Discover various ways for children to spend more time outdoors with these enjoyable family activities. From arranging a road trip around “rockhounding” prospects to building an outside play area, these ideas are certain to pique your child’s interest in nature.
Show a child a tree stump, and they will likely climb on it, examine it, and peel off its bark. However, it is unlikely that they will leave it unchanged. “That’s the thing about nature,” says Heather Hatada-Boyd, founder of Forest Folk New England, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based nonprofit that offers family environmental activities throughout the year. “Outdoor environments encourage children to watch and participate. There is so much to observe and ponder.”
Hatada-Boyd is part of a rising movement to make nature an intrinsic element of childhood and a medium for learning and play. From park programs to “nature preschools” to community gardens, these activists are creating opportunities for children to learn and enjoy animals, plants, and environments. These programs are now a requirement.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children who play outside have better physical health, are more interested in learning, exhibit better behavior, and are cognitively healthier than children who do not.
How to Boost Your Child’s Outdoor Play
Start by reminding yourself that you don’t have to travel to a national park in order to convince your youngster to enjoy the outdoors. Nature is everywhere, after all. Here is a list of simple techniques to introduce extra fresh air into your household.
Try your hand at collecting rocks.
Do you have an aspiring geologist on your hands? Or perhaps a child who enjoys digging in the dirt? Rockhounding, often known as amateur geology, has become a popular outdoor activity for families across the nation.
This activity constitutes the collection of mineral specimens, rocks, semiprecious stones, petrified wood, and invertebrate fossils from the earth. Whether you’re taking a detour on a road trip or planning a “field trip” dedicated to digging for rocks and gems, it is prudent to check land ownership before planning a rockhounding expedition.
You can use the Bureau of Land Management website and the USDA Forest Service website to learn about rockhounding etiquette and regulations.
Off-roading with RC vehicles.
If you have a young hot rod racer at home, try this enjoyable activity: Bring your remote-controlled cars to a park to race over rocks, dirt, and branches. This amazing tactile feel is significantly more pleasant than driving these battery-powered cars on a carpet or a smooth wooden living room floor.
Create obstacles for automobiles to traverse by setting out ramps, bridges, and other uneven terrains. In addition to having a wonderful time with their toys, your child will explore nature in an up-close and incredibly entertaining manner.
Create a camp kitchen.
If your child enjoys preparing fake meals, they will enjoy playing “campfire” in the backyard. Assist your child in packing a backpack with play pots and pans, a rubber chicken, and anything else your young chef proposes, and then proceed outside to collect wood and construct a “fire.”
Is mud season occurring in your region? Set up a station for making mud pies by bringing out pie plates, forks, and other fun culinary implements. Then, start scooping up mounds of ooey, gooey, incredible mud and unleash your imagination. Try adorning your pies with flowers, interesting rocks, and outdoor twigs.
Create an outdoor play area of your own.
Creating a unique outdoor play space can make your backyard just as exciting and adventurous as traveling to a new location. From sandboxes and tree huts to hammocks, tire swings, and mud kitchens (an outside room complete with bowls, utensils, a sink, and muck! ), there are several methods to encourage discovery and sensory play at home with your children.
You might also attempt an obstacle course to keep the kids moving or a creative set-up such as a mystical gnome garden, a bear cave, or a wild animal safari to spark their imaginations. One-time outdoor activities such as rainbow bubbles can also be memorable.
Introduce Barbie to the wild.
Children learn through play, which is why it’s so typical to see children exploring the world while holding a Barbie or superhero doll (or other doll-like object). Allow your youngster to choose a favorite action figure or doll that you don’t mind getting soiled, and then head outdoors.
Your child can explore nature and their imagination via hands-on play in a nearby park, a forested area with trails, or even in your own garden. What better way to demonstrate the Hulk’s strength than by having him hoist a genuine “boulder”? (Yes, it was a rock, but even so…)
Those who enjoy painting on paper will enjoy painting on snow or the driveway. Allow your child to channel Jackson Pollock by combining water and food coloring in spray bottles.
If the temperature in your region is cold enough to freeze water, try adding food coloring to some water and pouring it into interesting molds such as snow bricks, rubber gloves, balloons, or cookie sheets. When they freeze, you’re left with some bizarre building materials. Your child can channel his or her inner Michelangelo to make enjoyable winter sculptures.
The next time you’re in the woods, collect twigs, leaves, pine cones, and other natural elements to create a beautiful collage on paper.
Observe birds by going bird-watching.
Jane Kirkland, author of the children’s book Take a Backyard Bird Walk, explains, “Once toddlers are exposed to this pastime, a natural affinity for nature develops.” “Children must observe birds from the sky to the ground and everywhere in between”
Learn about the birds in your area. Bring binoculars the next time you venture outdoors with your youngster. Birds can be found in trees, shrubs, telephone poles, and grass. Observe the colors, size, and behavior of a bird. Listen to its music and observe its flight.
Younger children will require you to explain what they are seeing, while older children can take notes and later identify the birds using books or the Internet. Use a bird feeder, a birdbath, or a nest box to attract birds to your yard.
Spell it out with sticks.
During a walk, use a stick to write letters in the sand or mud or play the alphabet game (finding objects in nature that begin with the letters a, b, c, etc.).
Perform rock music.
Collecting rocks, acorns, and sticks, then securing them in storage containers, is a creative and entertaining pastime you may attempt at your local botanical garden or public forest. Try shaking them to hear their distinctive sounds. Try composing a tune once you have a few distinct sounds.
Keep your eyes open.
“One winter, my children and I ascended Mount Agamenticus in southern Maine and came face-to-face with a snowy owl, which turned and peered at us,” says Veilleux. It was a great experience to have such a close meeting.
Introducing children to nature can introduce them to a world of fantastic coincidences, such as encountering a white owl or spotting a gorgeous butterfly. Consider expeditions an opportunity to learn more about the local fauna and flora by studying local plants, animals, and insects.
Try documenting all of your discoveries by making a family scrapbook in which you and your children can scribble down notes, add pictures, and even collect wonderful objects, such as bird feathers and seashells, that you find on your journeys.
Allow your children to engage in rough play.
Judy Chen, mother of Leo, 5, and aunt of Hazel, 7, from New York City, does not enjoy camping, but when Leo pleaded, she and her husband took the children on an overnight camping trip. It was difficult yet worthwhile, especially as a collaboration exercise.
The family had to prepare, eat, and clean up dinner before it got dark, so the children assisted in gathering sticks for the fire and toasting marshmallows while the adults prepared the food.
“The children learned to be imaginative and patient, and they recognized that they don’t need much to have fun,” Chen explains. It was a terrific way for the family to get together while fostering a sense of accomplishment.
Bring yourself to the water.
Aquatic habitats can expose your youngster to a plethora of previously unseen species, as well as textures, sounds, and odors.
“My girls enjoy investigating tide pools,” explains Veilleux. They search for seashells and other ocean treasures in order to decorate their sand castles.
According to research conducted at Michigan State University, individuals who live with a view of the ocean or a lake are generally happy.
Plan nature travel.
You might wish to plan a trip to a spot for outdoor adventure travel where you can go hiking, rock climbing, rafting, or visit hot springs.
Depending on where you live, the terrain for these activities could be in your backyard, or you could visit one of U.S. News & World Report’s top adventure vacation destinations, such as the Grand Canyon (which topped the list), Yellowstone (which offers 3,000-plus square miles of mountains, canyons, geysers, and waterfalls), or the Adirondacks (where you can go skiing, snowshoeing, or bobsledding in the winter and biking, fishing, hiking, canoeing, and whitewater rafting in the summer).