This is Part Two of Seven in my Connecting with Kids Series. Join my email list to receive a special copy of all 7 posts with additional material, right to your inbox when the series is completed.
As my kids are growing up at light speed in front of my eyes, I am constantly reminded of the passage of time. I want to make sure I spend lots of time connecting with them because, before I know it, they will be out of the house, living their own lives.
In this Connecting With Kids Series, I tackle seven ways to connect with your kids, one at time, giving each idea the time and space it deserves. I challenge you to choose one or two new ideas and test them out on your family. Now onto Part Two: Connecting with Kids in Nature.
The magic connectivity of nature
Being in nature has long been one of our families favorite ways to connect. Nature provides a space to slow down and be present with your kids- to breathe, to think, to talk, to observe, to wonder -and to ultimately connect with those around you.
Whether you already spend loads of time in nature or are yearning to get your kids outside more, I am sure you will find an idea or two to try out on your next family adventure.
Take a Hike!
A quiet stroll thru nature is one of the easier ways to connect. It’s free and can be done year round. Grab a kid or two, leave your devices in the car and try one of these “themed” hike ideas.
- Take a long, meditative walk together. Concentrate on the sounds of your feet as you walk. Practice deep breathing. No talking necessary(but you may be surprised at what conversations spring up!).
- Invite active exploration and let your child lead the way through a field or along a path. Go at their pace, stopping as much as they need to along the way. Oohing and Ahhing over the same things will be a great shared experience.
- Hike to a quiet place with a book and read in nature together. The Great Outdoors makes an amazing backdrop for a read aloud(or skip the hike and read on a blanket in your own backyard).
- Try a “micro-hike”(from the must have book Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell) Map out a 3 to 5 foot spot with a piece of string. Get on your bellies and investigate every inch at ground level. This is a great one for your own backyard, too.
- Go on a color hike – Look out for certain colors or just name colors that you see. This one is great for all ages. Older kids can compare the different shades of greens. browns, or blues.
Nature’s Rhythms and Patterns
Nature is overflowing with things to observe: from delicate patterns and textures to the magical changes of each season. Enjoy the wonder of all nature has to offer with these activities:
- Visit the same spot in nature every season. Notice what has changed and what has stayed the same. Record your findings in a journal, take pictures or draw the changes you see. Look back over what you recorded each time you visit. This one is great because it can be done even in an urban environment
- Keep an ongoing nature journal- the whole family can participate. The patterns of nature make great subjects for drawing or painting. Keep a travel watercolor set in the car. Try bark rubbings, draw leaf shapes, document footprints – the list is endless!
- Gather nature finds to bring home and display in a bowl or jar. This is a lovely daily reminder of your family jaunts. My kids love to organize and rearrange our finds. We have some that serve as lovely reminders from vacations, too. My boys even bring lovely bits of nature home now on their own.
- Leaves, glorious leaves! Find as many leaf shapes as you can – document them with a camera or journal. Press the leaves and save them in a journal or do leaf rubbings on the spot.
- Study nature artist Andy Goldsworthy and then create a land art masterpiece of your own.
Connect with All 5 Senses
Nature is so life giving because it engages all 5 of our senses. Just being in nature is a great sensorial activity for children. Try one of these activities for an extra sensorial boost:
- Take a sensory break: Sit in a spot and listen. How many sounds do you hear? What do you see close by? And far away? Look down. Look up. What do you smell? What can you touch?
- Take a walk and concentrate on one sense at a time. Listen for different sounds, look up, look down, smell lots of plants. Then share your findings with each other. This is great for all ages!
- You might not be able to taste anything around you, but you can notice what insects or animals may be eating. Do you see evidence of insects or animals munching on plants?
- Collect nature finds with different textures. Find something rough, bumpy, smooth, prickly – as many different feels as you can!
- Try “earthing” together. Walking barefoot in nature allows you connect with the earth and has all sorts of extremely benefits aside from the obvious of feeling like a kid again.
- Lay on the forest floor and cover yourself with leaves or pine needles. Look up and observe. Stay while and listen. This one is just pure fun!!
Our favorite: Claim a spot as a family.
You may already have a favorite family nature spot – an arboretum, local forest preserve or your own back yard! If you’ve not found one yet, I highly recommend it. Claiming a favorite family spot in nature has been one of things I am most grateful for. Let me explain:
I’ve talked about our birthday tree before – It’s a spot where we held a very early birthday party for my kids. We had a picnic under a huge tree with several other families. The kids frolicked around afterwards and it was a lovely, simple celebration.
We return to the same spot often and have coined it “Birthday Tree”. We talk to the tree, hug the tree, and thank the tree for the wonderful memories it’s given. On each new visit, we notice the changes and have wonderful conversations. We reminisce, and look forward. It truly is one of the loveliest traditions we have.
All of these ideas have one thing in common. They require you to slow down and notice the world around you. They create a wonderful backdrop for lasting connection. I’d love to hear how you connect in nature with your family or let me know how it goes when you try one of these ideas!
Want more ideas to connect in nature?
Paint up some fun emoji rocks! Get the easy How-To’s HERE.
Make some beautiful leaf prints. Find out how, HERE.
More ideas about connecting with nature, HERE.