In today’s busy world of school and after-school activities, play dates and family time, it can be difficult to slow down and really connect with nature. And if you’re a busy mom who lives in the city or in a suburban home with just a small, fenced yard, even finding nature can be a little inconvenient.
But regardless, if you have fond memories of playing outside and roaming the forests near your home as a kid, you probably still want to make sure your children get to connect to nature as well. Not to mention, connecting with nature can provide the entire family with health benefits, from extra physical exercise to stress relief.
Want to inspire your kids to get off the WiFi and into the great outdoors? Here are five ways you can start connecting your kids (and the whole family) to nature, with a little ease and convenience.
1. Make Your Backyard (Or Any Outdoor Space) a Haven
Start with what you have. Do you have a small porch? A balcony? Or an entire backyard? Maybe just a driveway?
Work with it.
Use what you have and make it a place where people actually want to hang out and engage your kids in the process as well as the final result.
Maybe let them pick out some new plants, and then get dirty as they help you plant them. Invest in some outdoor toys. Try some sturdy outdoor furniture that’ll stand the test of time. (Because even if your kid isn’t enthused about heading outside, you can at least get them to move their time on the Nintendo Switch into the fresh air if you have a welcoming seating area.)
2. Tune in to Your Kids’ Interests
One of the best ways to connect kids with nature for the long haul is by meeting them where they’re at and tuning into the interests they already have.
Do they love animals? Set up a bird feeder (you can even find nifty feeders that attach to apartment windows, no yard space required), name your visitors and learn about their lives.
Do you have a kid who loves a good treasure hunt? Download a geocaching app and head to your local park and see what you can find.
Even toddlers will find a certain curiosity and delight when you start pointing out interesting or entertaining things in your backyard, from a sparkly rock to a creepy-crawly insect.
3. Incorporate the Outdoors into Your Normal Routine
Before your kids start begging you to go outside and play, you may find that they just need to get a little more familiar with all the fun that can be had outside in the first place. A good way to make the unfamiliar familiar is to begin weaving it into your normal routine in a way that feels easy.
Maybe instead of going out for dinner, the family heads to the park for a picnic. Perhaps instead of holding movie night indoors, you invest in a projector and a sheet and you watch a film outside, against the side of your house (or, if that’s not an option, find an outdoor movie night in your neck of the woods). Instead of making a rushed trip to the grocery store over the weekend (a stressful experience for parent and kid alike), you make a leisurely visit to the farmers market.
The more you can incorporate the outdoors into your child’s routine, the more they’ll feel comfortable getting out into nature on their own.
4. Don’t Stress About the What-If’s
For a lot of moms, sending the kids outdoors to play can come with some stress. While our parents may have sent us outside without a worry in the 80s and 90s, things aren’t the same today.
How dirty will the kids get? Will they somehow manage to injure themselves while my back is turned? Will they break something? Should I be worried about stranger danger?
The thing is, any real danger can be avoided with a few precautions. Any other issues, like dirt, should be a no-stressor. After all, the dirt never hurt anyone.
If you stress about your children having a little fun outside, they’ll pick up on it, and are less likely to connect, so stop stressing.
5. Don’t Overthink It
Along these lines, don’t overthink things. Connecting with nature should be as easy as going outdoors. Don’t get caught up in creating the “perfect” experience for your children. Just let the kids be kids and see what happens.
Throw out your agenda and head outside.
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