Nature outings are an ideal way to spend time together as a family and help your children develop an appreciation for the natural world – which is seriously lacking in today’s digital age.
Also, did you know that one of the best ways to combat stress is to immerse yourself in nature? And what better way to teach your child about this than having the first hand experience.
Remember: No matter where you live or the ages of your children, there are several great ways to connect with nature and each other as a family.
Nature Outings Close to Home
1. Play in your own backyard. There are many things to observe right in your own backyard. Install a birdfeeder and learn to identify different species and their habits. Use a rainy day to teach your children about the water cycle.
2. Get to know your neighborhood. A routine walk can be transformed into an expedition if you get some guidebooks to your local plant and wildlife. Learn to identify various trees and observe seasonal changes.
3. Visit local parks and other attractions. There are opportunities in every community to visit zoo, parks, and other nature preserves, whether you live in the country or the city. Plan trips to the closest beach or lake. Go online to find children’s programs at your local park or natural history museum.
Nature Outings Away From Home
1. Explore state and national parks. Camping in state parks is a great bargain for family travel. Check out the Junior Ranger program at the National Park Service. Children can earn badges for all kinds of educational tasks.
2. Plan outdoor activities at your vacation destination. Be sure to include some outdoor recreation activities wherever you go for vacation. If you’re visiting relatives far away, get familiar with the facts about their region and use them to teach your children about ecological diversity.
3. Send your child to summer camp. Summer camp can be an enriching experience for youngsters with opportunities to learn new things and make new friends. The American Camp Association can help you find an accredited program to match your child’s needs.
Planning Nature Outings for Babies and Younger Children
1. Introduce your baby to nature. It’s never too early to get started. Listen to bird songs with your baby. Admire colorful flowers along with your infant.
2. Read guidebooks and maps together. Make guidebooks and maps part of your family reading. You can point to pictures of animals and plants and repeat the names together with smaller children. As your child gets older, let them pick out their own books and read passages to you.
3. Keep a journal. Get your child a journal with blank pages. They can record their nature observations and make sketches. It will be fun for them to see their progress over time, and it will help keep them motivated.
4. Start a collection. Invite your child to bring back trophies from your outings, such as interesting stones and seashells. Give them an inexpensive camera so they can take their own pictures.
5. Include the family pet. Domestic animals can help teach your children about other species and the role of instinct in animal behavior. Pay attention to what your dog is doing. Discuss how to tell a dog’s mood by the position of his ears and tail.
6. Relax and have fun. Keep your outings enjoyable. Adapt your activities to your child’s attention span. Use their interests to suggest new topics to explore.
Planning Nature Outings for Older Children and Teens
1. Invite them to lead. Give older youths the opportunity to take the lead. By instructing younger children, they can be positive role models and develop a sense of accomplishment.
2. Include their peers. As your child grows older, they’ll be more focused on socializing with peers. Talk with their teachers about organizing an outing at their school. Let them invite a friend along when your family goes kayaking.
3. Encourage their interests. Support your child’s emerging interests. For example, if they get excited about solar energy, take them to a local university lecture on the subject.
Nature outings can help you raise healthier children who appreciate and respect the environment. Enjoy your time together and celebrate the natural wonders that are present in every community.