Kids need to interact with nature.
I always felt it in my heart, but when I learned about Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) my gut-feeling was confirmed.
In fact, the “diagnosis” Nature Deficit Disorder is not a new term. It has been floating around the psychology world for over a decade. The term was first coined by author Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder.
Although NDD is not an actual medical diagnosis, it describes the idea that humans, notably children, are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide variety of behavior problems.
Many studies, which you can read all about here, have shown links between interacting with nature and lower BMI, reduced ADD symptoms, and improved mental health.
While I understand how important it is to get my three children outside as much as possible, the fact remains that it is not always feasible to get outside.
Adventures Should be Priority
Kids won’t remember their best day playing with technology.
We live in a city with seasons that drastically change throughout the year. I try to get my kids in touch with nature as much as possible throughout these fluctuating temperatures and wide-variety of precipitation forms.
We try to jump in puddles when it is raining, build snowmen after a blizzard, and run through the sprinkler during sweltering summer months.
I make a solid effort to help them engage with nature and build a memory bank full of adventures.
However, there will always be times when you just can’t get outside. There will be times of dangerously frigid temperatures, lighting storms, or heatwaves.
Bringing the Outdoors Inside
As a parent, I still want to facilitate my kid’s engagement with nature.
Listed here are 10 simple ways to bring nature to your children, even when Mother Nature will not cooperate.
1) Painting Rocks or Seashells
Gather some rocks or seashells and purchase some paint, glitter, or ribbons. Allow your child to decorate the rock or seashell. Encourage them to use their creativity!
Or- try this fun and creative water and oil fireworks project.
Acrylic paint is the most vibrant, but it can stain clothes (be careful!)
Don’t have items to paint? Explore your artistic side with these butterfly coloring pages!
2) Indoor Water Play
Fill up a bowl or sink with warm water. Grab some waterproof toys and let your kids splash around.
We sometimes pretend that my daughter’s Barbies are swimming or my son’s dinosaurs are in lava.
3) Bring the Snow Inside
Although it is a blast to play in the snow, it is not always feasible to get bundled up and head on outside.
Fill up a bowl with snow from outside. Allow your children to play with their toys in the snow, or add food coloring or paint for extra jazz.
4) Make a Homemade Volcano
All you need is:
- Baking soda
- Add color to your volcano with a few drops of food coloring.
Fill a cup or bowl with baking soda and just splash in some vinegar. This activity combines fun with science.
5) Activities with Leaves
Gather some leaves and try one of these simple projects:
- Leaf rubbing: Unwrapped crayons, covered the leaves with paper, and rub the crayons on top for beautiful designs.
- Leaf fossils: Press the leaves into play dough and see the imprint it leaves behind.
- Leaf silhouettes: Tape the leaves down on a piece of paper and then used red, orange, and yellow paint to brush from the center of the leaves over the edges.
Want to also teach your kids about science? Try this Leaf Chromatography Experiment.
6) Bird Watching
Birds are practically everywhere, and flying around during every season. Cuddle by a window and look for birds. Try to draw the birds your find, and see how many you can identify.
7) Visit a Green House
There is a good chance that there is a flower exhibit or greenhouse around you. If you live in America, you can easily search for a complete list here.
8) Indoor Planting
Start an indoor garden. You can plant flowers, herbs, or even vegetables. There are a plethora of different kits you can find at a home and garden store, or even Amazon.
9) Indoor Sports
Just because you can’t get outside, doesn’t mean you can’t get moving like you are in the open world. Get your kids moving and tumbling around inside. Even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can get creative with indoor sports:
- Ride bikes in a garage
- Get a soft ball and play “handball” (or soccer with your hands, while scooting around on your knees)
- Play hide-and-seek
10) Visit an aquarium or aviary
Does your city have a local aquarium, zoo, or aviary?
There is no better way to engage kids with nature than to introduce them to the animals that live around the world.
Experts stress the importance of outdoor play, but when you just can’t get your little ones outside try one of these fun activities.
Keep it simple and get dirty!
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