5 Ways to connect with your kids in nature

Spring is on the horizon, inviting families to get outside and reconnect with nature. Rebecca Cohen, gardening and outdoor lifestyle expert, says nature time with your kids not only fosters appreciation of nature’s wonders, it also brings families closer together. Cohen shares five nature activities that are fun, educational, and family-friendly.
Spring is on the horizon, inviting families to get outside and reconnect with nature. Rebecca Cohen, gardening and outdoor lifestyle expert, says nature time with your kids not only fosters appreciation of nature’s wonders, it also brings families closer together. Cohen shares five nature activities that are fun, educational, and family-friendly.
 
Nature is out there all year round

Though you may think nature only exists when it isn’t piled over with snow or delivering icy cold temps, you really can enjoy the great outdoors all year round. If you’ve never learned to appreciate nature when the weather isn’t sunny and warm, dare to venture outside your comfort zone. Not sure how? Pick up Cohen’s upcoming book 15 Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids (Sourcebooks, March 2011). The founder of RebeccaPlants.com, Cohen put her own family to the nature test by taking them outside every day for a whole year! Cohen said her family not only became closer after the year end, they also gained the health benefits of physical activities and discovered a deeper love of nature.

Fifteen minutes is all it takes

Drawing inspiration from her own journey to get her family outside every day, Cohen wrote Fifteen Minutes Outside, a month-by-month collection of 365 easy and enjoyable ways to connect as a family and explore life outdoors, to give parents idea and encouragement to embrace nature during all four seasons. You don’t even need to spend hours outside to reap the benefits or meaningfully experience nature. Simply set a goal of fifteen minutes and see what happens.

>>Put an end to nature deficit disorder

Family-friendly outdoor activities

Cohen suggests the following five outdoor family activities, which are perfect for spring.

 1. Make a birdfeeder

Make a bagel bird feeder yourself and hang it on a tree outside within view of where you eat breakfast. No bagel? Use a pinecone instead, and smear it with peanut butter.

>>Got gourds? Try this Gourd Birdhouse craft!

2. Make mud prints

Give your kids license to get dirty after a spring rain or during the slushy winter melt. Let them make mud shoe prints, mud bike tire prints, mud handprints, and any other kind of muddy print. Let them loose but have towels ready by the door for muddy shoes and clothes as soon as you are home.

3. Make juice box boats

Ships Ahoy! After your kids finish their juice boxes, find a puddle and float the boxes like boats. You can even set up a finish line and let the fastest juice box win. Make sure you pick up and discard the juice boxes when you’re finished.

4. Watch for bird battles

Look for an aerial battle. “At this time of year, the kids and I tend to notice small birds engaged in battle with a larger bird in the distance overhead,” says Cohen.”Keep watch on the sky. Do you see a turf battle? A hawk hunting for newly hatched baby birds? What can you find?” Have your kids observe, encouraging them to tell stories about the bird battles.

5. Make your own fossils

No need to find a dinosaur museum to buy a fossil craft. Make your own! Take a small box and remove one side of the box. Fill the box with mud and press objects, such as shells, rocks, leaves, or sticks that you and your kids find outside into the mud. Bring the boxes inside to dry. After they are dry, go fossil hunting and ask your kids to tell you about their “fossil” finds.

Not convinced that the great outdoors is good for your family? Just give it a try. “When my family is outside together, we are naturally more active, notice more about the plants and animals around us, and become closer as a family,” says Cohen. “I want all parents to know the wonderful tool for quality time that they have available to them with just fifteen minutes outside every day.”

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