We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant & animal life and to care for none of these things.Charlotte Mason
Why is it so important?
Did you know that spending time outside in nature has significant benefits, both physically and mentally? It can improve blood pressure, reduce stress, and boost the immune system. As if that wasn’t enough, it can also improve mood, increase focus, and bring joy.
According to Miss Charlotte Mason,
A love of nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humour.
Getting outside, exploring and observing nature, and appreciating God’s creation is crucial for a well balanced life. Nature piques our interest, our desire to learn and understand that which surrounds us. It instills in us a deep appreciation of and stewardship over our earth.
All of the reasons listed above are beautiful and worthy. However, real life is sometimes…messy. Here in Houston it is HOT. And humid. We have mosquitoes and wasps and biting flies. Regardless of where you live we all have days with tired, grumpy kids. (Or even tired, grumpy moms!) Being in nature as often as possible is a noble pursuit, though, and is well worth the effort it takes to overcome these obstacles.
So how do we do it?
I have three kids. Rounding them up for an outing is like herding cats. Then there’s the whole bag packing business…making sure we have enough snacks and water, nature journaling supplies, sunscreen, towels or extra clothes if necessary, plus the fifteen random toys my youngest always wants to bring. It helps to plan ahead.
I have a large tote bag that I use for all of our outings. Everyone knows that it’s the official outdoors bag so they know to throw whatever they need in there. Two things stay in the bag and never get put away because if they did I know we’d end up losing them: goggles, in case we go swimming, and sunscreen, the natural, non-toxic stuff. (Here’s how we stay safe in the sun.) I also try to keep a couple plastic grocery bags in there, too, to use as a trash bag while we’re outdoors or as a wet bag to hold our wet clothes.
The night before I make sure we have appropriate clothes to wear and a change of clothes, if needed. I gather a few easy, grab and go snacks like cashews, goldfish, popcorn, and berries, grapes, or bananas. Throw a few water bottles in the bag and we’re set.
If we’re going on a nature outing that doesn’t involve swimming I try to bring our nature journaling supplies: notebooks, sharpened pencils, watercolors, paint brushes, a couple paper towels, and a small cup (to put water in so they can rinse their paintbrushes). We keep these items together in the house so that we can easily load them up rather than have to search all over the place to get them together. I have friends who actually keep their nature journaling supplies in a separate backpack that stays in the car. That’s one way to do it!
Sometimes it’s hot; sometimes it’s cold. Sometimes we’d rather be indoors for whatever reason. The best thing we can do to encourage our children to appreciate nature is to share our awe and wonder with them. Have you ever stopped to watch an ant navigate along the sidewalk? Or really looked closely at a wild flower, noticing the color variations and the different textures? Or what about sitting very still, listening to the different bird calls overhead? God has painted an unbelievably stunning portrait with nature and it’s all right there for us to experience, if we only stop and allow ourselves to drink it in. Share that wonder with your children. It’s contagious! They learn from your example and will begin to notice and point out their own treasured finds.
Now, this one might be hard to hear: let them get dirty. Stick with me! Children cannot fully immerse themselves in the play and work of nature if they’re constantly getting fussed at for getting dirty hands or dirty clothes. Nature is messy. It’s dirty. (By the way, dirt is good for your health!) Bring a change of clothes along if you need to. Bring a package of wet wipes so they can wipe their hands and faces. But let them feel the dirt on their fingers. Let them splash in the puddles. Let them roll in the grass.
You can always make a game out of nature time. My kids love to play I Spy. That can get a little tough when you’re surrounded by green and that’s the color they say and you have to find the exact leaf they spy! After we leave, I ask them what their favorite part of the day was. That’s become a tradition for them and if I forget to ask they have no problem reminding me! haha Sometimes we go on nature hunts. I’ll name a few objects that they have to explore and search for. Occasionally they want to turn the hunt into a race but that’s not always fair for the littlest so we don’t do that very often.
Speaking of nature hunts, I have something for you! I made a nature scavenger hunt printable for you to use on your next outdoor adventure! Y’all can work as a team to find everything on the list or print one off for each child to use on their own. Click HERE to print. I hope you enjoy it!
Does your family spend time together enjoying the outdoors? Are y’all nature lovers like we are? Let me know below if you’re an indoors or outdoors kind of person!