Young children have innate curiosity about nature. Just watch a toddler squeak in delight at the sight of a lorikeet or dig in the sand for hours. Spending time in nature reduces stress, provides varied stimulation of the senses and increases physical activity. Sadly, many children these days spend more time in front of screens than playing outside. Are you struggling to drag your kids away from their gadgets? Here are a few ideas that may help:
Kids often go through a stage when all they want to do is play school and it can be hard to persuade them to play outside (unless it’s pretend recess time). Fortunately, nature offers the perfect tools to teach and learn reading, writing and maths. Collect natural objects to demonstrate simple maths equations or arrange in the shape of letters and numbers. Use a stick to write in the dirt. Give out different coloured leaves instead of awards.
Grab a big box or a basket and go for a walk collecting a variety of objects that catch your child’s eye – sticks, leaves, rocks, shells, cones and petals. Once you’re done, pick a place for your ‘sculpture’ and create an art piece using the objects you’ve collected and the natural environment. This activity is great for kids who love arts and craft. It will feed their creativity while encouraging them to explore different media from what they’re used to.
Nature scavenger hunt
Prepare a list of natural objects that your child is likely to find in your area. Depending on your child’s reading ability, include words or pictures, or both. Then go for a walk and tick off the items on the list as you find them. Don’t forget to offer a prize at the end! This activity requires some preparation, but your young detective will be delighted.
Bring a magnifying glass and your child can see nature in a whole new way. Explore intricate patterns on a leaf, make up a story about the world inside a rain drop or watch an ant suddenly grow mightier.
Watch the clouds
Point out the shapes that you can see and watch them slowly transform into something else. Ask your child to show you the shapes he can recognise. Notice how the sky is never exactly the same.
Imitate the sounds around you
Take a moment to stay still and listen. Can you hear the kookaburra? What about the sound of waves in the distance. Now try to repeat the sounds and encourage your child to do the same. You’re talking to nature.
If you find it impossible to unglue your child from the screen, why not combine nature and technology? Hand the camera over and let your child experiment with various photography techniques. Help your child create their own photo collage with the images you’ve taken once you get home.
Most of these activities are perfect for adult ‘kids’, too. Have fun with your child and create treasured memories of connection and wonder.
Image by muminsearch.com.
By Felicia Sapountzis