We've heard it before. A relationship with nature is crucial for children. It can help keep them in better shape and aid in the fight against obesity. Studies have shown that being exposed to nature can improve memory, concentration and grades. Nature reduces stress and eases tensions. And living a greener lifestyle excites children and encourages them in their role as future keepers of the environment. But sometimes getting outdoors is easier said than done, especially when the mercury starts to drop below the comfort zone. So here are some tips from Judy Molland, author of Get Out! 150 Easy Ways for Kids and Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future to help the whole family get off the sofa and out the door.
- Turn a walk into a safari. Take a closer look at birds, bugs, shrubs and trees when you pass. Bring a magnifying glass to really zoom in.
- Play camouflage tag. All you need is a few people and an area with good hiding places, such as a playground, park or wooded area.
- Find squirrel highways. Watch the squirrels in your yard or at a park for a while and see if you can identify the squirrels’ favorite routes — or “squirrel highways.”
- Adopt a piece of the Earth. Walk around your yard, neighborhood or school and find an area that needs attention.
- Create your own treasure hunt. Kids will be more engaged if you include several weird or gross items on your list: a dead bug, a bird feather, a worm.
- Try cloud watching. If the stars by night are tricky to make out, look for shapes in the clouds instead. Ask your children what shapes they can see, and encourage them to share.
- Have a snow day. Build igloos or snow caves, or go sledding or snow tubing. Or try snowshoeing — no lift tickets are required.
- Adopt a tree. As a group or family, choose a favorite tree you can visit often. Take a photo of your tree every week or every month, and put the pictures in a series to see how it changes over the course of a year — or longer.
- Bring out the strollers. If your little ones are too small for more active outdoors dates, organize a stroller group instead. Meet for weekly nature walks.
- Volunteer at a public park. Volunteers do any number of things, including removing ivy, rebuilding trails, planting seeds or painting picnic tables.
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