Today’s children are spending increasing amounts of time indoors. In a study of 10 countries, it was found that 3/4th of the under 12 population spent lesser time outdoors than prison inmates (UN regulations stipulate that prison inmates be allotted 1 hour a day outdoors.) Children across the globe spend less than 30 minutes outside each day!
This lack of outdoor physical activity can take a severe toll on a child’s health. From experiencing Vitamin D deficiency to having a stunted neuro-motor skill development, there are a number of physical problems that children can face when they don’t go outside to play.
Lack of outdoor activity can also have an impact on a child’s psyche. Research by the Harvard Medical School shows children who isolate themselves indoors display anti-social tendencies at a very young age and are more prone to suffering from anxiety, depression and other psychological conditions.
Additionally, children who never or very rarely play outside become apathetic towards the environment. Studies show that the best way to protect and save the environment is by engaging the young at a very early age. It’s been observed that children who involve themselves in nature before the age of 11 often go on to become environmental crusaders and are more conscious of the ecological impact they have on the Earth.
10 Ways to Get Children Interested in Nature
1. Take them stargazing
Stargazing is an ethereal and highly-engaging activity that can really get your kids hooked to the world outside. It’s also a very educational activity and you can connect the experience to what your children are learning at school about the universe.
Show them the pole star and explain its importance to navigation. Take them to a see important events like meteor showers and lunar eclipses in the park.
2. Go on weekend camping trips with the family
Go away on a weekend camping trip with the family and leave the video games and phones at home. A night under the stars, listening to the sounds of the campsite is exactly what your kids need to get them interested in nature.
But, if camping is something you’re not so keen about, why not go glamping instead? Camp in the lap of nature, with all the comforts of a resort stay.
3. Stay on a farm or a plantation
These days many farm and plantation owners let out cabins on their property for tourists looking to get away from the crowded city. Introduce your children to an authentic rustic experience by taking them to live on a farm or a plantation. You can show them how the food they love is grown, how cows are milked and much more.
At Wildr, you can find an exclusive selection of great farm-stays and other eco-stays to choose from.
4. Go on easy hikes and choose natural green areas for walks
A hike or a trek is a great way to get your children outside and moving about. Choose an easy trail that even your youngest can manage and let your children explore the nooks and crannies of the beautiful trail.
Taking regular walks at the local park is another great idea if you’re pressed for time or options.
5. Let them help you out in your garden
Love for nature starts right at home. If you have a garden, encourage your child to chip in with its maintenance. Better yet, give them a garden patch to grow what they like. When you entrust them with the responsibility of growing plants, they’ll take the initiative to be more involved with nature.
6. Encourage them to build a birdhouse in the backyard
Birds are beautiful and exotic. Increase the chances of attracting birds to your home by encouraging your kids to build a birdhouse or a bird bath. You can also have them set up a bird feeder on the terrace/balcony to attract more birds to your home.
7. Introduce them to nature photography
One of the best ways to get children outdoors is to gift them a camera. Take them to the local park and encourage them to photograph whatever strikes their interest. Once they get a taste of nature photography, they’re sure to ask for more.
8. Make a visit to the zoo, the city aquarium or the natural history museum
The zoo, city aquarium and natural history museum are some of the best places to introduce nature and wildlife to your kids. These places are also very age-appropriate since kids of all ages can gain something out of their visit.
9. Create opportunities of unstructured play and encourage observation
A simple and inexpensive way to encourage children to play outside is to remove the restrictions you would otherwise have placed on them. Organize a playdate and allow your children to do as they please. Encourage them to pick up rocks, leaves and fallen flowers and examine them during play. You could also let them keep dried flowers/leaves in their notebooks as keepsakes.
10. Sign them up for adventure classes
Sailing, horse-riding and rock climbing are some of the many activities that you can sign your kids up for during the weekends. When your kids spend time outdoors, they are sure to develop a love for nature.
Once you get your children hooked to the outdoors, keep at it. The benefits of outdoor play are immense and your children will thank you for this gentle nudge, when they’re older.