With technological advancements and increased indoor activity on the rise, children have become disconnected from nature now more than ever before. Teaching children to connect with nature at an early age not only helps them disconnect from the screen and embrace the outdoors, but also gives a long-term benefit to the environment as children learn to respect and value natural space. Venturing into the local woods or trails can build confidence, promote creativity, bolster imagination, teach responsibility, and reduce a child’s stress and fatigue. Here, I list a few ways that you can encourage your child to put down the video games and turn their attention to the fun they can have outdoors.
Encourage Neighborhood Involvement
A day out in nature is always better with friends. Try setting up a neighborhood game or nature-based treasure hunt to get younger kids engaged in outdoor fun. Children of all ages will enjoy other outdoor activities such as painting leaves and rocks, playing instruments outside in a community drum circle, or even participating in neighborhood camp-outs in someone’s backyard.
Go for a Hike
Good trails are never that far out of reach. Look online for trail-finding apps and maps that can lead you to kid-friendly trails and preserves. These hikes help children develop a sense of independence and foster their drive toward exploration. Parents should encourage their kids to take charge and help navigate the trails. These outdoor hikes offer kids a fantastic opportunity to learn more about nature and the wildlife that exists within it.
Plan an Adventure
You might be surprised at how many children haven’t visited the ocean or walked through a forest. Let your child take the reins; give young explorers a few spots to choose from for a day trip (or longer if you prefer). These spots could be the beach or a National Forest or State Park, or even a museum with an outdoor display. If your child loves animals, throw in the option of a zoo or aquarium.
If your child has an undying love for technology, get him/her to bring along a camera to photograph their experience in nature. You can also look into plant and animal identification apps your child can use during your trips into the woods.
Lead by example
If your child sees you going outside more, they will likely follow your example. Get involved! Ask your child to accompany you on hikes and walks. The more they see you having a good time, the more they will want to be a part of it. It is important to remember that the need to venture outdoors is not limited to children; often, it’s just as important for adults to unplug and decompress outdoors.