This is a guest post from writer and blogger, Jennifer Landis at Mindfulness Mama.
Teaching Your Kids to Embrace the Outdoors
When you were younger, how often did you play outside? For the most part, it's clear that today's kids don't appreciate the outdoors as much as their parents once did. Of course, that's not their fault – if you could choose between an iPad and some trees, you'd likely pick the former. Still, you can show them why nature matters.
Here are a few ideas on how and why to teach your kids to appreciate the wild.
1. Answer and Encourage Questions
It's no secret that children love to ask questions. When your youngest asks 76 questions an hour, it's not always easy to formulate a response to this curiosity. After all, why isn't the sky yellow? Your kids ask these questions as a way to boost their cognitive development. In other words, they have a desire to learn! If you want to introduce them to a new topic, like nature, it's essential to indulge them.
You should remember that you don't always need to have the correct answer. You may not know how to identify an animal print – why not research the answer together? When you're out on a trail, it's essential to encourage an open dialogue about what's around you. This effort pushes your children to become more engaged participants.
2. Learn From Guide Books
You and your children can learn about nature as you explore. You don't want to surf the web while you're on a hike, so why not use a guide book? There are various publications that cover subjects that may interest you. If your kids want to discover information about birds, try a read that references birds that fly around your area. Do the same for other animals and plants.
It's always fun to read about species like tigers and hippos. That said, it's even more worthwhile when you can learn about creatures that are native to your location.
3. Start a Home Garden
You can help your kids develop a love for the wild through a home garden. These days, most children spend too much time indoors, so they miss out on essential nutrients. A simple 10-minute activity can help your kids meet their vitamin D requirements every day. Your home garden doesn't have to be too involved – pot a few flowers or start a small herb collection.
In any case, you'll see your kids' curiosity flourish as they watch their plants grow and thrive. These experiences push them to learn more about wilderness-related topics like science. They can see first-hand how nature evolves over time. If they've learned about organisms at school, this supplemental activity can be even more beneficial.
4. Discover Backyard Free Play
If you aren't ready to take your kids on a hike, here's a productive tip. All children need to play by themselves every so often. It's always beneficial to host a play date with peers, but free play can help your kids expand their thought processes through their own volition. Even though you're there to supervise, there's a noticeable difference when you let them explore an unstructured environment.
You can combine free play with the outdoors. To start, set aside an afternoon where your children can play outside for an hour. Feel free to set out various toys and activities, but don't tell them to choose one or the other. They'll be able to encounter nature on their own terms.
5. Chat About Your Food
Here's another simple way to encourage your children to learn about the outdoors. Many people don't discuss our world's agriculture system with their kids – and often, it's because they don't know much themselves. You're never too old to learn. The more you understand about the farm-to-table process, the better choices your family can make. Plus, these lessons give you insight into nature as a whole.
You can chat about how farmers milk cows and grow crops, as well as how they distribute those products. Unfortunately, we can't plant french fry seeds, so it's essential to consider what it takes to put them on your table.
6. Try a Hands-On Experience
When you take your children outside to explore, it's essential to let them get a little dirty! It only takes 120 minutes outside each week to promote a healthier lifestyle. When your kids engage their senses, they can create a more profound experience for themselves. We all learn from what we can see, touch, hear and smell. That's how we're able to understand why the world operates as it does.
When they jump into those muddy puddles, try not to freak out. In fact, you should join them. You can always wash your clothes when you go home. It's those uninhibited moments that encourage children to embrace new adventures.
Your Children Can Develop a Bond With the Outdoors
An appreciation for nature can help your kids grow as people. If you want them to embrace the outdoors, use these tips to foster curiosity and fascination!