The world today is filled with distractions. From necessary household chores to TV’s, computers and cell phones, parents’ attention is pulled in many directions which can interfere with focusing on young children and building bonds. As the summer draws to end and autumn approaches, why not leave all distractions behind and spend some quality outdoor time with the young children in your life. Being in nature provides opportunities for creating a special bonding time as you enjoy the simple joys of the natural world – the turning colors of the leaves, the cooler crisp air and the birds sweetly singing in the trees. Nature is filled with sights, sounds, and smells that ignite a child’s curiosity and desire to explore. Outdoor time makes it easy to for parents to follow their child’s lead and respond to their excitement as they discover interesting things such as the crunching sound of leaves as you stomp on them. Here are some suggestions to enhance an autumn walk with your child:
- Explore the color of leaves and go on a leaf hunt.
- Search for pinecones and other seed pods and talk about how they look and feel.
- Listen to the breeze as it rustles the leaves in the trees.
- Look for fall flowers. Discuss the colors and shapes.
- Be on the lookout for birds flying or squirrels scampering. Talk about what the changing season means to wildlife.
- Gather some natural items to take home and create a sensory bowl for further exploration.
Along the way, keep in mind the following tips:
- It is about being together. You do not need to explore a long trail. Children will often find a place to settle down and explore.
- Remember nature is everywhere. You can have simple outdoor experiences such as planting seeds in a pot or taking a walk in your neighborhood.
- Be prepared. A snack and something to drink go a long way when you plan to be outdoors.
- Model curiosity. Point interesting things out to your child and ask open ended questions such as “What do you think lives in the hole in this tree?”
- Create stories. It doesn’t matter what lives in the hole in the tree you can make up a fun story that you and your child can share over and over again.
Nature provides so many opportunities for parents and young children to engage with each other and enjoy special moments of quiet connection. From a simple walk around the block to a hike in the park getting outdoors and connecting with nature promotes good health, physical, mental, and spiritual, and builds lasting connections between a parent and child. Get out, take a walk, and enjoy all the wonders.