Engaging children in outdoor activities with the entire family can help them learn all about the wonders of nature. Allowing them to explore the great big world is also scientifically proven to help them become healthier and happier.
Studies reveal that time spent in both natural and human-made green spaces aids in reducing stress. It also encourages children to cooperate and be more compassionate. It also helps them think creatively and bolster their focus to do better in school. Add that to the widely recognized benefit of fresh air and physical activities for a stronger body, and you’ll surely get more reasons to bring your family closer to nature.
But doing this can be easier said than done, considering the hectic schedule many families have in school and at work. To make sure your family doesn’t miss out on these benefits, here are six fun outdoor activities you can try to help you connect with nature:
1. Nature scavenger hunt
Children get a natural sense of excitement whenever they discover something precious. Take advantage of their love for finding treasures by planning a scavenger hunt while on a nature trip with the family. Aside from entertaining them along the way, doing this will also give them an opportunity to pay attention to their surroundings.
All you need is to create a map with photos from the Internet or magazines showing the objects you want them to find. This will allow you to customize the hunt according to the habitat you’re visiting and the current season.
The best part is, you don’t have to go on a long trip for this activity. You just need to look for a green space in the neighborhood. It can even be done in your own backyard.
2. Play with rocks
Rocks are one of Mother Nature’s gifts that can help bolster creativity and imagination. Collect them, build sculptures with them, and even study them up close with your little ones to help them learn what makes rocks so special.
Even better, talk to your child and explain that no two rocks are the same – much like people. This will encourage them to find stones with similar sizes, shapes, texture, and color, and compare them to see whether what you say is true.
If you have older children, you can have them weigh and measure the different rocks they collect. They can also classify the rocks and determine whether they are metamorphic or sedimentary.
Younger children can create art using rocks collected in a scavenger hunt. Simply bring out art materials and have your kids decorate them any way they want. You can even help them make an entire community out of rocks and other things you can find in your home.
3. Bug hunting
Nature tripping with your family won’t be complete encounters without seeing different species of insects. Go bug hunting with your family to learn about different bugs that buzz, fly, and even light up.
While this is best done in forests, fields, and other places with rich ecosystems, you can do this activity in your front or backyard as well. Simply bring a magnifying glass for a closer look at the tiny critters. You can also use recycled plastic bottles or boxes with removable lids as temporary containers for these bugs for when your child studies them. Of course, you have to make sure that they are set free afterward. However, if your child has known bug allergies, you may have to skip this activity, and content yourselves watching films on insects on YouTube, National Geographic, BBC, and similar channels.
4. Visit the zoo
The zoo is probably one of the closest places where you and your family can learn about wild animals. While they may not be in their natural habitat, many zoos try to mimic how the animals should be living. Plus, it’s a great way to help your children expand their horizons beyond what creatures they can find in your backyard.
5. Nature crafting
The most effective way to introduce children to new things is by giving them hands-on experience on it. To achieve this while allowing them to connect with nature, you should consider tapping on their creative side with these crafting activities:
Nature bracelets are simple tasks that help your children get up close with nature’s gifts. With the aid of masking tape, you should be able to help your child create a colorful and unique accessory from things found in the environment.
First, cut a piece of masking tape with the length measured up to the circumference of your child’s wrist. Then, wrap the tape around his wrist with the sticky side facing up. This will give your little one a place to stick items to the bracelet, such as small flowers, leaves, and seeds.
Like bracelets, summer wreaths also entail allowing your child to collect items found outside. This time, you might want to bring them to the beach, playground, or any other summer destination to craft this summer wreath.
After gathering summer mementos, have your child make a wreath out of them to display in your home. If they have collected heavy items like seashells and rocks, it would be best to have them glue these to heavy cardboard for a sturdier masterpiece.
6. Matching colors in nature
Exploring nature is much like a carnival for the five senses, especially the sense of sight. Help your family get the most out of the experience by bringing color chips that your child can use as references for the different colors of nature.
Leftover paint chips from home improvement projects will do, but you can also create your own color chips with crayons or colored pencils and index cards. Then, set your family on a quest to match those hues with the colors of nature, and have the members of your family list down the number of different shades they found.
Closer to nature
Nature offers a lot of gifts to people, including the chance to create stronger, stronger family ties. Bond with your family over outdoor activities and help them – especially the little ones – appreciate what nature has always provided us.
Rasha El Saleh is the Conservation Education and Outreach Coordinator in the education team of Emirates Nature-WWF working on its programme, Connect with Nature. She leads the outreach and youth empowerment aspect in growing the Connect with Nature community within the UAE and providing opportunities for youth to lead in this community, in addition to supporting partnerships with vendors supporting and promoting active aspects of the programme.