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How to Encourage Young Children to Enjoy Nature


Children come with a natural curiosity about the world around them and it is good if we can encourage and nurture that curiosity so they explore and learn as much as possible.

From the age of two years, we can start to feed the age of wonder with these ideas:

Take them on an insect and other small creature hunt - by walking into the garden, to the local park or even a woodland or river bank area and encouraging them to see how many different insects and other mini-beasts they can spot.  They can hunt under stones and logs, behind peeling bark and in flower beds - taking care to be wary and respectful of bees and any other insects that might cause harm.  You can even suggest building a wildlife habitat by building up a pile of sticks, stones or small logs in a couple of sheltered spots.

Suggest weaving a wild rainbow - by encouraging young children to find and gather as many different objects as possible (leaves, flower petals, sticks, stones, feathers and more) so they can be arranged into a rainbow on the ground.

Play an "animal" hide and seek - by hiding a variety of animals (it can be toys, plastic figures or even just images) in roughly their appropriate habitat - for example rabbits or snakes in grass, squirrels in trees, frogs next to water and more.  

From the age of six years, your children start to gain independence

Doing a nature challenge - by encouraging them to write about, draw, paint or use natural collage to record any favorite discoveries in nature.  One suggestion is for them to make their own paint (pigment) with soil, stone dust or plant parts.  A magnifying glass is a great tool to help them see greater detail in their discoveries.

Adopting a tree - by encouraging your children to check out the local trees and decide which one they would like to adopt and find out more about - for example, does it support mosses or fungi, what birds and mammals call that tree home and does it lose its leaves in winter?  Another idea is for the children to close their eyes and explore the tree by touch and smell.

Building a den - by providing the location for building a den such as a woodland area where children can use fallen branches and twigs and even an old blanket.  They can use their imaginations to the full!

 The teen years can be more of a challenge!

This is when peer pressure and digital distractions can kick in.  Take advantage of those phones by using them! 

Sleeping out under the stars - if you feel it is safe, encourage your teens to camp out with minimal adult supervision.  It does not have to be far away but can be in the back yard, on an apartment balcony or a roof terrace.

Running a nature photo shoot - another suggestion for using those devices is to get out and start shooting anything that attracts their attention whether it is wildflowers, trees or wildlife.

Take the whole family on a night-time walk - where everyone stays up late before going walking out in nature with their phones or flashlights  Before too long, turn off the devices so you engage all the senses and tune into the night.  Look out for bats and moths and listen out for owls. 



 Benefits of nature exposure on cognitive functioning in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis - ScienceDirect