness that every individual and every part of nature encompasses. Just as no two people are the same, neither are two leaves, rocks, sticks or flowers.
What's better than experiencing nature? Having a way to experience it over and over again. There is some really amazing nature photography out there. Capturing the outdoors in photographic form brings to life the details of nature — the vivid colors, the variety of textures and the multitude of different elements that exist.
Better yet, print the photos and keep them in a special album for your children to look through whenever they want to reminisce on memorable days they spent exploring.
Depending on where you live, there may be lots of different insects roaming the streets. There are many families who like to catch lightning bugs in jars, but you can also look for other bugs. Educate your children on which ones could be dangerous, but encourage them to search for the ones that are harmless to touch.
As your children get older, they might be less afraid of most insects since they learned early on that many are not going to hurt them. Ladybugs are especially worth looking for, since they are supposed to be good luck!
Artists know what an incredible gift Mother Nature offers them. Many artists set up shop outside to find inspiration for their work. Likewise, your child can be moved by nature and incorporate what inspires them into their artwork.
Even if what they conjure up isn't clearly discernible as a specific thing in nature, it will get their creative juices flowing and help them mentally memorize the various sights, sounds and smells that surround them outside. The next time they experience those things, they'll have flashbacks to when they were creating them on their easel.
Go Bird Watching
Birds aren't always the most entertaining creatures, but bird watching is fun because you learn so much about the different types of birds that exist and get to observe the interesting habits that they possess.
For children, sitting and waiting to see something might not sound very fun, but if you make it feel more like a game, they will be more excited to give bird watching a try. Check out the educational and fun printable tally sheet from Fantastic Fun and Learning, which allows children to take notes about the different bird behaviors that they see.