Everyone has heard about the benefits of children spending time in nature: when kids are outside, without walls, they can run, jump, explore, and act in developmentally appropriate ways. Fresh air is important, and children who learn to love nature will carry the positive feelings into adulthood. But for the average busy family, what does it look like to nurture a nature lover? Never fear! You don’t have to be a botanist or a wildlife biologist, and you don’t have to go far from home. By letting curiosity (yours and your child’s) guide your forays into nature, the simplest walk can turn into an adventure.
As the weather warms up and your family heads outside more often, aim to plan slow, meandering, outings without a goal or final destination in mind. Leave room, time and patience for exploring, sauntering, poking under logs and snacking in the sunshine! Your children will appreciate these unhurried excursions.
Experiment with outings where you bring no toys—watch how your child will find sticks, rocks, leaves and other ‘loose parts’ to play with. A simple bucket and shovel might suffice, even for the beach, and you can enjoy leaving behind armloads of toys! Kuskanook is a great beach not far from town with a huge variety of features to appeal to young children (jumbly logs to climb on, flowing streams to build bridges over).
You can model curiosity and enthusiasm for your child by bending down to check out a snail, a flower, feather or stone. Your child will catch on quickly, seeing your interest in the small things around you. Simple, open-ended questions like these can help you get your child’s enthusiasm flowing:
Oh look! What’s this here? It feels so….it smells so…
I wonder what happened here…
Are there any clues if we look around?
Tell me more about the _____ you found!
The best nature play is unstructured, light-hearted, non-coercive and open-ended. For instance, if you’re taking a break during a walk or sitting at a park, you can initiate a picture or pattern on the ground, made with the sticks, stones, leaves, berries and other things found around you. Your child might enjoy helping you hunt around for things to add to the design.
Here are a few events happening around Creston in the coming weeks that you might enjoy participating in with your family: Gaelen Schnare, 11 year old bird expert, is hosting a kid-friendly bird excursion on Saturday May 12, as part of the Creston Valley Bird Festival. In June, Creston Kids Outside is offering a Ready, Set, Learn nature program in the Canyon-Lister School forest, for 3-5 year olds. Don’t forget about the annual Sturgeon Release on the Kootenay River, April 26 from 11:00-1:00. You can find details about all of these events on our website and Facebook pages: www.crestonkidsoutside.com and www.facebook.com/crestonkidsoutside