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Turning Mother Nature into a Classroom

Infants & Teacher with Bubbles AMother Nature is a wonderful teacher and the great outdoors is her classroom! Children learn so much through the experiences they have with nature. Exposure to the environment provides many benefits to children including stress reduction, improvement of attention span and a boost in creativity. Parents can strengthen bonds with their children by exploring nature together.

Today’s children may be the first generation at risk of having a shorter lifespan than their parents. Screen time along with schoolwork and extracurricular schedules have led to a sedentary lifestyle and made physical outdoor activity practically obsolete. A growing body of research supports that more time spent in nature can support a child’s well-being and counteract the rising rates of depression, obesity and attention disorders.

Nature is closer than you think, so make it a priority to spend time connecting with your children outside. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Explore

Remind children to use their senses as they take in the beauty and wonder of nature. Home, sweet home! Have your child look around and see if they can spot homes of wildlife – bird or squirrel nests, bee hives, and holes in trees or the ground. Ask if they can identify which animal or insect lives inside.

  • Can you hear me now? Stand quietly in the middle of a wooded area and listen for sounds from the forest. Discuss what was heard and the possible cause of the sound.
  • The nose knows! Find a few objects with different scents, like a flower, grass or a pine cone. Instruct your child to keep their eyes closed as you place an object near their nose. Now let them try to identify the object by using only their sense of smell.

Create

Collect vines and branches to create a wreath together. Find a few small pine branches full of needles and let your child use them as paint brushes. Set up a piece of cardboard outside for their canvas and let them create a masterpiece.

Play

Prepare your child for a safari scavenger hunt! Hide several plush animal toys outside in the yard, give your child a few hints if necessary and watch their surprise and delight as they discover each of their beloved creatures.

Learn

Put together a “feely” bag full of nature’s treasures, like leaves, twigs, grass, stones and tree bark. Have your child reach into the bag without looking, select an item and guess what it is based on the way it feels.

Appreciate

Take time to enjoy nature with your child. Go on walks and talk with them about the things in nature that are changing as each season passes. Let their curiosity of the mysteries around them initiate opportunities for teachable moments. Eating outside is also a good way to get out in the fresh air and add some excitement to mealtime. Have a picnic lunch on a blanket or set up a table and a few chairs to eat dinner under the stars.

Enjoying free time in nature is one of the keys to children’s healthy development and creativity. These family fun adventures together are sure to create lasting memories.