connecting kids with nature
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Connecting Kids with Nature Fun for All!

There are so many ways to connect kids with nature but the most important thing is to take the time to make it happen. And then, to convince the kids that it’s not just good for them to be outside: its fun!

Of course, it is good for them. Being outside gets kids moving, builds confidence, promotes creativity, teaches responsibility, provides stimulation, reduces stress, increases fitness, raises levels of Vitamin D and makes them think.

Rebecca Niblette, Toronto Botanical Garden’s children’s education supervisor, suggests organizing a treasure or scavenger hunt as a fun way of getting kids closer to nature.

“A scavenger hunt allows children to spend time out doors with a bit of a goal plus the freedom to explore. Objects on the list should be specific to the age of the children. For little ones you may just ask them to find one thing – a rock or a leaf, for example. By kindergarten you can ask for something hard or something soft…and so on.”

Young children love to pick up sticks and pinecones, to collect shiny pebbles or shells on the beach. Finding and sealing colourful fall leaves or pressing flowers between sheets of wax paper is an old fashioned activity that never goes out of style.

Rebecca also recommends getting children to keep a nature journal. “It’s best if they can spend time outside on a regular basis, watching something as it changes from day to day, season to season—perhaps a bird feeder or squirrels in the backyard. Encourage them to draw pictures, take photos and make notes. Doing it regularly will help them develop more of a connection with nature.”

Taking a child outdoors with binoculars or a magnifying glass is a great way to foster observation of trees, grasses, birds, insects and more.  A birdfeeder or birdbath will draw them into your garden.

Challenge youngsters to use their senses while exploring the outdoors—sniff the trees and flowers, look for interesting birds and bugs, touch the rough bark or sticky sap of a tree and take the time to breathe in the fresh air.

Don’t forget all the other simple, time-tested ways of enjoying the outdoors—have a picnic, stomp in the snow, star gaze on a clear night, pick fresh fruit or vegetables.

And, by all means, let the kids help with the garden. They can dig, plant, weed and water and doing that will help them acquire a taste for eating fresh produce as well as a love of being outside.

Words: Lorraine Hunter

Photos: Lorraine Flanigan and Toronto Botanical Garden

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