We take our kids for cold weather hikes on the beach, butterfly hunting in the back yard, and pedaling on forested bike trails. If we’re on a hike, we’re looking for animal tracks or collecting twigs to tie together into boats. The reason? Nature sparks the imagination — and makes my husband and I — and our kids — happy. According to a new article in National Geographic Kids, connecting kids to nature has other benefits, too.
Two recent studies have shown that immersing kids into the great outdoors boosts mood and reduces stress and anxiety. But it also teaches life lessons. “Nature has a lot to teach. From building observation skills to problem solving to gaining confidence, the outdoors can help kids gain important life skills,” says author Kitson Jazynka, a frequent writer for National Geographic Kids.
Two ways to connect kids to the outdoors:
Become a land snorkeler, says National Geographic Emerging Explorer Gregg Treinish. Just like in the ocean, encourage kids to investigate nature on land as well. For example, he says, challenge kids to consider an animal’s point of view, or check to see what a plant looks like at different times of day. “When kids follow their curiosity, they can gain important observation skills that might help them in a science fair presentation—or even a job,” Kitson writes.
Getting lost teaches kids problem solving, says National Geographic Emerging Explorer Daniel Raven-Ellison. He says that even just crossing a creek-bed forces kids to think through things like, will they put a plank over it, will they step on stones, or is there an even better way to get across? And allowing your kids to wander (with you observing, of course) encourages them to orient themselves in the woods, taking note of where they are in relation to the trail head and paying attention to markers.