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Backyard Nature Activities for Kids

By Larraine Roulston:

Today’s kids are caught up with keeping in touch with friends online as well as being in tune with the latest video games. It’s increasingly apparent that they are being deprived of nature (known as nature-deficit disorder) and need to engage in more simple outdoor recreation. By using only the tools found in every backyard, parents and educators should be able to encourage easy and relaxing activities that are just as entertaining.

Richard Louv, journalist and author of nine books on this subject and co-founder of the Children & Nature Network, works to help parents, teachers and, especially, children have a greater connection with nature. In his description regarding the human costs of alienation from nature, he notes “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, a rising rate of myopia, child and adult obesity, vitamin D deficiency, and other maladies.”

Research suggests that soaking up “green time” can assist many children to build self confidence, reduce the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, restore calm that allows them to focus, and raise their appreciation for conservation.

Try these few suggestions in order to maintain a healthy balance:

  • Place any size piece of wood somewhere along the edge of your yard. In a few days, lift it up and note the assortment of insects that have gathered underneath. You’ll most likely find a worm, a snail, a sowbug or two, and perhaps four beetles. Bring along a magnifying glass to observe. Make special “return dates” on your calendar to discover any changes and if any new interesting insects have taken up residence. With the help of a field guide, identify the critters you do not know.
  • Take your children outside to chill out on a blanket and just watch the clouds roll by. To learn more about what everyone observes, obtain children’s books from a library on weather forecasting and cloud formations.
  • Pick an area to dig into the soil and observe the stones, roots and insects. This can be your children’s little private patch of dirt. Increase enjoyment by adding water to make glorious mud. Besides creating mud pies, I’m sure your kids will rise to the next level and squish out some pretty interesting objects.
  • Build a sandbox. Provide old pots, pans, spoons, and a little water. Cover with a board or tarp at night to prevent outdoor cats from using it as a litter box.
  • Find a specially interesting spot just to sit and watch nature. Observe what types of birds and pollinators appear. Feel the breezes. Provide a drinking station for bees by positioning a shallow water dish with a protruding stone as a landing spot.
  • Plant flowers to attract pollinators. By including milkweed, where the monarch butterflies lay their eggs, you will most likely spot a caterpillar becoming a chrysalis on a nearby leaf or branch and be able to observe the birth of a butterfly.
  • Set up a small table to display what children have collected in their yard. This also can include samples of what they bring home from nature hikes.

It’s fun to explore nature’s enchanting universe in one’s own backyard.

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Larraine writes children’s adventure books on composting and pollinating.Visit,www.castlecompost.com 

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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One comment

  1. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “..a” in “comment_content” *]
    I think I’ll try putting a piece of wood somewhere and then checking on what finds its way under it…sounds interesting.
    Small piece though, with a small note that says This is my experiment, please don’t touch! It’ll be interesting to see if the kids around here figure out that it’s me doing something odd again.
    I guess we are lucky…all the children around here are outside almost all day. Access to watching TV or play video games is limited. Homework is monitored so the kids are not getting an overload of it, or rather useless repetitive worksheets.

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