Computer games, social media and advances in technology mean our children aren’t as active as they used to be. However, kids have plenty to gain from getting outdoors – and there are more benefits than just fresh air and exercise. Research suggests being outside with nature can enhance development, improve learning abilities and reduce anxiety.
The lack of outdoor activity among children is considered a major problem these days. Author and journalist Richard Louv argues that the limited access to nature is contributing to obesity and behavioral problems, resulting in what Louv calls nature deficit disorder. Currently, nature deficit disorder isn’t a recognized health condition, but the advantages kids get from being out in the fresh air can’t be denied. However, before getting outside, it's vital that children are educated about the natural environment first, So, with that in mind, here are some methods to teach your kids about getting outdoors.
Teach Them Young
Educating your child about the outdoors should start from a young age. A great example is the Ottauquechee School in Vermont, which has a dedicated day of the week dubbed ‘Forest Monday’. Each Monday, regardless of the weather, the children get outside into the woods, where they’re encouraged to observe the changes in nature, and there’s learning stations to further their understanding of nature. However, it’s about having fun, too, with plenty of opportunity for light hearted activities along the way.
Getting your kids outside needn’t be restricted to school times though. As soon as it is practical, dedicate some time so both you and your children can explore nature – even if it is only in the back yard. Let them watch the birds soar, show them what is safe to touch and what isn’t and teach them to appreciate the natural environment. With some encouragement, your kids will develop an early appreciation of the outdoors that will remain with them for life.
Make It Interactive
Many children find it easier to learn about a topic when they are invited to interact with it. For activities that everyone can interactive with, consider nature trails and family friendly walks. Alternatively, hold mini contests and perhaps give small prizes for correctly identifying flowers and animals, or create quizzes to educate children on some of the common dangers. You could also buy books that encourage interaction, such as I-spy books.
Introduce Your Kids To Natural Habitats And Farm Parks
In a reflection of our times, surveys often show how little our kids know about where our food comes from, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Take your child to the local farm parks or natural habitats to educate them while they are still young. Farm parks are also a good way of teaching your child to respect nature and how to interact safely with it.
Engage Your Child With Books
Sometimes, getting your child outside regularly might not be practical, however, that doesn’t mean they should miss out on learning opportunities. There are a whole host of interactive books available that can be both inspiring and educational. For example, The Great Big Book of Children’s Games by Debra Wise has more than 450 games indoor and outdoor games to choose from. The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book by Stacy Tornio is packed full of activities and The Kids Guide to Exploring Nature by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Educators is another great resource. I-spy books are a great choice too.
Encourage Them To Garden
Increased self-confidence, extra exercise and improved focus are just some of the advantages to gardening. However, growing food or flowers also instils a great sense of satisfaction, while teaching patience and perseverance. = In addition, gardening also teaches responsibility and allows your child to feel confident around some of the ‘creepy crawlies’ that are an inevitable part of nature. Try simple things like growing cress and herbs to provide a sound appreciation of gardening from an early age.
It is often felt that children are missing out on the benefits of being outdoors. Even from a young age, newer technologies can encourage kids to stay inside, rather than explore as they would have done in simpler times. Parents, too, are often fearful about letting their children out because of safety concerns, however, it doesn’t have to be like that. Educating your child about nature will help them to be confidence outdoors, and hopefully it will help to reassure parents that letting their children explore the outside is largely a safe exercise.
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