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Now that spring is here and it’s starting to warm up outside it’s time to get the kids back outside! Openlands Lake County (formerly Conserve Lake County) had a great handout at the Green Living Fair on ways to connect your kids with nature. They gave us permission to share it, with practical tips and locations for you.
Research shows that children are happier, smarter, healthier, and stronger when they have time for unstructured play in the outdoors. As a type-A mom sometimes allowing that unstructured time is hard! I want to plan games, activities, or at least keep them out of the mud! Research shows that even 15 minutes at the beginning or end of the day can make a big difference! My two-year-old sleeps better, naps better, and is overall much easier to deal with when he can spend at least an hour outside.
8 Ways to Connect Kids with Nature
1. A tree of Their Own
Buy and plant a young native tree together. Make it your child’s job to water the tree once a week for its first year and to mulch it each spring ad fall. Make it fun: Measure and Compare the tree and the child’s height throughout the seasons.
2. A Place to Hide
Kids love to make and claim their own fort, teepee or treehouse. Simple materials provide them with a creative license to build and play. A planted teepee of vines or an island of Indian Grass of other tall plants that allow children to squirm between or make their own maze through can provide fragrance, colors and sounds that delight.
3. A Place to Run
Lawns are great for running, another idea is a wide path or loop around or through a planted island.
4. A Place to Climb
Need we say more?
5. Something to Care For
Consider a small project your child can have responsibility for. Watering the newly planted coneflowers. Keeping the birdbath full. My girls are usually in charge of a large potted plant on the front porch. They pick, plant, and water the flowers. Take the time to teach them how to do the designated job well and notice when they do a good job.
6. Something to Destroy
It’s hard to deny the joy of digging up a rock, peeling apart a flower or dissecting- yes – a dead frog. My kids love to tear up the pine cones that fall in our yard. Now that we have a construction obsessed boy I think we will be adding a small construction garden with rocks and dirt he can play in (if for no other reason than to keep him out of my garden!)
7. Tools for Free Play
Sand, rocks, water, leaves, sticks, and dirt, are the time-tested ingredients of a happy childhood. Openlands also suggest a net, firefly jar, magnifying glass and small pair of binoculars.
8. A Bird or Butterfly Planting Under the Dining Room Window
Forget the high-maintenance bird feeders. Instead, plant a wild plum, elderberry or patch of joe-pye-weed – or some other species that fits well with your aesthetics and growing conditions – and tops out at the height of your window sill. Meals will take on a new dimension!
The mission of Openlands Lake County is to preserve open land, restore natural areas, and inspire a commitment to land conservation for the benefit of people and wildlife in Lake County.
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