Help children connect with nature this summer

The summer break from school is a great opportunity to introduce children to new activities. With a few months away from the classroom, here are some fun alternatives that will help children learn about the natural world and connect with nature.

Mom and son bird watching

Contributed by John Schaust, Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU)

With these summer activities, you can disconnect your children from the television and computer screen and have them engage with the natural world.

Put up a hummingbird feeder

Hummingbirds are one of the easiest birds to attract. By hanging a hummingbird feeder, you and your child can witness their aerial acrobatics. Hummingbirds can fly up, down, forward, backwards, sideways and hover in midair. You can make your own nectar at home. Mix a solution of four parts water to one part plain table sugar to fill the feeder. Having your child make the nectar and be responsible for filling the feeder can create a sense of achievement. You can visit the WBU blog, for more tips on hummingbird feeders.

Check out these other simple bird feeders kids can make >>

Create a nature bracelet

Using a wide roll of masking tape, make a loose-fitting bracelet around your child’s wrist, sticky side out. Take a nature hike around your neighborhood, a local park or camp site. While on your hike, encourage the children to find flowers or flower petals, leaves or other natural items and attach them to the bracelet. In no time, your child will have a nature bracelet and will have created fond memories.

Flashlight hike

Take a nature walk at dusk or after dark with a flashlight. Place the back end of a flashlight on your chin or nose and slowly shine it around on the ground, bushes and trees. Some insects’, animals’ and birds’ eyes are reflective and you can find them in the dark by the reflection shining back at you. Can you find any spiders, flying squirrels, raccoons or owls?

Bird scavenger hunt

Pretend to be a bird detective and go on a bird scavenger hunt. While on your scavenger hunt, have your children look for birds in different locations and describe what they are doing. You can discover places that a bird might live (holes in trees, an old nest in a bush, holes in cactus and mud nests under bridges), seek out evidence of birds having been somewhere (look for eggshells, a fallen feather or tracks in the sand or mud), and search out foods a bird might eat (bugs, insects and fruit). You can visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website to help identify birds that you come across.

Color matching game

Stop by your local home improvement or hardware store and select a few paint sample cards. Then on your next nature hike, share these with your children and encourage them to find colors in the natural world that match the colors on the card.

Children are naturally curious and they love to explore and learn about the natural world. By livening up their senses to the outdoors, you will create a passion for nature and animals that older generations had as children.

About the author:

John Schaust is the Chief Naturalist for Wild Birds Unlimited, the original and largest franchise system of backyard bird feeding and nature specialty stores, with more than 275 locations throughout the United States and Canada. Wild Birds Unlimited specializes in bringing people and nature together with bird feeding and nature products, expert advice and educational events. Prior to joining Wild Birds Unlimited, John spent 26 years as a professional naturalist with federal, state and local agencies, specializing in environmental education, nature center operations and natural resources management. He is an avid birder and has been a federally licensed bird bander for almost 30 years.

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