Getting kids to bond with nature



Outdoors adventure is full of benefits

kids, nature, farms, hikes

Humans evolved in the crucible of nature, so we are adapted to spend far more time outdoors than our current lifestyles tend to allow. Numerous studies show the advantages of spending time in nature, for both kids and adults--reducing stress levels, increasing attention span, gaining confidence, becoming more flexible in response to change. With much of education today transferred from school to home, being outdoors offers great learning opportunities.

Here are tips for cultivating your child's friendship with nature.

Enjoy free play. Encourage free play outdoors, within set boundaries, allowing kids to follow their curiosity and exercise creativity. At times, you'll want to provide a framework by taking them on expeditions. Try a family stroll through the woods or the neighborhood, go skiing (either cross-country or downhill), go fishing, go biking, lie outdoors on a summer night and gaze at the stars.

Create a field guide for their trips. When you're out together, point out the sights and sounds of nature, watch birds and bugs, and find other ways to pique kids' interest. A field guide, to focus attention on identifying plants or creatures, encourages keen observation and engages the whole family.

Enjoy visiting local sunflower farms.  Did your kids know that sunflowers follow the sun? When you visit the farm ask your kids to notice where the sunflowers are facing.   

Start with short hikes. If your goal is to go wilderness camping, start with short hikes and work your way up to bigger trips, advises Michael Lanza, author of “Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks” (Beacon Press). Notice how your child handles smaller challenges and try to judge their readiness for more ambitious plans based on both experience and physical capacity.

Hudson Valley Parent has culled many lists to find best trails.

You can also enjoy the adventures of our blogger who travels up and down the Hudson Valley with her daughter, Abby. 

Encourage them to learn a new sport. If your kids have patience, they may enjoy fishing. What’s great about fishing is that any age kid can participate. (Editor’s Note: I remember taking by boys, both under 5, to a local pond. They used worms to fish with that they dug up from the garden. Sometimes it was as simple as a rod and string. Both my boys, who are now in their 50s, continue to fish. And my granddaughter and grandson have joined in too.



Find unusual places that the kids have not visited. Have fun at the many farm markets in the region. Let the kids decide the fruits and veggies they want to buy. Then let them loose in the kitchen helping you make a delicious dinner. You could reverse the process by letting them choose recipes and then go to the market to shop.


Let kids plan a future vacation. Although long-distance travel may not currently be an option, kids can make use of the Internet to gather information and plan future adventures. Videos and websites can whet their appetite for outdoor sports from kayaking to rock climbing and introduce them to locations they'd like to visit.

Make change part of the plan. Be flexible and be prepared. If your little one would rather throw stones in the creek than study plant life on the shore, that's perfectly okay. If a rainstorm interrupts your hike, you've hopefully brought along the gear to stay dry or you know how to find yourselves a shelter. Those unplanned events also provide important learning experiences for kids.

Many, but not all these ideas came from a Boston Herald article written on 8/9/2020.



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