The idea of taking a hike as a family can sometimes seem daunting. Little ones become tired, big ones become bored, and being a family of 6 small children under 10, it seems like a victory just getting out the door.
But we are all in desperate need of more time in nature. In fact, in 2005, author Richard Louv, coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” because these days, children are spending altogether less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. As mothers, we know time outside is good for us too, but there are so many homemaking tasks calling us back inside.
My husband is a passionate hiker. I, on the other hand, grew up navigating my way through the mall. I wanted to give my children a different upbringing from the retail jungle I grew up in. My kids play daily outdoors but recently, we’ve made a family commitment to go on a nature walk once a week.
I’ve learned to let go of my high expectations of what this time will look like. Instead, the purpose is to get outside, leave our comfort zones, discover new things and have fun as a family. I can’t identify many plants or birds (although I’d like to be able to one day) and with little ones in tow, we don’t usually make it very far.
“If getting our kids out into nature is a search for perfection, or is one more chore, then the belief in perfection and the chore defeats the joy. It’s a good thing to learn more about nature in order to share this knowledge with children; it’s even better if the adult and child learn about nature together. And it’s a lot more fun” (Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder
Don’t get hung up on ideals. Just get outside and let learning together happen. The more we make time outdoors in nature a part of our lives, the more we’ll all benefit.
Why Make Nature Walks a Priority?
Wonder and Worship
“By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse” Romans 1:20 (The Message).
Time in nature inevitably points to our Creator. When children and adults alike stand in awe of and wonder about what was made, it’s a form of worship.
A Media Break
Children in America are consuming 7 hours and 38 minutes every day, on average, of all media (cell phones, computers, t.v., video games etc). according to a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s way too much time with inanimate objects rather than spending time with living things and building relationships with people!
Develop and Improve Skills
“Kids who play on trees, rocks and uneven ground test better for motor fitness, balance and agility”( Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder
Nature’s terrain is a great place for kids to build athletic skill!
In addition, nature invites curiosity! I want my children to get to know their world and wonder about it. Wonder leads to investigation-a closer look. Investigation leads to discovery. Discovery leads to knowledge that they own themselves because they dared to take the journey.
Have a Nature Scavenger Hunt
I have found I need to model and train my children to be keen observers when outdoors. My boys love to run. They’ll race right through a nature walk, letting all of creation pass by them in a blur. True, part of the purpose of being outdoors is invigorating exercise. But I want them to discover new things as well.
At times, I’ve turned a nature walk into a game. No one wins in particular. We all play. There isn’t any competition (although you could add that element if you’d like). I make a scavenger hunt list and we try to see how many things we can find. We do manage to find a few items listed. But what is even more fun is finding what isn’t. When you take a nature walk, you never know what you’ll encounter!
This was our first find: a stick! Not terribly exciting but to a 3-year old boy, it’s quite a treasure!
Here’s some of our unexpected finds not on our list. A banana slug!
Joseph crouched down by a fallen tree and made this beautiful discovery. He was quite proud!
A log chewed on by a beaver!
My favorite find: A bouquet of wildflowers picked for me by my oldest son!
Our walk lasted around 45 minutes. It even rained a little. But everyone had fun and was asking when we were going to do this again!
So get outside and have some fun! Create memories as a family and don’t worry about perfection. The joy is not in the destination so much as it is in the journey.
What about you? Do you have any tips for taking your family on a nature walk?
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