Over the years I have had the privilege of raising three children, and caring for three grandchildren and one great grandchild. Spending time in nature has always been a meaningful way for the children and I to connect with the world around us and with each other. Thanks to our precious moments in nature, I have learned the importance of slowing down, staying in the moment, and sharing the discoveries that we make along the way.
The following is a list of seven ways to share nature with the children in your life:
1) LET THEIR CURIOSITY LEAD.
Leave technology behind, let go of your agenda and follow your child. Let them pull you into the moment with them. Observe what they are noticing and doing. Enjoy their natural curiosity. Be amazed by little details that they notice. Try to see the world through your child’s eyes.
2) MAKE IT AN ADVENTURE.
Become explorers and discover the unknown together. Share a sense of mystery and adventure. Let them decide which trail to follow. Let them discover areas to explore off trail. Give them a magnifying glass to zoom in on the little details that they notice along the way. Move rocks and logs to reveal the life going on beneath. Tell them that it is okay to get muddy!
Enjoy the sensory experiences that nature provides as the children see, touch, smell and hear life going on around them. What sights can they see closest to them? What do they see in the distance? What is the brightest color that they can see? Feel the earth, tree bark, grasses, rocks water and the wind. Smell flowers, grasses, tree bark, soil and rocks. Notice fragrances carried by the breeze. Sit together for a while and count the number of sounds that you hear. Show your child how to hold their hands cupped behind their ears to magnify the sounds that they hear. This is known as deer ears.
4) IMAGINE TOGETHER.
Give children plenty of unstructured time to use their imaginations while they are in nature. Enjoy being a part your child’s imagined worlds. Perhaps you will get to be a pioneer, a farmer, or a space alien. Embrace your newly imagined role! Enjoy the time to play!
Nature inspires creativity. Give children plenty of unstructured time to collect natural materials with which to build or create. Relax, observe and enjoy their creations. Savor this creative moment with them.
6) KEEP A NATURE JOURNAL.
Choose a spot together, perhaps in your own yard, that you can visit throughout the year. Encourage your children, according to their age and abilities, to draw or write about what they are noticing at their spot each time you visit. If your children are very young, you can write their words for them. They can also include natural materials that they find at their spot.
Keep a treasure bowl. My little ones have always enjoyed collecting treasures on our nature adventures. We keep a glass bowl on the table in my house in which they can display and enjoy their treasures. In an effort to keep our display fresh, however, I do rotate the ‘treasures’ throughout the year. During all seasons of the year we enjoy bringing home a reminder of our nature adventures.
I am glad that I have had the opportunity to go outside with the children in my life to have adventures and connect with nature. I know that new adventures are waiting for us on the trails ahead.
Richard Louv in his book, ‘Last Child in the Woods’, offers us the following insight, “We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are moments when the world is made whole….”
- ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder’, by Richard Louv, 2008, Algonquin Books
- ‘Sharing Nature With Children’, by Joseph Cornell, 1998, Dawn Publications
- Children & Nature Network, (www.cnaturenet.org)
- Discover the Forest, (www.discovertheforest.org)
- Take a Child Outside, (www.takeachildoutside.org)
Written By: Brenda Spitzer, Certified Forest Therapy Guide offering Forest Therapy in Wheaton, Illinois and surrounding areas. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or you can visit Brenda's Facebook Page at Shinrin-yoku Nature and Forest Therapy - Wheaton