Kids and Nature
You wouldn’t be reading the NRS e-News unless you are an outdoors person. What’s more, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article unless you have kids, grandkids or other young people in your life. You love the outdoors and you can help spread that passion to the younger generations.
Ainsley, Rob and Henry on the
San Juan River, UT.
Children today often don’t have the same access to the natural world as previous generations. There are multiple reasons for this. More people are living in urban and increasingly urbanized suburban areas. Many parents are apprehensive, often with good reason, about letting their kids roam unsupervised. In many households, both parents work, limiting the time they have to supervise outside play and exploration. Video games and other forms of electronic entertainment are plentiful and seductive. And kid’s lives have become much more scheduled, with parents shuttling them between sports practice and games, music lessons, after school activities, etc.
So what can we as adults do to give our young people the gift of a nature education? First, it’s about making the time to take them out and let them play in the outdoors… not in a manicured park with manufactured playground equipment, but in the rough and dirt and wet. And it doesn’t have to be out in the wilderness. Most places have areas of underdeveloped land, sufficiently accessible for your purposes.
Henry's happy to be on the water.
With young children, you don’t have to worry with a lot of organized activities. Just let them roam and romp and play. They’ll find creative ways to amuse and entertain themselves. Older children can enjoy games of plant and animal identification, looking for animal tracks, collecting leaves and plant seeds, etc. Keeping an outdoor journal that they can draw and write in can be fun as well. Make a place at home where they can display their collected treasures.
And of course, camping and boating with your young people offer many opportunities for learning, fun and exploration. See “Living” With Kids on Boating Trips, Kids Safety and Boating Safety for Infants & Small Children for tips on making these activities safe and enjoyable.
Ainsley stylin' and staying hydrated.
Some things that will increase safety and enjoyment during these outdoor excursions are:
Most of all just get out there with them! They’ll have fun and so will you. Mowing the lawn and vacuuming the living room can wait. Kids grow up fast. Spend the time in those early years to create lifelong outdoor enthusiasts.
Editor’s note: I grew up in an era when “Go outside and play” was license to roam the neighborhood, stay out in the woods for hours at a time, collect critters, build forts, fish, come home dirty and tired. It instilled a need and love for a connection with the earth and all its glories. I did my best to give that same love and connection to my two boys.
I’m interested in your thoughts and experiences on this subject. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy the outdoors and Be Safe!