My daughter loves being outside and spending time in nature.
Whenever she has the chance, she is outside with her friends, and if she can play in the mud or climb a tree, even better. Nature is her happy place.
Many people ask me, “How did you do that? How did you raise her to love nature so much? How did you get her to ditch devices and run outside whenever she gets the chance?” I am not sure if it is anything I have done in particular or if it is just her nature to love nature, but I thought to write down a couple of things, which I think are important to raise kids who love the outdoors—and why it is super important to do so.
Why is it so important to raise kids who love nature now?
Raising kids who love the outdoors is especially important right now, as the next generation needs to be environmentally conscious if we want to have a chance to keep living on the planet Earth. And to love something is the first step to protecting it.
The more connections children have with nature, the more interest they will also develop in protecting it. If you don’t know and understand something, you will not be bothered if it needs help, so exposing kids to the beauty of nature (and more importantly, helping them to develop positive associations with it) is key for our future.
Spending lots of time outside in nature is not only great to create awareness, but it also has countless health benefits for kids and adults alike. People who spend more time outside are happier, healthier, and often have better resilience. For children, outdoor play even has developmental benefits, and it teaches them important life skills, which will help them throughout their lifetime. So spending time outside is a win-win for everyone, and we should all do it more.
What can you do to foster a love of nature in your children?
I think the most important thing that helps to develop a love for nature is to foster positive experiences. Don’t force them to go on boring walks with you, but try to make your outings fun and cater to the needs of your kids. You probably will not be able to do the same outdoor activities that you did alone with your kids, but you will learn so much.
Instead of covering long distances when hiking, now we take our time and spend much more time on the trail. When there is something interesting, like a tree to climb or an anthill to observe, I never stress, but I let my daughter spend as much time as she wants. We also started to incorporate bird-watching into our hikes and outings, and she has so much fun finding birds in the trees and later identifying them in her book.
Other activities like gardening, organizing scavenger hunts in the forest or park, or just giving your kids time for free outdoor play help a lot. It will not only teach them to get more comfortable in nature, but it will also help you to destress and calm down, as you will automatically also have to slow down.
And, of course, leading by example is key in our kids’ education. When we, as adults, show our kids that going outside is the thing we love most, they will pick that up. When we teach them that one of the best de-stressors is to take a walk, that’s what they will do later in their life as well.
And if we have fun playing in the creek with them, we will create beautiful family memories, which will inspire many more outings.