Rewild Your Child

By Crystal Stevens

Unfortunately in today’s fast paced world, which relies heavily on technology and electronics, nature time for both children and adults is dwindling. The average American child spends half as much time outside as kids 20 years ago did. According to research from Childwise, “Children aged 5-12 spend six and a half hours in front of a screen compared with around 3 hours in 1995”. The average American child can recognize 75 corporate logos, but only identify a dozen trees and plants. This trend is creating generations that are losing touch with nature.

“If children lose contact with nature, they won’t fight for it”.
-George Monbiot

When this heat wave ends, here are 20 ways to rewild your child:

  • Scavenger Hunt: Make a list of common items found outside such as dandelions, pods, acorns, pinecones, etc. Stable the list to a small brown paper bag and collect as many items on the list as possible.
  • Leaf rubbings and flower pressing are great ways to keep track of which plants are producing and blooming in which seasons.
  • Art outside: Set up canvases and paints or paper and coloring supplies outside and do art together as a family.
  • Backyard fort building – A few old sheets, a clothesline, some twine, clothes pins and flags will keep kids busy for hours
  • Backyard picnics – Let the children help make dinner (something easy like build your own sandwiches or build your own tacos) and enjoy a picnic together on the porch, in the backyard or in a local park
  • Backyard games (hopscotch, sack races, hula hooping, catch, kickball, frisbee) these may all sound like common outdoor activities but I can’t remember the last time I played these games with my children. While they are outside playing they will naturally observe birds chirping, insects pollinating and wildlife all around them- even in the city.
  • Sunrise walks, sunset walks, full moon walks
  • Stargazing – My dad used to drive us to the country just to see the stars at night. I remember it so vividly.
  • Nature Observation and journaling
  • Leaf counting – Go for a walk and see how many different leaves they can find and collect. Take them home and do leaf rubbings and try to identify them.
  • Set up a science shelf in their room to give them pride in displaying all of their wonderful nature finds
  • Get dirty – Have them put on old clothes and go play in the mud. Contact with soil builds our immune systems and makes us happy.
  • Plant a garden – Children who garden eat vegetables. Gardening gives them a wonderful sense of responsibility and a strong work ethic.
  • Plant a pollinator garden to attract pollinators. Native plants are wonderful. Milkweed, Beebalm, Liatris, Echinacea, and Yellow Cone Flower are a great place to start.
  • Build a pollinator habitat. Various sized bamboo works great (all cut at the same length) and securely fastened in an open birdhouse structure works well as a home for pollinators.
  • Make a bird feeder or set up a dish with bird seed outside of a window that is visible for the whole family.
  • Let them take care of the house plants. Make a chart and allow them to draw a picture of each house plant in the home and check each one off as they water it.
  • Go camping – Bring the bare essentials and allow your child to truly connect with nature. Get a primitive spot and backpack in. Family bonding time is a lost art these days.
  • Visit the beautiful state parks this region has to offer. Elephant Rocks, Johnson Shut-ins, Mastodon State Park, and Cuivre River State Park are among our favorites.
  • Locally: Visit Shaw Nature Reserve, the Missouri Botanical Garden (Children’s Garden), and hike along the Chub Trail, spend the day exploring Tower Grove Park or Forest Park. Let your child lead the way.
  • Set up a tree swing or a hammock. Let your children climb trees. Adventure tree has safe tree climbing programs for kids.
  • Plant a tree with your child every year on their birthday. Get involved in local tree planting activities.

Allow children to make their own list of nature activities. When they are a part of the planning process, they tend to get more excited!

Crystal Stevens is a regular contributor to The Healthy Planet magazine. She and her husband Eric run LaVista CSA Farm in Godfrey, Ill.