In Addition to the individual benefits gained by being connected to nature, there is a collective benefit shared by all of us. Our children are future stewards of the earth. To raise adults who are passionate about protecting the environment and preserving our planet, they must first develop a deep love for it. The only way to enable children to grow comfortable in nature is to open the door and let them out. The only way to enable children to fall in love with nature is to give them the time to explore the wonder and awe of the natural world.
Consider loose parts for a variety of open- ended play possibilities. It’s also a great way to bring some nature play home from an outdoor excursion! Examples of loose parts include natural items like sticks and stones of varying sizes, sand, water, small logs, flowers, and leaves. Mix these things with man-made items like hula hoops, balls, jump ropes, stepping stones, muffin pans, colanders, metal stirring spoons, wheelbarrows, buckets, tubes, large blocks, or sifters. The possibilities are endless with these kinds of materials and the search for new treasures is a perfect icebreaker for a hike or outdoor adventure.
When you feel tempted to bail, check your watch and see if you have given the effort enough time. It can be difficult as a parent to ignore the urge to abort when everyone is out of sorts. Make a rule to always give the experience a minimum of 45 minutes before you even consider calling it quits.
Have an activity ready in case your children need a little help engaging- Nature Bingo, I spy, a few books about nature, a field guide matching game, or a challenge to collect as many different flowers as possible. Keep it simple and allow the activity to morph as the children create new rules and renditions.
Outdoor play fosters children’s intellectual, emotional, social and physical development.