Terrific Tips for Helping Your Kids Connect with the Natural World

I'm short on blogging time this week, so this is a repost from 7/13/09. Enjoy!

Summer is a great time to help your kids (and yourself) reconnect with the natural world, and there have been some great ideas and suggestions on the web lately.

Just want to get your family out and about? The National Wildlife Federation’s “Be Out There” campaign offers information and tips for getting your kids outside to learn, explore and just appreciate. They also have a whole slew of suggested activities for engaging your kids with the natural world. The Daily Green has collected 30 of these activities into a nice little slideshow.

The Children & Nature Network, co-founded by Richard Louv, seeks to build a movement reconnecting kids and nature and offers a section on their website of ideas and resources for families.

Looking for something a bit more scientific? The Daily Green recently posted 16 “citizen science” projects that help kids learn about nature while also helping collect data that actually helps scientists in their research. For example, you can observe frogs, fireflies, Monarch butterflies, flowers or bird nests and report on them. If you’re a city kid with not much wild around, there’s even a Project PigeonWatch.

Of course, you can find several activities in IHE's Resource Center for helping spark a sense of wonder, such as Scavenger Hunt, Smell Teas, the Wonder Walk, Everything is Beautiful and Find Your Tree.

Additionally, activities for younger school kids, like Natural Treasures and Night Watchers, could easily be modified for a fun adventure with your family.

In her book, Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times, IHE President Zoe Weil has a variety of suggestions for helping inspire reverence and respect for the natural world. Here are just a few for younger kids:

  • Make outdoor activities routine rather than rare.
  • Plant a garden. Your toddler will enjoy being by your side, looking at bugs and worms, feeling and smelling the soil and flowers, and eating the fruits of your labor. If you don’t have a backyard or access to a community garden, you can still plant herbs in window boxes.
  • Check out books by Joseph Cornell and others who describe fun and inspiring outdoor activities you can do with children.
  • Bring reverence for nature inside, too, by doing projects with natural materials. Pine needles, sea glass and shells, leaves and pieces of bark, dried beans, fragrant herbs and silky milkweed can all become the raw ingredients for your children’s imagination and creativity. (Be careful not to move living things such as moss, bark that is still on live trees, animals, etc.)

Older kids and teens may even want to manifest their appreciation for the environment by volunteering for nature parks or taking on projects to help clean up trash. Look for such opportunities you can engage in as a family.

As Zoe says,
“When we revere the magnificent earth and its creatures, the earth reveals itself ever more to our senses and to our hearts and souls. Our children’s spirits will soar when they watch the vermillion sun sink below a pink sky as it sets in the west. They will marvel at the speed and agility of a bat hunting for insects at dusk, and their own eyes will light up, as if in reflection, when they witness the light of a thousand fireflies at twilight.” (From Above All, Be Kind, p. 101)

~ Marsha

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