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Discovering nature indoors with your children

Mark J. Stevens, author of LUISA'S NATURE (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, Spring 2008), is a news journalist currently working in Europe. Fluent in French, Spanish, and German, he has enjoyed extensive travel much of his life. Shaped by the...

Outdoor discoveries

Getting outside with your children can be a vital part of a happy family life. You can use indoor activities to expand on your outdoor discoveries and round off the experience. Drawing nature scenes, making lists, music, and sports at home can make the excitement of getting out even greater. Once you are back in the deep grass, on the beach, or in the forest, your senses will bloom. The complementary indoor and outdoor activities will become even more creative and rewarding for your and your children's physical and emotional health.

Here are four ways to complement outdoor discoveries with indoor activities:

1. Regularly visit and draw your favorite place in nature

Draw or paint with your children a poster of your favorite place in nature. Give it a headline with the name of that place. Stick the poster on the side of your refrigerator where you and your children can always see it and talk about it. Your children's curiosity will grow each time they look at the poster. Now go back out to see that place with your own eyes.

Your children will want to expand their discoveries of that special place. They will look for flower growth, moss, branches, streams, animal holes, and other wonders that they have not yet discovered. In your conversations and drawings back home, your kids will want to add what they have seen. This leads to a nice blend of fantasy and reality that will last until your next walk to that special place.

2. Get out in the yard and write down what you saw

Talk to your children about the seeds and plants you intend to grow in the garden. Make with your children a list on paper. Observe the birds, squirrels, rabbits, insects and plants you see in the yard.

Similarly, make a list, separating the plants and animals, and later even the species. For example, if you live in a nature-rich area, you could make a long list of just birds you've seen. You can then break it down even further into characteristics of each bird — both male and female. The same is true of different kinds of flowers, vegetables — both the plants and the vegetables themselves. Your children will want to get back out into the yard to make more discoveries first-hand. These first-hand experiences and lists will complement each other splendidly.

3. Make up melodies and songs along the nature trail and at home

You and your children can complement your outings in nature with song. Let the surroundings inspire your children to create a melody and accompanying lyrics. You can get them started and let them take it from there. When you return home, write down the songs and continue singing along with your kids, so the melody stays fresh in your mind.

When you sing at home, you'll feel the magic of that spot in nature that inspired it. And when you get back to that place in nature, you can expand on the song. It may even make you and your kids want to dance. Who knows? 

4. Doing sports activities regularly

Climbing, running, skipping, jumping, and swimming in nature not only keep you and your children in good shape, but at the same time you are taking in fresh air and beautiful surroundings. But even the most avid hikers and swimmers don't always have the opportunity to get out.

Staying fit in nature can be complemented by a trip to the swimming pool, an indoor climbing wall or a little homemade sports terrain in your own living room. You can have a laugh together in closed quarters and will appreciate the vastness of the outdoors even more on your next family excursion. And most of all, while staying fit, you are strengthening the family bond.

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