Our family recently went on a nature walk and brought a backpack filled with supplies like binoculars, notebooks, pencils, snacks, and water. As soon as our feet hit the path and we began the descent into the ravine, the kids started running and whooping, and yelling out “this is awesome!”
They explored, collected, observed, climbed up and down slippery and difficult terrains, came face to face with their fears (a curious dog) while balancing on logs, and made surprising discoveries like a tepee made of sticks that we found along the way.
The walk was about so much more than exercise, although that was a great by-product for all of us. It was a way to slow down as a family, to disconnect from the world and to connect with each other. It was a way to decompress, to test ourselves, and to accomplish things that just aren’t possible sitting inside at home.
Motivated to learn more about encouraging the benefits of nature for kids, I recently picked up a copy of the book Nature’s Playground from our local library. Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield have created a beautifully illustrated road map for parents to help them enjoy the outdoors with their children. The activities are sorted by season and are designed to encourage kids to make discoveries, be adventurous, and to use their imaginations, creativity and senses.
Nature’s Playground: Activities, Crafts, and Games to Encourage Children to Get Outdoors
The book is filled with wise words about the importance of nature for children. How it helps both adults and kids “let go”, take more risks, and be present in the moment. It teaches respect for wildlife and how to peacefully coexist with it. There are suggestions of where to go, what to bring, how to encourage tired children to keep going, and safety tips.
The activities range from completely simple to a bit more complicated. My favourite is “your very own special place”, which has each member of the group finding a place to lie or sit on their own for several minutes, observing details, and then sharing what they noticed. Other activities include building sculptures with rocks and pebbles, building “elf” houses, and making bows and arrows from sticks and strings (which requires the use of a sharp knife and probably some supervision).
There is something for everyone and at the very least it will help get you thinking about how to spend more quality time outdoors with your kids.
There are copies of the book available from online booksellers, or you can check your local library to see if there’s something you can learn from Danks and Shofield.