How to Plan Nature Outings Your Kids Will Love

There are so many wonderful opportunities to be outside and explore nature with children.

Nature walks and explorations are an ideal way to spend fun quality time together as a family and to help your children develop an appreciation for the earth, birds, mini-beasts, plants and everything else in the natural world.

Here's how to plan nature outings your kids will love.

Whether you live in the town or city or out in the countryside, there are many great ways to help children connect with nature, as well as strengthening family bonds, learning and having fun together.

Nature Outings Close to Home

Explore your garden

There are so many creatures and processes to observe right there in your own backyard.

Make a simple bird feeder and learn to identify different species and their habits.

Use a rainy day to teach your children about the water cycle, collect observations about the weather each day, and go on a mini-beast hunt.

This free printable garden scavenger hunt is a great way to start.

See more ideas here:

Explore your local area

A routine walk can be transformed into an expedition if you get some plant and wildlife guidebooks and set off.

Learn to identify various trees and observe seasonal changes. See what you can spot in woodland, forests, ponds, a lake or even a beach close to you.

You'll be amazed at the opportunities that are right on your doorstep. Join an organisation such as the Woodland Trust, RSPB or WWT for some guidance and even more places to visit.

And don't let bad weather put you off! Just wrap up and head out.

See: How to Help Kids Connect with Nature on a Nature Walk

Nature Outings Away From Home

Explore the national parks

Most National Parks are highly accessible whether you want to go for a short stroll or to walk a long distance path.

Make the most of what is available by taking a holiday to a different area each year and exploring some of the wonderful landscapes on offer.

Check the official website for each Park to see what is available, the best places to visit, and accommodation options.

There are 15 National Parks in the UK, you can read more about them here.

In the USA and Canada you can even camp in some of the state parks, which is a great way to have a cheap and fun family vacation.

You should also check out the Junior Ranger program at the National Park Service whereby children can earn badges for all kinds of educational tasks.

Get outdoors everywhere

Plan outdoor activities every week, whether it's a walk locally one afternoon or a bigger excursion at the weekend, make sure you have at least 2-3 nature activities planned into each week.

If you are on holiday or visiting relatives find out what's available in the local area and get out to explore.

By making nature part of your lifestyle you will encourage children to get involved and to develop more of an interest in the world around them.

Get some more ideas here:

How to Plan Nature Outings for Babies and Younger Children

Introduce your baby to nature from an early age, it really is never too early to get started.

Listen to bird song with your baby, show them colourful flowers and textured plants, let them touch and smell.

Read guidebooks and wildlife guides and look at maps with your toddler, making them part of your family reading.

You can point to pictures of animals and plants and repeat the names together.

When you're outdoors look at the trees, plants and mini-beasts and name them.

Sit quietly and watch bees, ants and spiders.

Teach your child to observe and respect all living things.

As kids get older they will love to start a collection of interesting things they find in nature.

Shiny conkers, interesting shells, coloured stones, fallen leaves and even dead insects may all be of interest as little nature trophies.

You can then start a nature table at home and rotate the theme and items through the seasons.

At this age kids can begin to keep a nature journal.

Get your child a journal with blank pages, we use these ones which are great for both drawing and writing in plus the child can design and decorate their own cover (buy similar in the US).

Kids can record their own nature observations and make sketches but what goes in a nature journal is entirely up to the individual.

We record anything interesting we see and know the name of or may need to look up later, as well as following a weekly theme for our thoughts and observations.

For example, seed dispersal, butterflies, wildflowers or leaves.

You could also give kids an inexpensive camera so they can take their own pictures.

The most important thing is to relax and have fun.

Keep your outings enjoyable and be careful to adapt your activities to your child's attention span.

Pay attention to their interests and use them to suggest new places and topics to explore.

How to Plan Nature Outings for Older Children and Teens

You may think your older child is lost to their technology for ever, but there are still ways to get them interested in and engaged on family nature walks.

Start by inviting them to take the lead.

Older kids will love the opportunity to be in charge so let them plan the trip or walk and set a theme for the observations.

By instructing and directing their younger siblings (or even you!) on the walk, they can feel like positive role models and develop a sense of accomplishment.

You could also try including their friends, so let them invite a friend along when your family goes sailing or for a long walk.

Many older children will still love to keep a nature journal as they learn more and more about the world around them.

Studies have shown the maintaining a connection to nature helps kids withstand negative peer pressure and can help reduce the stress and anxiety that many teens feel.

This is also the time to encourage and help your child pursue their interests.

Support any emerging interests such as the environment or solar energy.

Look up experiments and investigations you can do at home or outdoors and explore other opportunities such as a local university lecture on the subject.

By showing an interest and engaging with your child on their level you keep communication open and also show that you respect their opinions and ideas as an emergent adult.

Whatever age your kids are, nature outings can help you raise healthier children who appreciate and respect the environment. Enjoy your time together and celebrate the natural wonders that are all around us.

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