Spring has sprung (or is at least trying to get there) and nothing makes us want to get outside in the fresh air than some sunshine after a long winter. But that can be a little tough when you’re already juggling a full calendar. Here are seven tips to help you get your kids out in nature more.
GO ON A NATURE WALK
We forget that ‘exploring nature’ can be as simple as a walk. It can be a walk around the block, a trip to the park or a friend’s house, or even a stroll to the mailbox. The important thing is getting outside.
Make a walk feel special by encouraging your child to gather natural materials along the way. Allow them to get a little dirty as they look for an unusual leaf, flower petals, loose rocks, or small sticks. Ask your child questions about the color, smell, and feel of each object, make eye contact, and get curious with them. Even something as small as a rock can be a special newfound treasure to a little child.
EAT BREAKFAST ON THE PORCH
Who says you have to eat at the kitchen table? Surprise your child with a very special picnic breakfast first thing in the morning. Lay out a picnic blanket, grab some sweaters, and serve hot breakfast food like mini pancakes and syrup or oatmeal with sliced bananas with warm milk or hot chocolate. Your kids will love it!
No matter where you live, there’s nature to explore. It’s everywhere around us and (mostly!) free. Make a plan to visit one new natural area every weekend. It can be a day trip to a state park, an easy drive through the mountains, or even a nearby city park, as long as it’s somewhere new and in nature. A few more ideas for places to explore with your kids:
- Wander through a botanic garden
- Throw rocks in a stream
- Explore a dense forest
- Play in the ocean waves
- Frolic in rolling hills
- Hike a toddler-friendly mountain
- Visit animals at local farms
Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, a hat, extra water, and an easy picnic for the kiddos.
SIGN UP FOR OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
If you find it hard to get outside as often as you’d like, create some outer accountability by signing up your child for a team or sport that meets outside regularly. Spending money will help you feel more committed and being a part of a team helps you feel like you’re a part of something bigger.
You could also join a park playgroup or start your own! Set a day and time each week and rotate parks in the area. Your kids will love the playmates and you’ll love the sunshine and friends.
GO ON A NATURE SCAVENGER HUNT
Warning: Your kids are going to flip over this. Go on a nature scavenger hunt and collect leaves, flower petals, sticks, rocks, dirt, and grass. Then make a craft project like this, this, or this with what you’ve found. Or take the flowers you gathered and create a bouquet with your child for their room or a fairy house for your backyard. Or, with your help, let your kids put everything in a pot and cook it on the stove. Be creative, be fun, and say yes to a mess. This is the magic of childhood!
SCHEDULE NATURE IN
Studies show that kids thrive when exposed to nature. Nature sparks creativity, physical activity, and natural camaraderie. It improves problem solving and benefits mental, emotional, and physical health. (Read more about the benefits of nature here, here, and here.) Knowing the power of nature and the crucial aspect of play in children’s development, it makes total sense to schedule “nature” just as we would a dentist appointment or doctor check-up.
Plus, consistent “nature time” will help your family build a culture of exploration, adventure, and physical exercise together. Double bonus: It’s fun!
How do you incorporate nature into your family’s life? What is your child’s favorite outdoor activity? Tweet us @munchkin_inc, tag us on Instagram @munchkin, or a leave a comment below!