These days, children seem to spend a lot more time indoors than previous generations. There are a number of reasons for this – the popularity of video games is definitely one of the major factors, and there is also a perception that the world ‘out there’ isn’t as safe as it used to be, so parents may be more reluctant to let their kids go off exploring in the woods or build a rope swing over the local river without supervision.
Connect with nature
Having a connection with nature is an important part of life though. If you live in a city, it’s especially easy to neglect your and your children’s relationship with the outdoors. Experiencing nature, whether out in the wilderness or in your back garden, is something that we, as humans, have a primitive yearning to do, and suppressing that is unhealthy for the body, mind and soul.
One of the easiest ways to begin fostering an appreciation of the outdoors with your children from an early age is to encourage them to get involved in gardening activities. Giving them their own space in the garden where they can plant things will help get them interested. Take them to the local garden centre, and, with a bit of guidance, let them choose what they would like to plant. Growing something they can eat is a great idea, as this will really hammer home the relationship that we have with the natural world.
Gardens are also full of bugs and creepy-crawlies that young children are naturally fascinated with. Insect enclosures can be made using something like a plastic soft-cheese container filled with a bit of soil, and some leaves and pebbles. When your kids catch an insect, they can place it in the container and use a magnifying glass to take a closer look. They may also enjoy drawing the insects. Remind children to return bugs to where they found them later.
Building a wormery is another great idea, which will teach children how worms convert plant waste into soil, introducing them to the concept of recycling. You’ll need a large glass jar, some moist soil, some sand, some old leaves, some vegetable peelings, some black paper, and, of course, some earthworms. You can find full instructions online. Just Google “building a wormery.”
You can also build a bird feeder with your kids, which will increase the chances of a variety of birds visiting your garden regularly, particularly in winter. This will help sensitise children to the changing seasons.
When your kids get a bit older, they will probably start getting a bit bored of the garden, and will require a bit more stimulation. You won’t be able to avoid TV, video games and the Internet taking up more of their time, but you can still plan activities that will get some fresh air in their lungs and remind them of the pleasures of observing and interacting with wildlife in all its forms.
Taking kids camping will help keep them in touch with their environment, and is also a great opportunity for them to learn new skills such as pitching a tent, starting a fire, and even catching something to eat.
Let them take risks
As a parent, it’s important that you’re prepared to let your children take risks, otherwise they are less likely to develop an appreciation of the outdoors. A few bumps and scratches are a natural part of growing up, so if your kids want to climb those trees, ride down that steep-looking trail, or gut that fish with their penknife, let them. Consider their welfare, of course, but don’t be overprotective.