Summer provides plenty of time for kids and families to get outside. Yet the school year often finds our kids indoors, walking down halls and learning in classrooms. Their focus changes from the much wider and diverse world of Nature to a representation of the world on computer screens, in books, and from a teacher’s curriculum. At most, they might find themselves taking a spherical object from one scoring place to another scoring place—occasionally in a grassy field. So how can we parents help our kids connect with Nature and their wilder selves? Here are…
5 Ways to Connect to Nature
#1 Pitch a Tent
Every kid loves sleeping in the backyard. It’s an adventure with healthy safety nets. If it looks like a clear night, pitch a tent (or better yet, go tentless) to camp through the night. If the weather gets too intense, they can come inside. Over time your children will begin to test themselves in more challenging weather. Who knows, someday you might be able to free up their room for your collection of Whedonverse memorabilia. Your backyard doesn’t have to be big—kids can even sleep on the back porch.
#2 Build a Yort (that’s a Yard-Fort)
#3 Make a Creature Map
Help your kids understand, your family is not the only one living in and around your home. From spiders to squirrels, many creatures share your territory. One of the best places to start this exploration process is with birds. Figuring out where that song sparrow lives takes it from being “a little brown bird”, to being a familiar individual living alongside you. Try to identify each bird in and around your backyard. See if you can map out the current limits of its movements—a territory that might change with the seasons. Do the same with spiders both inside and outside the house. The goal is for your child to go into the backyard and ask, “What’s Bob the Robin up to today? Has he changed where he’s feeding?”
#4 Plant a Wilder Garden
Some of us have gardens, some don’t. But the easiest way to start one is by growing “weeds”. Many wild plants are super hardy and mighty tasty. Letting the dandelions grow offers edible greens, roots, and flowers. A patch of stinging nettle will provide many a tasty stir fry as well as fiber for rope. Just remember, don’t spray pesticides or herbicides.
#5 Hoard Sticks + Knives
Bonus: Make a Campfire
You will need something to do with all those wood shavings and extra sticks. Some areas allow campfire pits (BBQ areas) in the backyard. There are burn bans for seasons, counties, neighborhoods, and more. Respect them. Ask your local fire department. Then go about roasting marshmallows, singing songs, and telling ghost stories.
Do It Better
We hope you enjoyed some clever alternatives to orb-based recreational outdoor time. Of course, since Nature is so epically diverse, the possibilities are only limited by our own imaginations and how much we choose to connect to and respect the wild.