There are lots of obvious reasons to get your kids off the sofa and outside this summer: Outdoor play is good for their physical health, tires them out so they (and you) sleep better, and enables them to connect with other kids and with you. But if you’re fortunate enough to live near a park or in a neighborhood that boasts a bit of green, encouraging your children to connect with nature has another very important benefit. Lying on the grass, watching the clouds or contemplating the canopy of a tree, they learn to meditate on something greater than themselves. You can make their exploration of nature fun by trying these games:
Blindfold your child and literally turn him into a tree hugger, exploring the tree with his hands and his sense of smell. Then walk him a little distance away, remove the blindfold, and see if he can find his tree, recalling what he learned. Another game is to listen to the tree’s “heartbeat” with a stethoscope. Your child can hear the sap and water surging through the tree; she may even hear the insects that have taken up residence inside.
Equip the kids with a magnifying glass and binoculars so they can get up close and personal with the birds and bugs. But teach them to “leave only footprints, take only photos.” Giving them a camera will teach them to respect the nature around them and allow their creative juices to flow.
If they just can’t resist taking a souvenir, limit it to one that is particularly meaningful. For example, let them pick a flower to press or invest in a bug catching kit so they can collect the bugs but then let them go (which is another great way to teach them a respect for life and nature).