As parents, we do our best to raise our children well and wish we could do some things better. One of the things I am most challenged by is the example I set for my children when it comes to using technology versus playing outside in nature. I admit I have a technology addiction and I also fear that it will rub off on my children. I have been working from a home office since before my children were born, so they are used to seeing me at a computer or on my iPhone (or both).
This is why I am always nudging them out the back door to play at every opportunity. I want my kids to interact with the physical world, to experience the seasons, to explore, and ultimately, to be inspired by nature the way I was as a child.
It turns out that I am on to something, and I am in good company. The Nature Conservancy recently published a global survey about the amount of time kids spend outside and parents’ perspectives on the importance they place on it. The survey shows that parents feel that children need to spend more time outside in nature. We don’t need scientific studies to tell us that connecting to nature is important for us (although there are lots of studies to show this). We know intuitively that an essential part of the human experience is our connection to nature and that being in it is good for us-good for our minds and our bodies.
I recognize I need to do more than nudge my kids out the back door; I must follow them into the yard and show them how much I love being outside. I don’t know about you, but I am going to take advantage of spring and renew my commitment to getting my kids and myself out into nature as much as I can. Here are five simple ideas to spend more time outside in nature with your kids this spring:
1. Gardening: If you have the space, involving children in gardening activities is a great opportunity to enjoy the spring and summer weather while helping to instill a love of nature in kids. The magic of watching a seed grow that they planted themselves, or the joy of creating a beautiful picture from leaves and petals is a feeling they are unlikely to forget.
2. City Bird Watching: You don’t have to climb a mountain to get quality nature time with your family. In more urban environments, try your hand at city bird watching. This activity is especially great in the spring when many species of birds are migrating.
3. Have a Picnic: Food, family and nature — what a combo! You can do a quick picnic in any outdoor space near your home, and make a longer day of it by following it up with a game of Nature Detectives!
4. Kayak or Canoe: Being out on the water can allow you to see nature in a way that you haven’t before. Canoeing and kayaking is slow, quiet and peaceful. Just grab your kids, the life jackets, and of course, your boat of choice. Kayaks and canoes can usually be rented by the hour from many outdoor gear stores, or even local universities or recreation centers.
5. Backyard Camp Out: Spend a weekend away in your own backyard. You don’t need a big wilderness for a big adventure. All you’ll need is a tent and your family to join you. Pitch the tent, bring some flashlights and enjoy some time away from the world (and your electronic devices!) with your kids.
By Steph Wear, scientist for The Nature Conservancy
Photo credit: Karine Aignar