Do you dream of living out in the country? Of having your kids frolic in nature? Spending hours in free play, using their imagination? Come indoors dirty, tired and happy at the end of the day? Wishing they were closer to nature? Go on a kids nature walk!
The fact of the matter is that most people are now living in cities. That means that many of our kids are growing up surrounded by buildings instead of trees. Outdoor play happens in public places and the sight of a bug causes shudders instead of fascination. Sound familiar? If you’re raising city kids, but wishing for a return to nature, read on for 10 ways to bring kids closer to nature. It’s time for a city kids nature walk!
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I’m a true believer that us humans are happiest when we are in tune with the natural rhythm of the earth.
When we align our waking hours with the sun, when we eat seasonally, and when we spend time outdoors breathing in fresh air, soaking in the rays of the sun, hearing the whisper of wind in the trees, the crashing of waves in the ocean, and the hum of birds and insects.
Just the thought makes me take a deep breath in and exhale. (Do it right now!).
The reality of our lives is something different: we wake up to the sound of the alarm clock, stay up late looking at screens, and spend many, many hours daily indoors and seated. Our kids are slowly suffering the consequences of this lifestyle. The increase in diagnoses of ADHD and anxiety in children, is no coincidence in my opinion.
So what do we do?
We make it a point to spend time outdoors. We step away as often as possible. And we help our children get in tune with nature. We laugh when they start to complain that a plant is tickling them, and smile when several hours later they have forgotten about the complaints.
There are countless benefits to spending time outdoors with kids! Read more about the benefits and then come back ready to take your kids on a nature walk!
Tips for a Kids Nature Walk
Here are 10 ways, you can encourage even the most reluctant city kids to get in tune with nature.
1. Collect specimens
We like to have the kids take a small backpack or bucket with them and go out to collect specimens. We collect rocks, sticks, acorns, leaves, anything we can find! It turns a nature walk into a full scale searching activity.
Looking for specimens, means the kids are in tune with the details all around them. It is like a hunt and they love the challenge! If we have a magnifying glass, even better!
2. Create something out of materials you find
Build a boat! It doesn’t have to be a boat, it can be a house, a raft, a tower, or anything you can think of! Have your kids create something out of natural materials.
Of course, keep in mind that kids on a nature walk will need some guidance regarding taking care of nature. We don’t want to pick flowers or plants that aren’t allowed, just use what we can without harming the environment.
One of our favorite creations at the Botanic Garden, was building a “bug hotel”. It was a few pieces of bamboo that we put together and hid. We went back several times over the next few months, and sure enough there were bugs in our hotel!
3. Observe and Draw
This is a favorite for kids of all ages! Take a notebook and a pencil and have the kids draw what they observe.
A toddler may scribble the sun, or a stick. A preschooler might draw some “specimens” they see. Your older kids, depending on their interest in drawing, may make a full diorama. Or they might like to write a mini journal entry about their time.
While this is an activity you can do at home, I highly recommend giving it a try, WHILE you are on a nature walk! There is nothing quite like being immersed in the environment and processing it in situ (in place)!
4. Dig, dig, dig
Why are we drawn to digging? I don’t know, but there are always treasures to be found in the ground!
Kids love digging! Of course they can use their hands, but if you upgrade them with a shovel…wow! It’s a labor of love. Any patch of sand or dirt works.
5. Skip rocks
If you’re lucky enough to be near a body of water, skipping rocks is a classic activity! For some reason, our city kids don’t think to do this on their own too often.
However, when prompted, they have SO much fun skipping rocks, or just tossing them into the water and seeing what happens. You can also toss sticks or leaves down a river and follow them as they float away.
6. Use binoculars
Binoculars are a great accessory to add to your outdoor activity gear. It takes up very little room, and you can get an inexpensive one easily. We recently discovered that our kids absolutely love using binoculars.
Use the binoculars to look up into the tree canopy, or far into the distance. Observe birds on a kids nature walk, and make it an adventure (or a competition, our kids love a good competition).
7. Scavenger Hunt
Similar to a nature walk looking for specimens, but more specific, is the scavenger hunt! This one is great for older kids! We come up with a few things they need to find: a purple flower, a stick that looks like the letter Y, a black rock, three types of leaves, and so on!
You get the idea! You can easily create a scavenger hunt on the fly by looking around you, as you arrive at your destination. Adapt it to the beach, a swamp, a mountain or a forest.
8. Remove bark off a stick (whittling)
Another one for your older kids, have them shave the bark off of a walking stick. They may be able to practice this skill on a nature walk or even by the side of a family picnic.
As our kids get older they absolutely love whittling. They often ask to carry a small knife in their bags for this purpose.
Friendly reminder: always supervise your kids, and make sure they keep the blade away from their body.
9. Collect trash
It goes without saying, that anytime we spend time in nature, is the time to teach your kids about taking care of the environment. That means not only preserving the peace and not littering. It means we can grab a bag and contribute to cleaning up the environment around us.
If you already have a trash bag for your own snacks, add a couple of pieces of litter and help make the world a cleaner place to be!
10. Be In nature
Here’s the absolute most important tip of all! If you want your kids to love nature, to observe and soak in all the goodness that it provides, give them the opportunity to be in nature.
Even if you live in a big city like New York, find those local parks, venture out for the day or for the weekend, and maximize your time outdoors! The best way to get city kids used to nature is having them spend time in nature.
Gear for your City Kids Nature Walk
You don’t need to have specific gear to take your city kids on a nature walk, but having a small toolkit, makes it easy to turn a walk into an “activity”. And boy do kids love having an “activity”!
Here are some ideas of things to take:
I hope these tips are useful for you and your kids! Let me know in the comments!
Do you take your city kids on nature walks? Or do you live somewhere closer to nature? Are they happy to go or reluctant?
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