Encouraging your children to connect with nature has many benefits for children's health and development.
Connecting kids to nature is a great way to disconnect them from their cell phones, TVs, and other electronic devices. Most kids love to get down and dirty in the great outdoors. If you're a parent to a foster or adopted child, exploring nature can help you bond and provide a smoother transition for both of you.
Physical and Mental Health
Instead of raising a couch potato, take your kids out to plant potatoes. It's the best way to keep them healthy, both physically and mentally. Being outdoors helps them build a stronger immune system and relieves stress. The sun provides vitamin D, a necessity for keeping your mind and spirit at its best. You’ll notice a child who is cooped up indoors will often seem listless and grumpy. They may simply lack vitamin D and sunshine.
Nature also provides kids plenty of opportunities to stay physically active and use their imagination. Kids can play tag in an open field, play hide-and-seek in a pocket of woods, or start a baseball game using rocks or sticks as bases.
Think of the outdoors as a giant science classroom. When taking them to the lake to skip rocks, point out how aerodynamics and physics work in nature. Geology (rock shape), throwing strategy, and distance all factor into the basics of good rock-skipping.
Fishing teaches you about the circle of life, as well as the difference between water and land creatures. They also learn patience. Learning to be patient most definitely affects behavior at home, as well as at school.
Digging in the dirt gives exposes kiddos to geology and the layering concept of the Earth and its creatures. Encourage them to get dirty!
Hiking allows parents the opportunity to teach kids about the dangers of poison ivy and poison oak. They also know or will learn which bugs to stay away from, and which bugs they can pick up or watch closely. This teaches them how to differentiate and categorize plants and insects based on safety.
Planning, Responsibility and Patience
Your kids can also help you maintain your yard and grow your garden. Not only does this teach kids about planning, measuring, and project management, it allows them to see how plants and flowers grow over time. Give them a few basic hand tools and teach them how to use tools safely. Growing a vegetable garden is also a great way to get them to eat their veggies!
Gardeningcan be especially beneficial to foster and adopted children. It helps them create their own routines and responsibilities, and offers them control over a project. It gives kids a chance to take pride in something they helped create. It also teaches them about climate patterns and to check the weather before embarking on outdoor tasks.
Creativity and Imagination
Star-filled skies awe children. Lightning bugs caught on a warm August evening are like catching little miracles. Stars and lightning bugs, to kids and adults alike, are magical.
The sense of wonder you gain from these activities can help you open up your imagination. So go ahead: Grab a dandelion, make a wish, and blow. With the creativity nature inspires, some of those wishes may just come true.
For families with foster children or adopted children, spending time with nature can be especially important. Sometimes being alone and listening to birds chirp, water flow, or feeling grass between your toes helps heal a mind.
While all kids need boundaries, it's sometimes tough to explain those boundaries to foster children. You can start by teaching your children how to respect nature and all it offers. Yes, bees sting, but if you respect their space, they'll leave you alone.
Nature can help your child to grow, thrive, and stay healthy. The best part? It's right outside your front door. Happy exploring!
Mary Lewis is a busy (is there any other kind?) mother of three. When she’s not helping with homework, she’s working on her next crafts or DIY project or tending to her vegetable garden.