8 ways to engage kids with nature, both indoors and outside 

Published: March 23, 2020 · Updated: March 25, 2020

a kid jumps into his mother's arms in nature a boy jumps into his mother's arms outdoors

Looking for ways to keep kids busy at home or at the cottage? Exploring nature is a great way to get to know your surroundings and learn about the natural world—and have fun passing the time together. (Plus, studies show it’s good for our state of mind and body, and aids in children’s development.) If you’re going to a local park, going for a walk, or just playing in the yard, here’s a list of 8 ideas to spark your inner naturalists:

1. Create a scavenger hunt to help you keep your eyes open. You can even create a list for the kids, and have them create a list for you. Here’s how to set up an epic scavenger hunt.

2. Get started with bird watching by noticing what birds you can see and hear in your neighbourhood, and investigate what they’re doing at this time of year. Read our tips for getting kids interested in birdwatching

3. Start an observation log and record things such as the weather and temperature, sunrise/sunset times, any birds, mammals, and insects you see, and the state of tree buds and leaves, shoots. You can also record the questions you have that you want to investigate.

4. Download and try out apps such as iNaturalist and eBird to report and collaborate on nature, get help with identifying what you see, and keep track of your sightings.

5. Draw a map of your neighbourhood (or just your yard) noting trees, wildflowers, and other habitat features such as rotting logs and puddles. This builds their spacial sense and also helps them see their surroundings from the perspective of other animals. 

6. Let kids use a camera to take pictures on your walks. One fun activity is to take pictures of the same thing (a bud or a shoot) each day and watch as it changes over the season.

7. Bring home something you find on a walk (such as a stick, a rock, a leaf) and draw it, getting to know its minute features. 

8. For older kids, read up about environmental issues, such as turtle conservation and the importance of insect diversity, and discuss together.

Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers to their questions. Part of the fun is looking for answers together. What matters most is sharing enthusiasm and a sense of wonder.

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