Getting out into nature is good for you. Kids who spend their time cooped up inside, staring at screens, don’t get enough fresh air or exercise. Kids who spend time outdoors say they feel better–less nervous, more independent, and happier, too. Try one of these ways to get your kids interested in nature and reap the benefits of a relationship with the outdoors.
Let your child manage their own outdoor experience. Don’t try to “schedule” or plan it. Just let them be out there. Take a walk with your kids at a local preserve or botanical garden and pick a quiet spot to hang out. Then just let them listen and learn. Unstructured play in the back yard exposes kids to many wonders, from bugs to toads. Give your kids a magnifying glass, a trowel for digging and total freedom to get dirty. Their natural curiosity will emerge.
Let the kids pitch in when you prepare your vegetable garden. Observing how your prepare soil, plant seeds and water them, and how the seeds emerge, will pique your child’s interest in green, growing things. No place to plant a garden? No problem! Connect to a community garden or try a container patio garden kit.
If you have a large, bland back yard, make a family project of transforming it into a rich ecosystem. A good way to start is simply to plant flowers and shrubs that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Watching these creatures do their work, flitting or buzzing from flower to flower, is fascinating–you can sit quietly with your child for an hour just observing. You can also buy seed packs created specially to generate a mix of flowers that develop seed heads attractive to birds.
As a busy single moms you may not have the time or inclination to take on a major landscaping or gardening project, but you can still take steps to bring nature closer. Consider hanging a bird feeder in your yard, or attach one to the outside of a window. Watching birds can become a lifelong pleasure and even a way to make friends when your kids are old enough to join a birding group.
Equip your kids with a mason jar, a paper bag, and a pair of rainboots or their bare feet, and send them exploring–with a list of things to bring back. They could catch a lightning bug on a summer evening, bring you a “bouquet” of colorful fall leaves, or find trinkets frozen in ice. You can escort them, but don’t intervene as they find creative ways to complete their lists.
Time spent in nature is as essential to our well being as a healthy diet and getting enough sleep. Get started with books about nature and encourage your child’s curiosity about the outdoors. It will pay off in a happier, more confident, and creative child.