8 Tips to Engage Your Children With Nature
As we all adapt again to lockdown, home-schooling and the constant juggle of family life, maintaining our physical and mental health is vital. That can be difficult when so many families are forced to spend more time than they’d like in front of a screen.
The emotional challenge for a lot of children at the moment is to find a sense of purpose. One simple and often free way to help is to step outside.
We’ve enlisted the advice of Lisa Chisnall, Teacher, Mum-of-two and Founder of Trips and Giggles to help save you time, stress and tantrums when grabbing those coats!
Check out Lisa’s proven methods below to successfully engage your children in nature and Hampshire’s local wildlife…
Outdoor Roleplay – Spark Imagination
Use the terms ‘adventure’ or ‘trip’ to create a sense of mystery, avoid words such as ‘hike’, or ‘walk’.
Studies show that children talk more outdoors because they feel ‘heard’ (less background noise). They can also hear themselves think more clearly. Outdoor learning offers unique experiences, plenty of space for ‘dinosaur stampedes’ and no sound limitations! Take the opportunity to let them fully embrace this sense of freedom with the following activity ideas:
‘Gruffalo [insert children’s favourite character] spotting!’ Which clues did you spot? (Footprints in the mud? Claw marks on tree trunks?)
Can you find the perfect sized broomstick (stick) to whoosh off on in search of potion ingredients for your cauldron? (bucket).
Self Esteem & Confidence
No matter how old your children are, your praise and encouragement will boost their self-esteem and confidence.
Where possible, praise children for their effort too, not just achievements. “I like the way you focused well on trying to tie that knot”.
Descriptive (telling your child exactly what you liked) and specific comments will be recognised as sincere, “Wow, the den you have built is very strong”, when compared with general sweeping words of encouragement such as, “This is amazing!”.
Older children can research the place you are visiting, lead the trip and teach you their discoveries! Alternatively, share Trips and Giggles location fun facts to inspire and create a purpose to your adventures, “Trips and Giggles say there are bat hibernation bunkers here! Can you find any? Where do you think we should look?”.
Take Time to Notice
Notice sounds, smells and what you can see. Look under rocks, in trees and ponds to hunt for bugs and insects. Cloud gaze, what shapes or images can you see?
Children will start to value what we value. Share your encounters in nature; deer you have spotted – hedgehogs you have discovered – the fruit you have grown
Invitations to Learn & Play
Take items with you from home to explore your surroundings with:
A magnifying glass or compass
A basket to collect natural treasures (stones, sticks, leaves) to craft with later
Crayons and paper for bark rubbings
Pastels for sketches
Identification charts (insects, leaves)
Dinosaur toys, toy cars, or a farm set
Bring the Outdoors Inside
Outdoor treasures (sticks, pine cones, leaves, stones etc) can be used for loose parts play, using everyday objects can inspire inventiveness and creativity.
Design and create a small raft out of sticks, attach with string and take it on your next water outing. Or perhaps build a bug hotel for your garden.
Delving into nature is a great way to let children lead the way, taking responsibility for their education.
Certain activities may need to be modelled or broken down into smaller steps so children stay motivated. Problem-solving and discovering things while you are engaging with them makes a more memorable learning experience. This approach may also make them more aware of their interests, strengths and weaknesses and how they learn best.
The School of Food
Remember the hot drinks and snacks! Do some home-school cooking and take your efforts with you into your garden during outdoor play. Your children will be proud of their accomplishments, be sure to ask them to be responsible for handing out the delicacies. Scones, flapjacks or Krispie cakes are great.
Natural Construction and Risk-Taking
A degree of risk-taking enhances emotional resilience and physical health. To build confidence, children need to push their comfort zones (and ours). They need to recognise that even if they can’t yet, (complete the monkey bars), they can try again! Eventually, they will start to master a new skill.
Build a simple den from branches then take a seat and read The Three Little Pigs Inside, while enjoying some 🐷 ‘hog chocolate!’.
Balance on logs, try not to fall off or the crocodiles may gobble you up!
Last of all, when your adventure is nearing the end, try not to ignore claims of tired legs, interpret this as children being past their point of interest.
Success is a series of small wins.
How can Trips & Giggles help families take learning outside?
Trips and Giggles suggest and review family-friendly locations for exercise, exploration of local nature and wildlife, as well as ideas for learning outside when you arrive.
Head over to the HER Kids column for more parenting insight.
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