The average child in the US spends five to eight hours a day in front of a screen, but they need to play outside daily for at least an hour to stay healthy. Encouraging your kids to join a spring hike or other nature-based activities is vital for their development, happiness, and growth.
The outdoors sights are full of exciting, smells, and sounds, but convincing your child to get out there is sometimes difficult.
Here’s how to turn your child from a couch potato to an adventurer.
Schoolwork isn’t often fun for children, but you can change that by setting up a table outside if it’s warm out. Your child will enjoy the change of scenery and the fresh air. Or, instead of doing schoolwork, you could make your own outdoor curriculum that encourages learning outside.
The benefits of outdoor learning for children are endless. It improves health and well-being, inspires curiosity, and improves motor skills, so give your child a chance to explore. Ask them what they found during their spring hike or bike ride to keep them engaged in the outdoors.
There are plenty of children that want to play outside, but their parents are worried they’ll get hurt. However, if you trust your children and feel they’re responsible and old enough to bike on their own, then you should schedule in a daily bike ride around your neighborhood or city.
Consider purchasing a kids GPS watch for more peace of mind, as they can show you your child’s exact location. You can also install a GPS tracker on your child’s smartphone or tablet.
With your children, come up with a nature scavenger hunt related to nearby nature and critters that pop up during the season. Ask other parents to get together if you want some friendly competition. Group your children together so they use teamwork to find things on the list.
We recommend starting simple by writing easy-to-complete categories, such as “find a red flower” or “something that crawls.” Then, put a twist on your scavenger hunt by adding senses other than sight. For example, you could ask your children to find a fuzzy, dry, or silky leaf.
Bring a sketch pad on your spring hike with your children. As you hike, look out for animals, plants, and objects that might be interesting to draw. When you find something, ask your kids to stop and observe it. Take out your sketchbooks and suggest drawing them with pencils or pens.
While you don’t need to time these sketches, you should explain that they don’t have to be perfect. Tell your children that you want them to learn to respect nature by turning it into art.
Pack a lunch for your children and travel to a place with lots of nature. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a trail nearby that’s perfect for a spring hike. If you don’t, go to the park. There are plenty of things your children can do while there, such as play in the jungle gym or swing on a tire swing.
If your children are too young or old to play in the park, tell them stories instead. Invite them to talk about their favorite animal or how they prefer to spend time outside. Take suggestions!
If you have a front or backyard, plant a garden with your children. We recommend planting a butterfly garden filled with plenty of rocks, water, and plants. Make sure your garden is in a sunny spot that has cover from the wind. Mid-sized cultivars and conifers will work just fine.
Gardening is a useful skill you can pass on to your children that encourages them to spend more time outdoors. Once your flowers are in bloom, they can observe these beautiful insects.
Young children need a bit of encouragement to explore the outdoors, so start small. Bring a bouquet of roses home next time you’re at the supermarket, or buy a real tree instead of a fake one. Let them touch these natural objects and grow comfortable with how they look and feel.
Show them that nature can be both exciting and scary. After all, you wouldn’t want them to pet a raccoon! If you introduce these dangers in a safe environment, they’ll be cautious, not afraid.
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