When you ask a group of adults to share some of their favorite childhood memories, very often the answers will involve time spent outdoors. At a recent staff meeting, we did just that and teachers shared great stories about camping trips, fishing in small streams, playing with sticks and mud, and laying in the grass to watch clouds, among other things. Just hearing about the remembered positive experiences created a relaxing and uplifting mood for all of us.

So what will our children (and grandchildren} say? Are we giving them opportunities for the same kind of relaxing time in nature that we all remember so fondly? In too many cases, we are probably falling short of what we would like to say. So many families find themselves with very busy and very structured lives that don’t include enough outdoor time.

How can we help children reconnect with nature? It might be easier than you think. Following are some simple suggestions. Start small and make it a point to add more experiences as you go.

  • Plan family outdoor experiences like after dinner walks, picnics, or trips to parks and beaches.
  • Provide your child with outdoor toys like butterfly nets, binoculars, bug catchers, sand boxes and sand toys, kites, etc.
  • Take your books outside! Create a family outdoor reading area.
  • Start some simple gardening.
  • Dress your children for the weather so they can enjoy being outside in all four seasons.
  • Go outside after dark and look for stars, fireflies, or the moon.
  • Bring some nature inside. Decorate with plants, seashells, driftwood, and interesting stones.
  • Play relaxing “nature sound” music in your home to set a peaceful tone.
  • Watch for outdoor events like concerts, craft fairs, food events, or charity walks.
  • Eat outside when you can!
  • Help your child notice their surroundings – trees that are budding, birds in the trees, cloud formations, etc.

The best thing you can do to encourage a reconnection with nature is to reconnect yourself as well. The added bonus? Chances are, you’ll see your own stress level drop. Breathe in, breathe out, and listen to the sounds of nature around you……