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Connecting children with Nature!

I’ve recently finished reading ‘How to raise a wild child’ and it has to be one of the best books I have read in a while. I would highly recommend to all parents, and educators it is packed with practical activities, examples and tips to help connect children to nature of all age ranges. It also provides many pointers for parents to allow their children to be independent, stepping back and allowing them to explore 🙂

Connecting children with nature is more essential today than ever before. Today’s children have very limited opportunities to connect with the natural environment and statistics show that some are spending up to 8 hours indoors and in front of a screen!

The importance of unstructured outdoor play for children is profound and the benefit of connecting them to nature is conclusive. The positive impact of nature on their social, academic, psychological and physical health is great when they have daily contact with Nature.

Nature play supports creativity, problem solving, enhances cognitive ability, improves social relations and reduces stress (not only for the children but also adults! Win Win) The benefits of play extend beyond learning it enhances creativity, spirituality and social development.

A meaningful relationship with nature does not exist overnight rather it emerges organically and gradually over a period of time. Children naturally have a strong fascination for nature and animals. We as parents, and educators can can create opportunities for regular time with wild nature which provide challenges, adventures and activities. Young children long to be free, taking risks and pushing edges.
Due to the busy and challenging life styles that are held in our modern society we have little to no time to notice nature. Instead of rushing out of the house everyday, pause for a moment, smell and feel the air, take note of trees, clouds and birds. Become more aware of your surroundings and the natural wonders around you.

“The path to become a wild child, starts with being a wonder kids. Wonder deepens connection”

Below I have provided some tips on what we can do to help establish and foster our children’s connection with Nature!

Explore
Start exploring local nature. Nature is everywhere and does not necessarily have to be in the middle of a forest, it can be outside our front door! For young children it may involve daily trips to the park, or spending time in the garden.

Encourage children to take notice of nature, you don’t even have to talk quiet time in natural surroundings is extremely powerful!

We visit the park almost daily regardless of the weather and make weekly trips to our local woods. Our weekends are mostly spent discovering and exploring new nature reserves, woods and forests! Scheduling family outdoor time is extremely important for us. We have also purchased a National trust membership this year, which provides free entry to over 500 places throughout the whole of the UK!

As a family we absolutely love anything to do with nature, so even our weekend getaways, and short breaks within the UK always entail hikes, walks and excursions all relating to the great outdoors.

Learning Outdoors.
As a homeschooler, particularly during the summer we have taken a lot of our learning outdoors. The subject does not matter, just being outdoors awakens the childs senses, adds new dimensions to teaching and has many psychological benefits.

Learning resources.
Through intimate contact with different landscapes, plants and animals children will begin to gain a deeper understanding of the world around them. Nature awakes senses, thoughts and feelings which leads to curiosity and if your children are anything like mine this means questions and lots of them!!

On our planned and spontaneous adventures we like to take a few resources with us. These resources have really sparked further interest and helped with understanding.

Spot 50 British nature identification guides

These have become an all time favourite for us, packed with beautiful illustrations and detailed information. Small, compact size that you can pop into a small bag and take along with you. Highly recommend. Perfect for identifying any treasures you find on nature walk 🙂

Usborne Spotter Cards

We have recently invested in these and absolutely love them. They are great quality, lovely illustrations, and full of information which is not too detailed so great for young children to follow and understand!

Sit, wander and play!

If you have young children chances are you take them to the park often, several times in a week maybe if not daily. One of the things we have in cooperated is the skill of wandering, which means literally walking about without a purpose or agenda. We visit our local woods, and forests and allow the children to wander the open space opens up many discoveries and fosters the love of nature and builds a connection.

Sit spot is another activity that we have been trying. In simple terms it involves finding a particular spot within nature, it could be a spot in your garden, in the park etc. The idea is the to visit the same spot daily where you can sit quietly and simply observe your surroundings. What sounds can you hear? What types of birds are around? How does the air feel?
YOU. Connect.

Children tend to value what you value, so take some time to start noticing nature. Discover your own nature passion. The reality is kids aren’t going to go out into nature unless we take them. Typically speaking if an adult shows little to know interest in nature, the unspoken message is loud and clear that the natural world does not matter. Nothing will spark your child’s curiosity more than seeing your passion for the natural world.

As parents and educators we can become ‘Nature mentors’ our role is to teach, question, encourage and extend a child’s longing and curiosity for the natural world around us. More importantly engaging with our children and playing with them by their side. It is important for us to step back and observe, watch their behaviour and spot trends that will help us to push them and lead them into new discoveries and insights about plants, birds.
The first step to connecting children with nature, is connecting yourself with it and spend time in it! 🙂

Technology
In the age of technology, it is important to find the correct balance, high tech can be used in the great outdoors. Photography and the use of cameras is a great pathway to connect children with nature.
Cameras encourage children to use technology as a creative tool and focus on a particular subject i.e. an insect, bird or flower. This will allow them to develop their own interests and observe the subjects closely.

There are also many apps available which are particularly useful in identifying the names of trees, plants and flowers. TREE ID app, Leafsnap UK, and Wild Flower ID are the ones we have used, all three can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and ITunes!

Children naturally long to venture outside, as parents we can provide them with the opportunities to explore open spaces and simply watch them flourish! Here’s to raising a wild child 🙂

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