Welcome to Plugging Into Your Kids from Direct Energy. In this series, we will share ways you can spend focused time with your children – specifically by unplugging from technology. We want to help your family make a conscious effort to connect with each other by avoiding electronic devices and enjoying some real-life interaction.
In our previous post in this series brought to you by Direct Energy, we shared tips on how to get outdoors with your family. Simply getting outside, taking nature walks, and scheduling vacations in outdoor settings are a few suggestions we gave.
But how do you take it one step further, and encourage your child to spend time away from screens and gadgets, to truly connect with nature?
The natural world is full of lessons, and is a healthy way to escape the busyness of our schedule. Sometimes just 15 minutes outside can relax and nurture our minds enough to reset the clock.
We share ideas on how you can encourage your family and children to bring a little more nature into your world, either by exploring out in it, or bringing a little into your home and yard.
Become Bird Watchers
One of the easiest ways we have brought wildlife into our front yard is by hanging a bird seed feeder and hummingbird feeder from our trees. We have placed them so that we can see them from our living room windows. It gives us a break in the day, and slows us all down, even if it’s just for 3-5 minutes to watch them hum and hop around.
Both are inexpensive, and well worth their price for the enjoyment of bird watching.
Head to your local bookstore and pick up a book on local birds, too. Keep your binoculars handy if you have a set! As your children watch the various birds that come and go from your yard, together you can learn their names and observe their routines and migration patterns.
For hummingbird feeders, you can also make your own nectar that is free of red dye, which is harmful to the birds. Simply mix one part sugar with four parts filtered water. It’s best to boil the water first so the sugar dissolves completely. Allow it to cool before filling up the feeder. You can store the remaining nectar in your refrigerator.
Start a Nature Journal Together
Whether you step out your backdoor, or head to the local arboretum, consider starting a nature journal with your child. Pick up a few high quality watercolor paper journals, and a set of regular or watercolor pencils.
Bring a quilt or chairs to sit on and get comfortable. Then draw what you see!
You don’t have to be Picasso to nature journal. Something as simple as a leaf could be drawn, or look above you and draw the clouds. The idea is to sit quietly with your child and observe something together. Perhaps you can even add a few words of reflection into your journal. Be sure to date it, and add where you did the drawing.
You could also take in a simple practice of picking one day a week to sit together on the porch, and sketch the weather. Rain, sun, snow, wind. It’s a practice in creativity, as well as spending nourishing time together.
Create a Nature Table
This concept is something especially nice for younger children, who love to fill their pockets with rocks and acorns!
Select a small flat surface in your home to dedicate to the creation of a nature table. This is a place that can change with the seasons, and hold your children’s special trinkets and treasures that they find in the great outdoors.
Place a cloth napkin onto your surface, or a small piece of colored silk. Spent time together arranging all the items, and talking about them. What kind of bird do you think the feather came from? Why were there shells found along the trail?
When you’re on your next nature walk, keep your eyes peeled for shells, rocks, feathers, interesting leaves, sticks, acorns, and any other items to contribute together.
Join a Nature Club
Arboretums, parks and conservancies are all over the country, and depend heavily on memberships to cover operating fees, and volunteers to build and maintain the grounds.
Take a look in your local area, and choose a club or park to join that speaks to you or your child’s interest.
Do edible gardens interest you both, or perhaps more of a place that attracts wild birds? This can become a once a month visit for you and your child, where together, you’ll meet new people with a passion for the outdoors, and similar natural landscapes. This is also a great educational tool for you both!