When my kids are in a bad mood, or just acting particularly crazy, I shoo them out into the backyard. When they spend time outdoors and in nature, it helps reset their mood. Plus, spending time in nature can also lead to happiness as adults.
Just in case you needed extra evidence, other than personal experience, there was actually a massive study that proved this. (You can read the full study here).
The study followed almost one million people over three decades. Their findings? Kids who grew up with little green space were at higher risk of having mental health issues or disorders.
Kids who had green space, on the other hand, experienced less stress, felt calmer, and better sleep patterns. This was especially true when kids were exposed more to nature. In other words, not just the occasional jaunt outside.
Green space is more than just forest and wilderness areas. In cities, it can be your local park. Urban green spaces count too. If there’s a garden or trees, that works too.
The number one way to encourage a love of nature is…. to spend time outdoors. But what if you have a nature-shy kid, like my oldest? When she was younger, I bribed her with outdoor activities, like bubbles and a water table. Now, playing games are usually a huge hit; we’re a huge fan of family soccer time, for example. But even the promise of a game of tag will get her out the door.
Once outside, give them a chance to explore. You don’t have to have a list of things for them to do it. In fact, boredom outside can lead kids to going on their own investigations. Maybe they’ll turn over an old log and discover a world of bugs. Or perhaps, like my toddler son, he’ll be fascinated by bark and mud.
* Create a garden. It’s also a great opportunity to teach them about what plants need to grow.
* Scavenger hunts. Create a list of nature-items to find and send them out to gather everything from twigs to bark.
* Have a picnic
* Go for a walk or hike… bonus: you can still maintain social distancing.
* Plan to go out every day, no matter what the weather. After all, kids love puddles.
The biggest thing for encouraging a love of nature? Making it a daily habit to spend time outdoors. So, go forth and play outside.