Science has spoken! It turns out kids who spend time outside might be happier and more relaxed. Some studies even say that the outdoors can improve short-term memory, concentration, and cognitive skills. (In other words, nature might make you smarter!) The trick, of course, is getting children outside in nature, away from screens and all the other distractions in their lives. Luckily, we have six ideas to help you do just that.
Photograph by Lori Epstein / NG Staff
Start an animal-watching list. Grab a field guide to local birds and other animals and write down all the critters you might see. Check them off as you spy each one (a pair of binoculars helps!), noting details like the time of year and the location. Maintain the list over a year and see how many your family can find.
Select a single tree near your home and follow the tree’s life over the course of a year, documenting with photos and notes.
Photograph by Wary / iStock
Go on a nature scavenger hunt. Come up with things to find: an orange leaf, an acorn, a bird feather, an animal track. See how many each person can find, then have the whole family help everyone complete their list.
Take the kids on a photo safari! Organize the adventure by topic—mammals, birds, trees, etc.—or set goals instead; for instance, everyone takes photos of 10 different flowers, 5 different birds, and 3 different mammals. Show them how to take aweseome outdoor photographs with these expert tips. Older kids may enjoy making a nature documentary with the video app on their phone.
Explore the outdoors when the sun goes down on a night hike. Grab a flashlight and see what critters come out when the moon is up. If the path is a familiar one during the day, ask your kids to observe how things seem different in the dark. Use these photo tips to take pictures of the moon, and see how well the tips work with other nighttime shots.
Text by Kitson Jazynka and Rachel Buchholz