How do we make being outdoors fun and even rewarding for kids inclined to stick to their screens?
Tearing your children away from their screens and into the backyard, let alone the woods, can be difficult. Yet the slew of benefits that the outdoors provide kids’ minds is ample reason to give it a try.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to make nature as stimulating as the activities kids like to do inside. Here are some ideas:
Set up treasure hunts: Make a short, simple list of things for your kids to look for outside such as “a shiny object,” or “something you can hold liquid in.” The satisfaction of finding the objects turns it into a reinforcing activity, and it will keep them outside in search of the next list item.
Identify things: Get a book with pictures about birds, bugs, leaves, trees, or flowers in your local area, and go outside looking for specific creatures in the book to identify. Matching leaves to pictures and names have a reinforcing treasure-hunt sort of appeal. The same goes for bird calls.
Give them the tools to discover: Gifts like a bug box, a magnifying glass, or a shovel will promote ways to explore the outdoors with a fun new tool that feels professional and empowering.
Go to an outdoor performance: Parks in almost every city have performances for kids, many of which are free. If your child cannot take her eyes off Nickelodeon, take her to a puppet show in the park. For older kids who like movies, take them to outdoor plays and musicals.
Start a collection: You can find small parts of nature like rocks or shells almost everywhere, and starting a collection adds appeal, giving a kid motivation to search and therefore spend time outdoors. Just make sure that you are not in a state park, because most have rules that do not let you bring anything home.
Use technology to your advantage: If your kid is hooked on any and all electronic devices, have him bring along a camera or phone and create video or photo journals of various nature trips. He will still be near a piece of technology, but he will be using it to focus on the world around him.
Go fruit or vegetable picking: Coming home with a basket of food that they have gathered on their own is quite rewarding. It might also make them appreciate their food, and where it comes from, more.
Plant a garden: Tracking the progress and seeing the eventual product of a seed your child planted provides a different, deeper sense of achievement than beating a difficult level in a video game or getting a lot of likes on your last Instagram post.
Take a hike: Walking on a trail to a waterfall or breath-taking view gives kids a sense of accomplishment, and also rewards them for their physical hiking efforts. This goes for bike rides, too. If there is a swimming hole at the end, they will even be able to cool off. Just do not forget to bring snacks and take short breaks to keep their energy up!
Make art projects: For the kids who would rather sit inside with some arts and crafts, get them to use objects from nature for their art. Pick flowers to press onto paper, use berry juice as paint, or collect pinecones and rocks to decorate -- all are ways to infuse nature into art activities that they already enjoy.
Build something: You can also reverse the process and make art with your kids that will support and nurture wild plants and animals, projects such as bird feeders or flower boxes. Kids will keep coming back to watch an object they created provide for other living things.
Always lead by example: All the advantages that nature offers ring true for adults, too, especially for stress relief and mood improvement. Try to get outside with your kids! Not only will it show them how important spending time in nature is, but you might find you enjoy it just as much as they do.
Editor's Note: We at Flow and Grow Kids Yoga love engaging kids with nature! Check out our seasonal yoga and mindfulness practices here -- or, considering the current season, our Fall Yoga Cards and Lesson Plans here!
About the writer:
Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realized that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting.
Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She says, "It’s a road less travelled but a journey that I look forward to everyday." Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India.
Trishna is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one on one basis in Mumbai. She fancies the art of creative writing and is dappling her hands in that too, to soak in the experience and have an engagement with readers, wanderers and thinkers.