Inside: 5 tips to help foster a love of nature in your kids. 5 nature walk activities. The secret is that getting them outside is the hardest part. Once you do, nature does the rest.
Even when we know all the benefits of time spent in the great outdoors, it can be hard to convince your kids to love nature. Transitions from one activity to another can be challenging for young children.
The trick is to ease the transitions with a playful activity — once you are out there — nature will take care of the rest.
1. Let Your Child Take the Lead on Nature Walks
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 perfect for letting your child lead.
It’s not often that they get to be the leader, which 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 you would have never seen (kids have that superpower). And they will be learning and engaging other parts of their brains.
Before the nature
2. Make it into a Game With a Nature Scavenger Hunt!
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.
You can incorporate a scavenger hunt on your nature walk in endless ways. If it’s a Fall hike, search for all different colored leaves in the Spring and spot butterflies, insects, and birds. In the early winter, look for bird nests once the trees have lost their leaves.
Sometimes scavenger hunts can be used to collect things for your child’s nature tray at home. Other times, it can be simply observing or listening to sounds of nature. Or, you can play a nature-themed game of “I Spy!”
3. Encourage Your Child to Observe Nature With Explorer Tools!
Bringing along a magnifying glass, binoculars, a nature journal, or a camera can make nature walks or hikes exciting for kids! Not only are they enjoying the great outdoors, but they will also be observing the natural world.
Many libraries, nature centers, and botanical gardens offer “nature backpacks” with fun tools you can check out for the day.
Our favorite observation tool is our Beach Aquarium — whenever we are on a trail with water, we can catch small fish. My son and his friends have spent hours catching tadpoles and salamanders in the creek in our backyard.
4. Make Art on Your Nature Walk
Bring some play-dough or air-dry clay and make impressions of tree bark, interesting textures, and nature treasures along the trail.
Make a nature bracelet by putting 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. Or collect leaves and other natural materials to do nature crafts when you return home.
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., buying rain pants is far less common. In Sweden, all children have these — they play outside come rain or snow!! There’s really no such thing as “inside recess.”
At our house, puddle-hunting is a family favorite — for kids and dogs alike. A short puddle-hunt walk can make a difference when kids get cranky on a rainy day and feel cooped up inside.
And don’t be afraid of a little mud. A mud kitchen can tire out a busy toddler like nothing else I’ve seen!
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 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