Three children toss leaves into the air as they look up at the sky and laugh.

How to help your kids connect with nature as the weather cools down

As soon as the crisp fall air creeps in, our natural inclination to get cozy kicks in. The same is true for kids—and they let us know as soon as they are (even slightly!) uncomfortable with the cold. Knowing how important it is for them to connect with nature, work through discomfort, and build resilience, here are some ideas for helping them connect with nature when it’s chilly.

Dress for success

Knowing how to dress for the weather in every season and wearing appropriate clothing makes all the difference when it comes to whether our kids have fun jumping in puddles for hours or whether they complain that they want to go home five minutes after they walk out the door. Base layers should be sweat-wicking (like merino wool) and outer shells should be waterproof. On colder days, a fleece mid-layer keeps it cozy. I also swear by merino wool socks for my kids. Even if rain somehow sneaks into their boots, their socks manage to keep the moisture at bay and keep their toes happy. 

Work with the season

Fall is a great time for planting season! Plant a native wildflower garden in the backyard or at their school (check out the David Suzuki Butterflyway Project for more info on how to get started). Autumn is also perfect for walks in the woods (no bugs!), picking a pumpkin at the pumpkin patch, going apple picking, or collecting leaves for some fall crafts. Keeping the outdoor activities interesting and seasonal adds some novelty and gets kids excited about the outing.

Let them have some control over your outing

Kids may not love the idea of an adventure in the cold because they don’t want to be told what to do. If you give them some of their autonomy back, it’s a nicer experience for everyone. For example, If you say, “We’re going for a hike!” and then make the kids keep up with you for a grown-up-style hike, the results will involve whining (and hating hiking). But if you say, “We’re going to the woods and YOU are in charge or where we go and how far we go,” they’re going to be a lot more receptive to it.

Game-ify nature time

If your kids love a certain video game or show, use it to get them excited about outdoor time too. Pretend you’re playing Super Mario as you walk around the pond “jumping over pits,” “bouncing on clouds,” and “defeating Bowser.” If they love Harry Potter, collect wands in the woods and practice spells on each other. 

Add a cozy destination (that involves hot chocolate)

Even when we’re headed somewhere, we can still connect with nature along the way. Walking, biking, or scooting to your local library, bakery, or coffee shop is the perfect opportunity to breathe in the fresh fall air, collect pine cones along the way, notice the leaves changing, and embrace the season. Even when the motivation for getting outside is going to a fun indoor destination, it’s still a valuable and positive chance to connect with nature.

Share your own enjoyment of the season

If our kids are listening to us complain about the weather and watching as we rush to get indoors, they’ll learn that being outside in the cold is undesirable. Our kids are always watching the way we react to things and taking their cues from us. Let’s show them, rather than tell them, that the colder months are a beautiful opportunity to enjoy what each season brings.

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