Connecting kids and adults with nature is a challenge today as a result of our heavily plugged-in society. Yet, outdoor nature connection has been proven to be critical for our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The pros of the Internet is that it has provided an intense connection with the world, unlike any other time. However, its cons include that we are a generation getting outdoors less.
I will use my own life as an example. I regret that I spend less time outdoors than in my youth. I am inside my RV most of the day plugged in. I taught in several private schools over 14 years. During those years, I wrote and developed a thematic curriculum that got students outside in the schoolyard connecting with nature. Outdoor nature connection became a daily priority integrated with my lessons.
Below is my sample treasure hunt in nature template. My students still use this activity in my live online MathArt class for middle-highschool homeschool students. This study features a treasure hunt I developed for my students to get them outdoors and looking at some of Nature’s most common yet strikingly beautiful patterns.
Yet, here I sit, years later, hour after hour writing blogs, posting to social media and typically staring at the computer editing my next PowerPoint lesson. For me, the world wide web is my livelihood, my main source of entertainment, and well, I can’t imagine my life without it. I believe this holds true for many of you reading this post. I am not embittered by this reality. As the trite saying goes, it is what it is. I have indeed, changed with the times from a rambunctious outdoorsy tomboy to a nature geek in front of the computer. Most of the hours of the week, I’m writing about nature…that is, save for a small fraction of time wherein I’m actually outdoors for my daily walks and explorations.
Here I am at Yosemite National Park at the end of August 2016 for its fee-free weekend celebrating the National Parks centennial birthday. What a real treasure to have found out about this weekend on Facebook, especially when I was only 40 minutes away!
Getting out for a Daily Walk & Noticing Nature’s Beauty!
I’m outdoors less than when I was as a kid. However, I have managed to create a lifestyle which does usher me out of the door to enjoy the natural world at least twice a day for around two hours. That’s not too shabby. Part of the motivation is walking my dog Rochelle….and myself! Being a full-time RVer has afforded me great and FREE camping opportunities throughout the west coast, US. I regularly camp free and legally in National forests and on BLM land which has made it possible for me and my dog to explore some of the most beautiful places in the world on foot daily!
Walking is Great Therapy
Walking is a great destresser and a tonic for parents, children and well, anyone who can walk. Even if you don’t full-time RV or live in a rural setting, you CAN still get yourselves and your children out from behind the mobile devices or TV and out the door. Have intentional focus to include nature awareness as you walk through your neighborhood. My daily walk is one of the most important beginnings and endings of my daily routine. It’s time for me to do that now before I finish out this post!
My dog, Rochelle Claire and her thoughts on nature connection
Simply Taking a Neighborhood Nature Walk
I like routines. Many of us do. I have to walk the dog every morning and evening. Many of you do too….or the cat. Yes, I see some of my RVing friends walking their cats! We can take such opportunities, like walking the dog and use them as opportunities for nature observation, even in your own neighborhood. If you do this already, try a few change-ups. We can notice the neighbors flowers and trees. Pause and look around at the bird activity in your backyard and neighborhood. Stopping to take the time to listen to nature’s sounds and smelling the air can add that extra dimension of stress release from our busy lives.
Taking the Kids Camping
Perhaps you have or haven’t camped as a family. Some of my best memories were going to beautiful campgrounds with my parents and enjoying the up close and personal experiences with the natural world. It helped lay the foundation for my love for travel as a full-time RVing nomad and connecting with nature on a daily basis. Giving kids positive outdoor experiences like camping together can aid their desire to continue outdoor experiences throughout their lives.
Regularly Scheduled Weekend Nature Walks/Hikes
Children naturally love to explore. Check out your local neighborhood state or local parks and systematically visit a new trail every weekend or when you can over a month’s time. You can start out with short walks and build up to longer and longer hikes. Suggest to your children to take a look around. Ask your children, if they need prompting, to point out interesting things in nature such as trees, rocks, flowers, birds etc.
4 Steps for Enhanced Outdoor Nature Connection
- Begin by closing your eyes as a family and tune into your sense of hearing and smell.
- Have everyone take turns stating what they hear and smell.
- You can try this a few times during the hike to help everyone recenter and focus on the natural world.
- Try the exercise for several seconds to a minute at first and then try to build the exercise up to a few minutes at a time.
Kids and Nature Photography
On your trips to your state or national parks, you can all take cameras or camera phones and look for and take pictures of patterns in nature.
Tips for taking nature photographs
- Create a digital collage or scrapbook
- Use them as fun desktop wallpaper (I do this)
- Print them out and create a real scrapbook about nature’s patterns
- Print, frame and use them as Christmas gifts (I did that one year and my family loved the photos)
- Start Pinterest boards with them
A boy scout taking his work seriously while photographing nature at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
We can all make it a point this week and in the weeks to come, to schedule outdoor nature connecting experiences ranging from sitting in our own backyards and noticing the animal activity, to taking a walk around the neighborhood and visiting local parks to get our next nature fix! Feel free to comment below about either how you and your family currently get your nature fix or an experience you had in nature taken from suggestions in this post. I’d love to hear all about it!