Remember the days when kids spent most of their free time playing outside? If you’re into the outdoors as an adult, chances are good that you were one of those kids. You probably have memories of camping and hiking with your parents, climbing in trees, splashing in the creek out back, and running wild with skinned knees all summer long. Those carefree childhood memories are often what motivates our love of nature as adults.
Sadly, today’s modern lifestyle looks a lot different than it did years ago, and that’s why outdoor education for kids is so important. Sure, technology makes life easier in many ways, but it also keeps both children and adults glued to a screen for most of the day. Our children’s connection to nature has grown weaker because they simply don’t spend time in it.
Many parents want to raise their children to love outdoor adventure, free play, and exploration, but it’s often easier said than done. Here’s why outdoor education for kids should be a priority, plus a few ideas to help you get started:
Your five-year-old is running laps around the house and your three-year-old is bouncing off the walls. Worse yet, your 10-year-old hasn’t put down the video game controller in days. Kids who are cooped up inside all the time are often bored, full of pent up energy, and looking for stimulation.
Being outdoors and spending time in nature does more than just entertain kids and help them burn off all that extra energy. It also reduces stress, boosts their mood, and even increases their engagement and concentration at school. As parents, it’s essential that we encourage kids to spend time in nature because it’s important for their mental, emotional, and physical health.
Most adults and children spend very little time outdoors these days, but it really should be a priority for everyone. For busy, modern parents, planning a week-long camping trip to a national park may not be doable more than once a year. But that shouldn’t stop you from educating the kids about the outdoors regularly.
Here are some engaging outdoor experiences that kids and their parents can participate in as a family. They can be enjoyed close to home, or even in your own backyard.
The best way to provide engaging outdoor education for kids is to expose them to nature first-hand on a daily basis. Why not start by bringing nature right to your kids? You could put up some bird feeders, bird houses, a bat house, or even plant a butterfly garden in the backyard. Even if all you have is a balcony, kids will be delighted to see birds come to splash in a birdbath or butterflies landing on your potted flowers. Invest in a field guide for your area and encourage your kids to draw and write about the animals they see in a nature journal. It’s a great way to get kids to connect with nature every day!
You don’t have to travel far from home and spend lots of money to plan a family camping trip. There are usually family-friendly campgrounds right in your local area and many of them have nature trails to explore and lakes for fishing and swimming. Want to make things really simple? Have an overnight campout with the kids right in your own backyard. There’s no reason to invest in expensive gear either. Rent all of your camping gear from Arrive Outdoors for a fraction of the cost and have it delivered right to your door. Simply send it back when you’re done and there’s nothing to store. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
Your little ones might not be ready for a five-mile hike in the mountains, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy exploring nature together. Look for local nature trails that your kids can manage. Many community parks have walking trails and short hikes that are perfect for children. Even walks through your neighborhood can offer outdoor education opportunities. While you’re walking, be sure to point out interesting plants, trees, and wildlife. Collect leaves, flowers, and feathers your child can add to their nature journal when you get back home. Many kids will also love collecting unique rocks, shells, or even pine cones they find on their journey.
One of the best things about outdoor education for kids is that the activities are so much fun, your kids won’t even realize they’re learning new things. Kids who connect with nature grow up to be adults who love being outdoors and taking care of the planet. Encouraging your child to love the outdoors is one of the best ways to spark a love of learning and exploration.