Kids need to be outside. Not only because of the Vitamin D from the sun and the fresh air, but nature does something wonderful to the body, mind, and soul. When I was growing up, it seemed like spending time outdoors was not an option-we were practically kicked out of the house until dinner time. I'm not sure if we were really kicked out or not or if it was just that the outdoors offered way more things to do. All I know is that my brother, sister, and I were outside a lot.
Now that I'm adult, I think back about those days and have figured out some tips on how to relive them again and instill a love for nature in the kids that I work with (along with my own child).
#1: First and foremost, be the best role-model that you can be. If you are enthusiastic about playing outside, your kids will too. Nature is awesome! Go on a bug hunt (you may not even have to go very far). Set up an obstacle course with various household items. My grandpa hid a treasure for my brother outside when he was little. My brother had to find the treasure using a map. My sister caught butterflies. Now a days we try to teach our children to preserve nature, but they can still go out and collect snails to observe. Or how about them rolly-pollies?
#2: Refrain from buying video games and computer games. Don't worry that your kids will be behind in technology because they aren't on it as kids. They will catch up just fine. If you hear that video games help with good hand-eye coordination, think about all the things that you can do that have the same benefit plus more!
#3: Make it a point and habit to go outside. Go outside every day for at least 10 minutes. Ride bikes, play ball, sit outside and have a cup of tea, or pack a picnic. If you have yard work to do, kids love to help out. Or if you don't have a yard, go on a stroll. When we were living in Taiwan, we lived in an apartment nestled in the city. We didn't have a garden, but there was a playground down the street, which we rode our bikes to. Just jumping on the bike felt great every time.
#4: Set a timer for television and computer games. Remember, you are the parent. No matter what, you are in charge. Growing up, my parents would allow us to watch one show a day. We also had to watch it as a family. In other words, the whole family only got to watch one show a day all at the same time. For the longest time we chose The Cosby Show, and then finally realized that The Cosby Show was only 30 minutes long. We quickly found something that was an hour.
#5: Create an outdoor space. Throw a blanket and a few pillows down for your children to rest on. Bring books outdoors, and make spa water (water with cucumber, lemon, and mint) for your children to sip on while they are relaxing or playing outside. Make the outdoors special.
#6: Read books about nature. Kids love to learn about animals and plants, especially if you compare and contrast them to us. You wouldn't believe how many kids don't know that we are animals, too! My daughter is interested in what animals eat right now. We talk a lot about the animals in the ocean, since we live by the beach. She's always asking me what sharks eat. Then, we end up getting into a great discussion about how sharks and humans both love to eat fish.
There are a bunch of other ways to get your kids outdoors. These are just a few tricks that I've tried with the children in my life. My mom used to pay the neighbor's kids to find snails in her yard. She paid them a nickel for each snail. The kids were happy and my mom was happy. The neighbors were happy too. I don't know about the snails.
Enjoy the outdoors and nature. It's very special. We don't want to lose it.