Parents, Volunteers

5 Ways to Inspire Children to Love Nature

by Sarah Haney

When children spend time outdoors, amazing things happen! Study after study shows that there are great benefits to daily time spent outdoors for children (and adults too!).

So how do you inspire kids to get outdoors and love the natural world? Here’s a few ideas for you to try:

1. Bring nature down to their size

Nature can be intimidating for children. Think of how tall a tree is to a 5-year-old or how long a hike around a lake might be for a 7-year-old. When you are a kid, your perspective on the world is a lot larger than most adults.

That is why Micro Hikes are an exciting activity to inspire children to love nature. A Micro Hike is an activity where children find a spot in nature, sit down, and pretend to shrink down to the size of an ant. Have the child imagine exploring the ground in front of them as an ant. Encourage them to look close to the ground, seeing where the grass first pops out of the dirt. You can place a foot string on the ground and have the child pretend they are an ant following the string. You can find so many awesome bugs or fungi during this activity. Your child might notice how pretty the underside of a leaf is or they might find a cool rock, that they couldn’t see when they were standing.

This activity is about appreciating the small parts of life! It gives the child a chance to explore nature with no rush and on their own terms. This teaches children that you can find cool aspects of nature anywhere and at any size.

2. Give children the opportunity to explore freely and creatively

Planned activities can be an awesome way to inspire children to love nature, but giving the children the opportunity to explore freely is also important. Giving kids free range can be scary sometimes but when children can explore freely it gives them the chance to have control over their own experiences. This encourages children to get excited about their own curiosities.

A safe way to do this is to see if there is a Nature Playscape in your town. A Nature Playscape is similar to a traditional playground but built out of aspects of nature. No plastic at all! Most Nature Playscapes have stumps and rocks to climb on. They also can have supplies for children to build forts out of sticks.

Children enjoy having this chance to burn off energy and be creative! This is very important for children to connect with nature on their own terms. Kids love having the opportunity to explore!

3. Plan frequent and immersive experiences

How often a child is outside can affect how much a kid loves nature. If you want kids to love nature, you must give them many opportunities to be outside without it being a special occasion. Not just going hiking as a family once a month, but going to the park after school a couple times a week.

Making frequent happy memories outside helps children create a positive connection with being outside. It teaches children that being outside is valuable and can be a lot of fun. Most of the games children play inside, they can play outside on a nice day. Encourage children to play outside as often as they can.

Immersive experiences are another awesome way to inspire kids to love nature. Spending extended time outside is impactful for children. This is because it allows children to immersive themselves in nature creating a special connection with the natural world.

Children can get this experience by camping or doing extended outdoor trips. The more time spent outside the better for inspiring children to love nature.

4. Enjoy nature with friends & family

Having children spend time outside with their friends and family strengthens the positive connections children have with nature. If kids are experiencing nature with people they love, they are more likely to have a positive experience.

Be a positive nature role model for the kids around you. If you show children you love nature, it is likely they will do the same. You can do this by scheduling children playdates at your local nature center, taking family trips to national parks, and so much more!

Quality time outdoors with loved ones are always a good time. Experiencing nature with others is a fun and exciting way to inspire children to love nature.

5. Talk about nature with children

It might be intimidating when children ask questions about a tree or animal and you don’t know the answer. Do not fear! There are many ways to learn more about nature alongside your children. Turn the question into conversation and tell them you’ll look it up.

Talking to children about nature and letting them ask questions are very important to inspire children to love nature. Spark curiosity by asking questions, like what sort of animals might live in a hole in a tree? Children love imagining what it might be like to be a squirrel living in a tree in a forest.

It is also important to talk to children about why nature is important and ways to respect nature. One resource to help adults answer questions children might have about nature is online, you can download “Wildlife Identification Guides” through the Ohio Division of Wildlife Website. You can download field guides for birds, amphibians, wildflowers and more! This is a great way to identify and learn about local animal and plant species with kids.

Be comfortable to talk with children about what parts of nature do they love.

I hope these 5 ways help you inspire children to love nature!

Sarah Haney is a graduate of Hocking College currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University in Outdoor Recreation. She loves the outdoors and has enjoyed sharing that love with children as the nature specialist at Girl Scouts of Western Ohio’s troop adventure camp in 2017.

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