A growing body of research points to the fact that time spent in contact with nature is good for everyone, but that it’s particularly vital to the healthy development of kids.
Nature engages all of the senses, helps children develop curiosity and creativity, reduces stress, and fosters a sense of wonder and a desire to learn. Kids who spend time in nature are also more likely to develop a lifelong sense of connection to and concern for the environment.
Wander outside. Nature is all around you, even if you live in an urban environment. From grass to trees, birds to insects, gardens to abandoned lots, cities are full of living things. Exploring with your children provides you with a bonding opportunity disguised as a new adventure. Check out the Nature quest below to get started.
Explore and learn together. Bring an illustrated nature guidebook with you and go visit a forest, field, stream or pond. Encourage your kids to poke around with you to see what you can find. Try sitting still. What do you see? What do you hear? Smell? Carefully turn over a log or rock. Use your field guide to identify trees, plants, animals and insects that you see and find. Show your kids how to safely turn their curiosity into learning. Use the 10 things to bring list below to pack for your adventure.
Grow something. A great way to introduce kids to nature is to grow something with them. Herbs like mint, oregano or basil are particularly easy to plant and grow, and they provide opportunities to children to interact with the plant using their senses of sight, smell, touch and taste. If you have the space, consider planting a small vegetable garden or flowerbed. Your kids will learn important lessons as they take responsibility for other living things.
You can find pockets of nature even in urban environments. Take a phone or digital camera with you to a nearby park or a nature preserve, and collect pictures of all of the items on this list. If you don’t have a park close by, try going for a walk in your neighborhood and see what you can find!
□ Tree that has lost all its leaves
□ Tree buds (deciduous trees form a winter bud to protect the developing leaf)
□ Animal tracks in the snow
□ Pine tree
□ Evergreen tree
□ Fungi or moss on a tree
□ Plant with berries
□ Plant with thorns
□ Leaf skeleton
10 things to bring
Headed into nature? Bring these items when taking kids into the great outdoors to explore.
□ Warm winter clothing – hat, scarf, mittens, snow pants, boots, warm socks – everything you need to keep warm in cold weather
□ Hand warmer packets
□ Cell phone
□ Snacks – granola bars, dried fruit, almonds or other nuts – and water
□ Thermos with something hot to drink, like hot chocolate or apple cider
□ Magnifying glass
□ Small pair of binoculars
□ Sled in case you find a great hill
□ Bag for collecting pinecones, leaves or other fun items that can be used at home for play or decoration