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Helping Kids Be Thankful for Nature

  • 4/22/2015 9:35:00 AM
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Ideas on helping your kids appreciate nature from the Iowa DNROur modern lives are busy, with work, school, errands and all kinds of organized activities – often making it hard to find time in natural areas. Make sure your kids – or any of your friends or family, really – can foster a love of and respect for nature, with these tips.

Get outside.
It’s really that simple, even if it’s just making room for 15 minutes out in the yard every day. Start with small trips or hikes through a local park and work your way up to longer visits or more involved outdoor recreation.

Make it comfortable.

Make sure your outdoor excursion is not remembered for the wrong reasons. Make your nature newbies comfortable, with clothing appropriate for the weather and terrain. Choose boots that fit and will not hurt on a hike, for example. Aim for days with good weather.

Keep it interesting.
Little minds may not be able to focus on a two-hour event. Start with shorter routes and bring equipment to get them involved – perhaps binoculars for spotting owls and other birds, or a small magnifying glass in the summer to inspect bugs. Older kids and adults might enjoy identifying animals, birds and plants in a field guide. Whether on a hike, camping trip or while fishing, bring a nature scavenger hunt or nature bingo list to keep younger kids interested and focused.

Make planning a team effort.

Help newcomers feel invested in the trip by finding elements that they can help plan. Maybe you choose the park, they choose the trail. They plan the menu for the day. Pack together and explain why you’re taking certain things with you, like a first-aid kit or a compass.

Go with the flow.
You may be accustomed to an all-day fishing trip in the rain or sitting in a blind early in the morning in freezing temperatures. Remember that these are things you work up to – try to pick a day with good weather and keep trips short. Once kids lose interest – even if you’ve only been fishing 20 minutes – call it a day or find a new activity and go back to fishing later.

It’s not about you.

Take the focus off catching a record bass or walleye yourself and help your newbie focus on the basics. A first fish is exciting no matter its size, so focus on easy-to-catch fish from shore. Adjust your standards. Remember that getting others interested in your favorite outdoor pursuits is a process, and you need to take it one trip at a time. Be flexible, as what starts out as a hike may turn into a search for bugs, rocks and acorns, or a fishing trip might turn into a cruise around the lake. Do what your nature newbie enjoys.

Make the investment.
Putting in the time now to get your loved ones outside and enjoying the outdoors will pay off in the future, as they’ll want to spend more time outside (with you!) and will develop a true appreciation and concern for Iowa’s natural resources as they grow older.

For more ideas on teaching kids about nature, check out our Outdoor Education board on Pinterest.