For many parents, the battle over screen time is a constant struggle. Kids seem to be spending more time indoors and more time on screens. Gone are the days of sending your kids outside to roam the neighborhood for hours on end. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and enjoy nature with your kids!
But being outside and spending time in nature has so many health benefits. It can lower stress, reduce anxiety, and improve mood. Kids learn so much by exploring the world around them, and as parents, it is important to facilitate opportunities for our kids to do just that.
Here are 13 ideas for enjoying nature with your kids.
If you have never been camping before, don’t let that intimidate you! There are various ways to “camp”. If you don’t know how well your kids will sleep away from their beds, try pitching a tent in your own back yard for a night. See if you can spot any stars or constellations in the sky. Tell stories. Make s’mores if you have an outdoor fire pit.
If you want to travel beyond the backyard, do a google search for local campgrounds and see which ones would most appeal to your family. Campgrounds range from very basic (just outhouses), to several amenities (showers, cabins, etc.). Be sure to see if reservations are needed. KOA campgrounds are more developed and usual offer a variety of camping options.
Summer camps are always a great way for kids to get out and enjoy nature. But did you know many camps also have an option for families to go to camp together? These options are typically shorter (just a couple of days versus a whole week), but allow families to enjoy all the fun activities of summer camp together.
Even if you don’t have any space for a garden in your yard or lawn, you can easily plant vegetables in small containers. Have your kids help you plant the seeds at the beginning of the season and monitor progress together. They can help you water and harvest the vegetables when ready.
If you have older kiddos and have a larger garden, consider designating an area that the kids can be in charge of. They can decide what to plant, but they are also responsible for taking care of it!
Hiking is a great way for you and your kiddos to get some exercise while also exploring your local environment. You can choose a trail that meets your family’s needs. If you have older kids, you can tackle harder, longer, steeper trails. With little ones, find an easy trail that is mostly flat.
If you are worried about your kiddos lasting the entire hike, look into a hiking pack. Just make sure you find one that supports your back really well so you can have it on for a long time if needed.
Nature scavenger hunt
My son’s preschool had a nature scavenger hunt on their annual trip to the pumpkin patch, and the kids had so much fun! Their list included a variety of items including pine cones, acorn shells, flowers, feathers, etc. You can tailor this idea to fit whatever is commonly found in your own backyard. This can also be a fun activity to do while camping!
If you live close to a ski resort, check out what they offer during summertime. Many ski resorts still operate their gondolas in the summer, and this gives you a chance to experience the mountain in a different way.
From biking around your neighborhood, to exploring trails in the woods, biking is great exercise and a good way for the whole family to get some fresh air. If you bike often and have littles, investing in a bike trailer is well worth the money.
Just remember to have your kids wear helmets at all times, and wear bright clothing that is easily seen if you are biking in busier areas. Many parks have bikes path that are flat and paved.
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing
If you have older kids, this is a fun winter activity you can do together. If you don’t have access to snowshoes or cross-country skis, check out your local sporting good store for rentals.
Check out local ski resorts for tubing hills. Snow-tubing is a fun (and cheaper) alternative to skiing. Sledding is an even cheaper way to get out and enjoy nature with your kids and get some fresh air in the winter. Just be sure to have your kids dress warmly in snow boots, snow pants, and hats and gloves. Little fingers and toes can get cold quickly!
Explore a local lake in nature
Even if you don’t have a boat, a lake can still provide a great way to cool off and have some fun on a hot summer day. The kids can play in the sand and wade in the cool water. Many marinas also have paddle board or pedal boat rentals.
Even if your kids are strong swimmers, it is always a good idea to wear a life jacket when out on the water. And make sure to pack extra water, an umbrella for some shade, and extra sunscreen!
Visit a national park
We are so lucky to have 63 national parks (along with many more national park sites) in the United States. National parks provide beautiful and unique backdrops to explore nature with your family.
From the thermal pools in Yellowstone National Park to the giant redwood trees in Sequoia National Park, to the towering rock structures of Bryce Canyon National Park, new adventures await! Consider making a family vacation out of it, if you don’t live close to any national parks.
Involve your kids in sports you love
Maybe you grew up skiing. Perhaps you played basketball, volleyball, soccer or baseball. Maybe you picked up a new sport as an adult like golf or tennis. Introduce your kids to the sports you loved growing up, and hopefully you can all enjoy them together as a family for many years to come!
Involve yourself in activities your kids love
Water balloon fights, playing tag, swinging on the swings at the park. . .allow yourself to be a kid again and immerse yourself in activities that your kids already naturally love. They will enjoy seeing your sillier side, and will appreciate you spending quality time with them doing something they enjoy.
There is never a bad time to get out and enjoy nature with your kids. It is beneficial for the whole family. So what are you waiting for? Adventure awaits!