Inside: 5 tips to help foster a love of nature in your kids. The secret is that getting them outside is the hardest part, once you do, nature does the rest.
Even when we know all of the benefits of time spent in green space on in the great outdoors it can be hard to convince your kids to love nature. Transitions from one activity to another can be hard for young children — and even older children too.
I especially find it hard to transition my son from screentime to outside time.
The trick is to ease the transitions with a playful activity — once you are actually out there — nature will talk care of the rest.
1. Let Your Child Take the Lead on Nature Walks and Hikes
Being in nature allows you to step back and let your child lead.
Go to a park with a trail that isn’t next to roads or other dangers and let your child be the leader. Only do this on trails you are familiar with and that are kid-friendly (e.g., no sudden drops or dangerous areas). A short, meandering trail in a safe area is a perfect time to let your child lead.
It’s not often that they get to be the leader and this will empower them and heighten their engagement on the trails.
Let them set the pace and also when to stop and observe. They’ll point out things that you would have never seen on your own (kids have that super-power). And they will be learning and engaging other parts of their brains.
Even before the nature
2. Make it into a Game With a Nature Scavenger Hunt! (Free Printable!)
Part of fostering a love of nature in your kids is just getting them to take in their surroundings. To develop an appreciation for the sights and sounds. My Grateful Nature Walk Printable helps kids notice and appreciate nature. Click the link to download.
They are endless ways you can incorporate a scavenger hunt on your nature walk. If it’s a Fall hike, search for all different color leaves. In the Spring, spot butterflies, and birds. In the early winter, look for bird nests once the trees have lost their leaves.
Sometimes scavenger hunts can be to collect things for your child’s nature tray at home. Other times, it can be simply observing or listening for sounds of nature.
3. Encourage Your Child to Observe and Explore Nature
This sounds so simple — but next time you want to go on a nature walk and your child refuses, offer for them to take a camera and take pictures along the way.
Bringing along a magnifying glass, binoculars, or a camera can make kids really excited to go on a nature walk, hike, or even just explore the backyard.
Look into free nature backpacks on loan at local nature centers, libraries, or botanical gardens.
Our favorite observation tool is our Beach Aquarium — whenever we are on a trail with water, we can catch small fish. Down in the creek in our backyard my son and his friends have spent hours catching tadpoles and salamanders.
4. Make Art on Your Nature Walk
Bring along some play-dough or air-dry clay and make impressions of tree bark and objects along the trail.
Make a nature bracelet by putting some tape around your child’s wrist with the sticky part facing out. Along the way, they can gather leaves or flowers and stick them to their
Bring along a crayon and some paper and make leaf impressions.
5. Go Outside in All Kinds of Weather
As my Swedish Mother-in-Law always says, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”
Here in the U.S., it is far less common to buy rain pants. In Sweden, all children have these — they play outside come rain or snow!!
At our house, puddle-hunting is a family favorite — for kids and dogs alike. When kids get cranky on a rainy day and are feeling cooped up inside, a short puddle-hunt walk can make a difference.
This is the secret…All Kids Love Nature Naturally
When your child is inside and engrossed in their screens, they may not seem like a kid who loves nature. But, this is the secret… once you actually get them outside, all kids are nature kids. It is really more about getting them out there and immersed.
Once they are really out there, they fall into rhythm with the trees and wind — as if they always knew what to do.
The binoculars, nature bracelets, and scavenger hunts will entice them long enough to get them out there — but once you are really in nature, something else will take over and a new kind of play and learning will emerge– naturally — without us needing to do a thing. And that’s really how it should be.
As our kids get older — it might take a little more time — a little more immersion to get them recalibrated as nature kids. That’s when a family camping trip may be the best remedy for crankiness and disconnectedness.
No excuses now — get outside and find the nature in your kids.
“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.”Richard Louv