Today’s youth are increasingly connected to their electronic devices, which can result in children being disconnected from Mother Nature. According to data released by the Nature Conservancy, it is believed that only 10 percent of our children spend time outside everyday. Yet, 66 percent of our children report that a personal experience in nature has increased their appreciation of the environment.
If that isn’t reason enough to introduce nature to our children, hiking, playing and taking in fresh air is great for our health! There is increasing evidence that nature can positively impact a child’s psychological and physical well-being. Here are a few known positives about nature’s impact on children:
- Strong correlations between outdoor activity and stress relief
- Being outside encourages better physical health
- Improved focus and concentration skills
- Higher levels of creativity
- Elevated feelings of eco-consciousness and stewardship
- Stronger immune systems
- Cognitive functions improve when exposed to green spaces
It is essential that children are allowed to form a sense of wonder and learn their role in the world, and this can be accomplished on family getaways or planned vacations.
The Great Outdoors: Tips To Expose Kids To Nature
Travelling provides wonderful opportunities that place our families in the environment and experiencing nature first hand. Here are seven tips to start introducing kids to nature through travel.
1. Make it a family goal to take family outings where they are able to connect to nature. This can be a simple walk around the neighborhood or a weekend camping trip to a nearby lake. Be intentional with your time and focus!
2. Point out that nature is all around. Fun activities might be to host a scavenger hunt or find a quiet sitting spot to observe. If you are traveling, look for unique areas that have noticeable differences from your home to show a child.
3. Pause for a few seconds with your children and notice something about their environment. Look at the colors, listen to the sounds, and observe nature around you. Children love to hear the squirrels chatter or observe how sparrows make a nest. By doing this simple action, you will make it easier to engage your child to go outside when home.
4. Create “bingo” sheets for car rides or hikes. Similar to a scavenger hunt, have children look for unique features to the area and then cross them off their list when they notice the item. Get them excited about the world around them!
5. Ask locals for recommended spots to hike or visit. Take advantage of forums and social media to plan vacations that might involve hidden gems that are off the beaten path. During one cross-country trip, our family discovered Turner Falls in Oklahoma this way, and it was the highlight of our trip!
6. Pack a lunch. What would a family trip be without a roadside lunch or two? Plan ahead and bring a meal to eat at a designated park or roadside attraction. It will save you time and money, plus it allows your children to experience the beauty of the landscape and stretch their legs.
7. Extend what your kids have learned during your travels at home. After your trip, build on their observation skills and knowledge. Take time to discuss conservation and the role they can play in protecting the environment at home.
Studies reinforce the importance of exposing kids to nature, with research showing children who explore their outdoor environment as happier, more alert and curious. Science is showing that youngsters who run after butterflies or create sand sculptures develop brain structures that are more complex than children who intake high doses of screen time. So get up, get out and get the kids in your life acquainted with the environment they inhabit.
This is a guest post by Hilary Loren Smith. Hilary is a motivated entrepreneur, writer and mother from Chicago who writes about a variety of topics. Follow her on Twitter at @HilaryS33.
All images are from the author’s paid Shutterstock account.