Green Tips: Getting Kids Interested and Out Into Nature
Green Tips | January 23, 2020
Young people from Generation Z and Generation Alpha are increasingly concerned about the state of our climate, but research suggests that they actually have less interaction with nature itself than generations before. This is likely due to the influx of technology that creates more indoor distractions than in years past. In addition, diminishing green spaces, busy schedules, and parental concerns all contribute to young people not having as many opportunities to explore nature on their own. Richard Louv, author of The Last Child in the Woods, introduced the term “nature-deficit disorder” to refer to the disconnect between young people and their natural environment.
It’s no secret that kids can significantly benefit from engaging with the outdoors. Being outside can be beneficial for childhood development, as well as boost the immune system and reduce symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Additionally, playing outside gives children exercise, the opportunity to problem-solve, take risks, and build confidence. In other words, unstructured play in nature promotes the learning of important life skills that can carry into adulthood.
If you’re interested in getting the young people in your life outside more often, read on for tips to get started.
In order to be fully present in nature, it’s important to put your electronics away. Studies have found that having your phone out during an activity or task reduces your focus and level of engagement. Without the chirp of alarms or the urge to check social media, adults and children can better immerse themselves in the outdoors.
Find a Park
New York has 180 state parks, creating endless opportunities to enjoy beautiful protected sites, lands, and waters. With extensive trails and recreational areas, these parks provide ample space for kids to explore. To find a state park near you, go to the New York State Parks website.
If you don’t live close to a park, try exploring your neighborhood. You can connect with the sky, the trees, and even spot birds or insects along your journey.
Activities can be jump-started with a hook to get kids engaged. Try piquing their interest with a challenge or prompt. For example, “Did you know raccoons come here at night for shelter? Their homes look different than ours; they use sticks and leaves. Why don’t we help our racoon friends and build a shelter for them to hide in tonight!” Exploring an area with “loose parts” like logs, twigs, and leaves can help a child learn to create and engineer. Often, their imagination will keep the story or activity going.
Nature play can require some creative thought and imagination. Here are a number of ideas to engage children in nature:
- Scavenger Hunt: Go to your nearest nature trail or park and spend time trying to identify items on the list. Take it slow and learn about different animals, plants, and other interesting things in your local environment.
- Storytelling: Another great way to spur interest is a good story. Reading about trees, plants, or animals can drive curiosity in children, which can then lead to further interest and individual exploration.
- Finding Symmetry: This activity is a fun way for kids to see the details and unique shapes in nature. Utilize some of their math skills and ask them to identify where they see symmetry and asymmetry outside.
- Using a Magnifying Glass: A magnifying glass is always a good way to get children interested in what’s going on in their living environment. Giving them an up-close look at worms, ants, leaves, and everything else they can find helps bring focus to all the wonders of the outside world.
We hope you enjoy your time outside!< Back to Citizen’s Toolkit
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