Kids are curious – they want to know about the world beyond the back door. And there’s no shortage of studies that prove connecting kids with nature is extremely beneficial for learning and development, as well as health and well-being in people of all ages.
On the flip side, connecting kids with nature is great for the planet. This is because a little treehugger will grow into a big treehugger; a person with appreciation and respect for the environment and who is more likely to make mindful choices that help preserve the natural world for future generations.
So this summer, let Mother Earth step in for an afternoon or two with some of these super easy ideas for connecting kids with nature. Who knows, you might end up with a little marine biologist or environmentalist on your hands!
You don’t need a fancy flower press to preserve beautiful paper-thin petals – a couple of sheets of baking paper and that big ol’ Atlas will do! Relatively small, flat species like pansies and violets work well, and for larger flowers like roses, you can pick the petals and press them individually. In a week or two when they’re dry, spend a quiet crafternoon with your kids arranging and gluing them on card.
Make tiny things look bigger.
A magnifying glass is all you need to discover the busy little world that thrums and thrives where human sight doesn’t normally reach. Get down on all fours and take a closer look at the grass, the bark on a tree, a handful of soil. Peer at the stripes on a daisy, the holes nibbled in a leaf. Ask questions like ‘who snacked here?’ Let curiosity be your guide.
Search for four-leaf clovers.
This may be a peaceful way to while away an hour, but there’s an element of competition involved (and a chance no-one will win). But that just makes it even more special when your child finally finds that elusive four-leaf clover. Don’t forget to roll over and find faces in the clouds while you’re at it.
Make leaf rubbings.
Wander through the garden and look for tough, waxy leaves with prominent veins; most types of Eucalyptus are perfect. Simply place a sheet of paper over the leaf, with the veins facing up, and gently shade over the area, gradually building colour to reveal the patterns in the leaf. Colour code your rubbings and try to identify each species back at home.
Go beach combing.
Open their minds to the vastness of the ocean and the diversity of life within it. Sift through shells and talk about where they came from, what lived in them, what coastal birds feed on them. Point out kelp, jellies, drift wood and crab claws. Encourage them to collect rubbish that shouldn’t be there; show them what happens to glass that has been pounded against the sand. Poke around rock pools and see the eco-system at play if it is easy and safe to do so.
Find out bees’ favourite colour.
Cut out five daisy shapes from different coloured paper or card. Place them somewhere sunny in the yard with a bottle cap of sugar water placed in the centre of each. Throughout the day, check which colour the bees are visiting. Do they prefer one colour over the others? Use the opportunity to remind your kids of the plight of bees.
Make mud pies.
Don’t throw out old cookware and chipped china! Making mud pies is something every child should experience, and it’s a good jumping-off point for learning the essential life skill of cooking. Dig a hole, add water and get mixing! Decorate with pebbles, leaves, twigs and flowers. Get your hands dirty and make a huge mess! Better it happen outside than in the kitchen, no?
Grow, harvest and cook herbs.
Encourage kids to learn about where food comes from – it doesn’t magically appear in the supermarket after all. Quick-growing herbs like basil and parsley are great for little gardeners who might become impatient while playing the waiting game. Involve them in the picking and preparation of the herbs as small example of the “paddock-to-plate” movement.
There’s hundreds of ways to incorporate nature appreciation into activities with kids – whether it’s feeding ducks at the park or finding Jupiter among the stars – this list merely scratches the surface. Tell us your favourite ways for connecting kids with nature over on our Facebook page.