It’s not always as easy as you’d think to get children to enjoy nature or being outside. Some kids don’t like bugs and others may not want to get dirty. Developing a connection with nature is important though. Just being outside and hearing the birds chirping or the rustling of leaves has been shown to help lower anxiety in children and adults. As children start to feel more comfortable they’ll be able to connect with the outdoors through active exploration or the ability to be still and observant. Learning to be a kid in nature and enjoying it is a fantastic thing that can be taught quickly and easily!
Kids In Nature and A Sense Of Belonging
It is great for kids to get outdoors and play games or hike and explore. Developing one’s sense of belonging in nature helps children and adults feel like nature is more than just a place to visit. Nature can become a place where one feels both energized and relaxed.
Exploring Special Places for Kids in Nature
Avoid limiting your definition of “special places” to vacation spots or even state or national parks. Each place in nature has its own unique characteristics. One’s first temptation may be to ignore the weedy edges around the local parks. Closer examination may reveal dozens of insects actively crawling up and down blades of grass and a variety of wildflowers in bloom.
You may feel that you should know more about nature before going out to explore it with your children. However, exploration and identification are two very different activities. You may become curious about a small yellow bird you see and then try to identify it. Or, you may simply enjoy watching the bird hopping along looking for small insects.
Here’s our favorite things to look for on a nature walk!
A Stillness Activity
Active exploration involves walking, climbing, bending, and rolling over rocks and logs. If you’re not moving around while out in nature are notice things in a different way.
Whether you are following a forest path or walking through a park, find a space where you can avoid being disturbed for a few minutes minutes. If you are with a group, look for a clearing where everyone can sit looking out from the center of the space to avoid having people stare at one another.
If you are with your own children, you can have them sit a few feet from one another so they aren’t tempted to talk to or touch one another. Older children may prefer to scatter to different spots within your sight.
Before separating everyone, let them know how long they will be doing this activity. Plan approximately 30 seconds for each year the child is old (average the number for mixed age groups). If the activity appears to be going well, you can always extend things for a minute or two.
Each person sits, lays, or stands in one place with her eyes either opened or closed. Encourage participants to focus their attention on the surrounding sights and sounds and also notice any interesting smells or textures within their reach.
This is an interesting activity to try at different times of day – dawn, morning, afternoon, dusk, or night. Each time brings unique sights and sounds, even if you always do this activity in your backyard.
These books can help teach kids about nature!
Sit in a sharing circle to reflect on the feeling of sitting quietly in nature. Ask if there were any visual rewards for remaining still and silent – chipmunks gathering food nearby or a dragonfly landing on someone’s knee.
Exploring nature involves nothing more elaborate than walking through different environments – the beach, a field, a forest, a garden, a park, and the backyard – and taking the time to notice what is there. You can help children develop a love and appreciation of nature by bringing them outdoors and encouraging them to explore.