Introduce Kids to the Natural World


“I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.” School will be out for summer in no time and while teachers are joyfully counting down the days, parents are living in fear. Why not commit just an hour a day to introducing kids to nature?

Getting Outside Takes Some Planning

Years ago, as kids we spent hours outside every day. Playing. Biking. Exploring. Making forts. Catching frogs and digging in the dirt. There were only a few TV channels then and we all watched the same thing including Gunsmoke, Gilligan’s Island and Little House On The Prairie. Likewise, we taught our kids and grandkids to canoe, fish, camp, garden and cook. It seems so long ago.

For many children today, the natural world is a distant land. Their time is spent indoors playing video games and scrolling through social media. Their schedules are full from morning till night.

Providing kids with an opportunity to take piano, dance and art lessons is so valuable to their growth and development. Likewise, scouting, team sports and 4H are wonderful opportunities for children to learn and interact with others. But, the natural world is also a wonderful place for them to learn and grow. Spending time outdoors in any capacity benefits a child’s mental and physical health. It encourages curiosity and imagination. It reduces stress, depression and obesity. Introducing your children and grandchildren to the natural world is a gift that will last a lifetime.

Not Sure How to Get Outside? Don’t Fret it!

Don’t worry. You don’t need to be an experienced outdoors man or outdoors woman to facilitate a fun nature activity. You don’t need a plan, gadgets or gear. Just get outdoors for an hour a day.

You may ask yourself: What about safety? What about all the kids who don’t have backyards? While things have certainly changed, we do have access to wonderful local parks that are free of charge and open to the public.

Keep it fun. Keep it simple. Keep it short. Step outside. Look around. Point out leaves, bugs, tracks and even poop. It would be fun to turn it into a scavenger hunt. Draw birds. Paint trees. Use leaves to create some fun art and crafts projects.

You can learn with them. Engage with them. Explore with them. Look for an opportunity to read nature signs outdoor clues like tracks, scat, feathers and fur. Create storylines for the tracks and sign left behind from the night before.

Enroll your child or teen in an environmental camp. There are so many great facilities statewide offering day camps as well as overnight camps for kids and families alike.

Here are Some Helpful Resources

Summer Day Camps:

  • YMCA of the North canoeing, sailing, hiking, archery
  • Minnesota Zoo

Overnight Summer Camps:

You do not have to have all the answers. Participate. Learn. Engage. All Seasons Wild Bird Store staff can help you establish a backyard feeding station for birds.

Books and Field Guides:

All Seasons Wild Bird Store has several nature related books.

Backyard fun ideas:

  • Allow your children and grandchildren to plant their very own garden or container garden with cherry tomatoes, carrots, sunflowers and or carrots. Add water. Watch it grow and watch the kids grow with it.
  • Set up a rain gage.
  • There are no rules except to wear “play clothes” and comfortable shoes APPROPRIATE FOR THE WEATHER CONDITIONS.
  • Just sit outside and ask questions like …if you were a bird you are a bird—where would you go to avoid a predator or a storm? Feel the wind. Listen to the birds.

Article by Eagan Store Manager ANN MCCARTHY

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