Guest Post: Three Ways to Help Connect the Children in Your Life with the Outdoors

A little girl playing in a puddle in Zion National Park.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, kids who spend time outdoors have enhanced imaginations and attention spans, perform better in the classroom, and grow lean and strong. Better yet, kids who grow up with a love of nature are more likely to want to protect and conserve our environment. And the world could definitely benefit from a new generation of caring conservationists. With organizations like Big City Mountaineers around today, we're making great strides. In today’s guest post, Alicia Moore explores more ways to connect kids with nature, something we could all benefit from doing.

Thanks in large part to advances in modern technology, more and more of a child's life is spent indoors. After a full day in the classroom, the afternoon and evening might be spent in front of the computer doing homework and later the television. As such parents, should make an effort to introduce active outdoor field trips in to the lives of children. Not only will these trips encourage children to spend more time outside, but they will also foster a greater appreciation of nature.

Visiting Historical Landmarks: Connecting Kids with the History of Their World
While many parents and caregivers take their kids to museums in an attempt to teach their kids about history, sometimes a better option is to get outdoors and visit historical landmarks and monuments firsthand. The obvious educational benefit to this is that by seeing actual places that they have read about in school, kids are far more likely to remember the information. For example, if you’re near Southeastern Pennsylvania, consider taking your kids to Gettysburg National Military Park. Like other monuments, Gettysburg has pieces of history worth exploring spread out across a large area, making it an athletic challenge to get from marker to maker as well as an educational one that will make a lasting impression.

Learning How to Play: Physical Fitness in Nature
In this day and age, many kids spend the majority of their day sitting. With the lack of physical fitness training in most schools, the task of keeping kids active and in shape may fall upon parents and caregivers. Try taking you kids on an outdoor education program to experience kayaking, hiking or even snowshoeing in the winter. The excitement attached to running around in the woods may inspire your kids to join a sports team or pick up a physical hobby of their own in the future. You can even tie the activity to talking to your kids about the importance of being healthy, and mention that good nutrition and physical activity are important components of a healthy lifestyle. And what grownup doesn’t love running around outside with their children?

Exploring Ecology: Building Awareness of the Wonders of Nature
Learning about the importance of biodiversity, being able to name local plants and flowers, even understanding geography are essential parts of a child’s growth. Many children are unaware of the ecological wonders of nature, most notably those who live in urban environments. For these children, an outdoor field trip to a place like a rainforest preserve, local nature center, nature biosphere or even a nearby state or national park could be their first experience to see wild animals and indigenous plants up close. Thankfully, these types of trips are both affordable and easy to arrange. To ensure your kids learn something from this experience, have them identify insects or birds in their natural environments, or have a ranger speak about the dangers of forest fires and pollution in our environment.

Each of these educational outdoor field trips are more than just a way to get your kids outdoors; they are an opportunity for children to gain a greater connection to nature and increase their own physical activity.  Do you have any tips for connecting kids with the outdoors to share?

Guest poster Alicia Moore has always loved to learn and is working toward earning a teaching degree. She is particularly interested in how the advent of the internet and technology are changing the educational landscape. When she is not exploring the future of education,  Alicia enjoys writing about literature, languages and online resources for teachers.


Bjoern said…
Best is to fit the kids into really good functional clothes so you/they don't have to think about getting wet/warm/dirty. So they can enjoy all parts of nature. The kids have to have fun exploring their neighbourhood, forest, lake or something else
If they always have to think about getting cold they won't enjoy nature so mum and dad had to think about "proofed" clothes.