Whether you live in the most rural or urban of locations – inspiring and enabling your kids to explore and appreciate the natural world can bring them countless benefits in terms of health and happiness. But how can you motivate them to get moving and leave the comforts of home (and their electronics) behind?! I hope these ideas will take the hard work out of getting your children out and about each day to do something outdoors – whether it’s hunting for bugs, collecting natural items to make artwork or just observing seasonal changes whilst scooting along!
You are never too young to #GetOutdoors
Our first experiences of the outside world are generally of a sensory nature and these form how we interact with the natural world as we grow. Getting outdoors with your baby can have huge benefits for you both. Try lying your baby on a rug on the grass, they will be able to feel the breeze on their faces and the sensation of being gently warmed by the sun. The variations of scent and light that the garden can provide are stimulating in so many ways. Position your baby under a tree for shade and to watch and enjoy the dappled light. Older babies can be surrounded by safe toys and natural items in order to begin to explore the world in miniature. Maybe try making a sensory playmat for your baby, using recycled items? This article has some great guidelines for how you can help your baby or child safely enjoy the outdoors.
Toddlers and young children
Whether you have a huge garden, or the tiniest of urban spaces, helping young children to plant and grow their own flowers is a great way to inspire them to love and understand the natural world. It’s best to choose plants that grow quickly, to pique your child’s interest. My son watched with daily excitement as the sunflowers that we planted grew and grew! I like this list of easy plants to grow for children.
If you have pets – or even just meeting other people’s dogs out-and-about on walks, observing how you behave with the insects and animals that you encounter will teach your children to manage and respect creatures. Try a ‘mini-beast’ hunt in an open space near you – remember to look underneath logs to spot woodlice etc. For more ideas about fantastic things to do outdoors with children, why not visit our Pinterest board:
Older Children and Teenagers
Whatever the weather, as long as your child has some wellies, there is fun to be had!
Why not try appealing to their competitive side? Get out and get active – by using a pedometer to track their adventures? Setting targets can really motive older children to get out-and-about – whether its trekking to the top of a hill – or just to the other side of the park and back.
One of my boys’ favourite activities is to take a selection of their toy characters to our local nature reserve (you can find your nearest nature reserve here). My boys like to take turns to hide them and direct the other to find them with shouts of ‘getting hotter, getting colder’ etc to direct the other. Running around and getting exercise without even noticing, as they are having such a good time.
Making a shelter or den can really appeal to an older child. Making it a ‘base’ for explorers, army, fairies, etc can make it a game that will capture their imagination and it could last all day.
Providing your kids with junk materials and setting them a challenge to make something can produce great results. Sticks can become ‘wands’ and boxes, fairy houses, guitars etc – the list is endless. Giving your child a container full of water can result in a fun water-fight. Or try encouraging them pick some natural materials: grass, leaves mud, fallen pine cones to their own ‘witches brew’ or perfume.
‘Wild art’ is another good way to capture their imagination and make use of things found on a walk:
For older teenagers, ‘geocaching’ is a great activity that will capture the interest and imagination of the even the most ‘Kevin’ of teenagers! : ) The National Trust brilliantly describes geocaching as “…treasure hunt for the digital generation” and gives a great list of the best places to hunt.
Another brilliant way to motivate teenagers to want to go on walk is to give them a challenge to capture what they see, digitally (like the ‘troll’ below). Try giving them a camera or smartphone and they can take images of interesting images that they encounter – or even post their own You Tube video!
The opportunities for outdoor play and exploration are infinite and the possible benefits are many. As long as we observe a few basic rules, our outdoor spaces can afford endless fun and provide us and our children with a fantastic playground – let’s go!