As you watch your child reach for the iPad or the television remote, you can’t help but wonder the effect technology has on his or her growth and development. You’ve noticed he doesn’t like to play outdoors, and she only quotes her favorite cartoons.
According Mayo Clinic, some screen time can serve educational purposes, but too much TV leads to a variety of health and behavioral problems. Children who watch more than two hours a day tend to have a greater likelihood of experiencing obesity, irregular sleep schedules, impaired academic performance, and decreased verbal intelligence.
So what can you do to encourage your children to reconnect with nature?
1. Read Fun Books
To spark your child’s imagination and rekindle his or her love for nature, grab a few books and read before bedtime. These timeless titles all illustrate nature in a fun, exciting, and endearing way:
- The Wump World by Bill Peet
- The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
- The Little House by Virginia Lee Burtons
- On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole
- Just a Dream by Chris Van
- Allsburg Weslandia by Paul Fleischman
Once you’ve finished with these, let your children browse for books on their own. They may surprise you with what they pick.
2. Create a Work of Art
Many children love hands-on experiences, and the messier the better. Let your children explore their inner artist and create meaningful works of art.
Here are a few ideas to help you start:
- Create a nature journal and fill it with drawings of trees, leaves, and flowers.
- Paint animals on rocks and let them keep it as a pet.
- Collect leaves, sticks, and pebbles on a nature walk. Glue them to cardboard to create a one-of-a-kind landscape. Dip pinecones into paint and roll them on paper to print beautiful designs.
- Use nuts and shells to fashion trendy jewelry.
- Combine sticks and clay to form sculptures.
- Make wind chimes out of shells and string.
- Decorate flowerpots with snail shells and then grow a tiny garden.
The sky’s the limit! Let your children’s creativity fly as free as the birds.
3. Plan Family Outings
The whole family should have fun as they reconnect with nature, not just your little ones. Plan family outings that involve everyone, from your youngest toddlers to your eldest teens.
As go on adventures consider doing the following:
- Check out the aquarium, animal museum, or botanical garden
- Hike or bike nearby trails
- Go camping at state parks
- Take a vacation to the beach or lake
- Watch the sunrise or sunset
- Grab a telescope and go stargazing
- Walk around your neighborhood
- Participate in a nature scavenger hunt
Need a few more ideas? Ask your children! They’ll likely have a few places they want to see or activities they want to do.
4. Build a Safe Environment
Some children might not feel comfortable playing on their own at a park or even in their own backyard. Or perhaps you might feel stressed at the idea of your little one touching (or even tasting) objects from unknown origins.
To ensure both you and your child feel happy and relaxed, create a safe space in your backyard. Put up sturdy fences around more dangerous areas, and teach children that they shouldn’t pick or smash any plants you may have in the flowerbed.
You can also set up good playground equipment to help entertain your kids. A simple swing set, slide, or playhouse fuels the imagination and promotes active play. Just make sure you use quality materials-opt for smooth, soft rubber rather than rough rope and wood. And cover the areas around your playground with shock-absorbing materials, such as mulch or sand.
And don’t forget to inspect your backyard regularly-replace worn play equipment or cover sharp edges as needed.
5. Provide Tools for Discovery
Children don’t always need expensive playgrounds or organized activities to enjoy Mother Nature. Sometimes all they want is some room to explore and basic tools to inspect their discoveries.
If you wish, fill a backpack with the following:
- Butterfly net
- Magnifying glass
- Pencil, crayons, and paper
Teach your children how to safely use these items and interact with insects or other animals.
And remember, these items don’t need to cost a fortune. Even the most careful and cautious child might accidentally break their tools during play time. Child-friendly plastic items will save you a lot of heartache and money.
6. Set a Positive Example
Your children watch what you do, so set a positive example. In addition to encouraging your child to explore nature, give yourself some time to pursue your favorite outdoor hobbies. Grab your camera and snap some close-ups of your favorite flowers. Pull weeds from your garden and plant a few trees in your yard.
With these methods, you and your children will develop a personal, thrilling relationship with nature in almost no time.