“Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; [the Lakota] knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too.” – Luther Standing Bear
Nature is essential to our spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. Nature has so much to teach us about ourselves, the natural world, the interconnectedness of all things, how things work, and much more. In nature, we come to appreciate beauty, and we are more relaxed–if we allow ourselves to be. For me, nature is awe-inspiring: when I walk in the woods, I feel connected to life! Children, when allowed to really interact with nature, can be very creative. More and more our children are spending too much time indoors, and we see the results of this in their health problems. Here are a few ways to encourage your family to interact with nature.
- Take a walk or hike in the woods. I am not much of a winter person, but as soon as the weather warms up, we love to take long walks or hikes. It is a great bonding experience, and nature is a great antidote to stress. Recently, I have taken to jogging at local trails – I love it!
- Plant a Garden. Planting is a great way to get down and dirty with nature. There are so many benefits to gardening. Encourage children to plant with you. Grow your own vegetable garden and let your children pick and cook the vegetables. It encourages healthy eating habits.
- Keep a nature journal. Young children love having a nature journal. It makes them feel older and responsible. When my children were younger, I’d give them a little journal and encourage them to make observations, draw, write in their journals, and be nature detectives. They loved it!
- Go camping, and if you can’t go far, camp in your backyard in tents, with flashlights, and lots of stories. We camped every summer for the first 8 years of my children’s lives. My daughter was only 2 months old on her first camping trip. She loves the natural world and spends a lot of time outdoors.
- Good weather rule. If it is sunny, enforce the “go outside and play rule.” It is great to watch how creative children can be if given the opportunity. Jump in puddles on a rainy day and build igloos or snow forts on a snowy day. Lots of fun!
- Build a fairy house (or village) in your backyard. Another favorite pastime. At age 10, my daughter occasionally still builds fairy houses. Sometimes it’s a simple fairy dwelling and sometimes quite elaborate, but either way, they are pretty creative!
- Nature photography. When I first got the Canon camera, I’d carry it on every trip and take pictures of nature. My children still enjoy taking turns with the camera. Encourage children to take photos when you go hiking or for walks.
- Watch the clouds and play “I Spy.” My daughter still loves to look at the clouds and figure out how many different animal shapes she can make out, and she can even sometimes get her older brother to join in the search.
- Sunset or sunrise walk or jog. Go for a walk when the sun is rising or setting. I am not much of a morning person, so I leave the sunrise walk or jog to my husband. I prefer the sunset walk. If you are a 9-year old and the setting is right, and safe, jump off a ladder into the lake at sunset–what fun!
Book recommendation: Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv
What are some of the nature activities that you engage in with your family? I would love to hear your ideas.