Unstructured outdoor play – from a game of hide-and-seek to watching the clouds – helps kids find nature on their own terms. It also helps them appreciate that the “outdoors” isn’t a far-away place – it’s in their backyards, a neighborhood park, or a little creek down the road. Even more important, it shows kids that nature can be FUN!
Structured activities, in which you are leading the way, can have benefits too. Just be sure to build a sense of accomplishment into the experience. For example, teaching a child how to identify a flower or tree based on shapes or number of leaves can make the outdoors feel more familiar and a little intimidating. Not sure how to ID plants yourself? There’s an app for that! (As well as plenty of great guidebooks.) Check out:
- Leafpoint (free for iPhone and iPad): Identifies trees based on a photograph of the leaves.
- LikeThat Garden (free for iPhone): Identifies flowers based on a photograph.