5 Tips on Spending More Time with Children in Nature

– Posted in: Garden Musings

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“If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder…..he or she needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carson

There has been a lot of talk over the past decade about how much time our children spend daily with technology and how little time they spend with nature.

For the majority of gardeners and nature lovers, it may feel almost counter-intuitive that this has become a movement and that a flood of research is showing that yes, indeed, there are significant benefits to being outdoors.

Some of you may be thinking “When did nature go out of style?”

Watch my short video below on children and nature!!

“Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life.John Muir

I think that practically anyone of you who is reading this article and is thirty years old on up can identify with the positive role that spending time in nature has had on your development and character.

Close your eyes for just a minute and think about a few fun times from your childhood that you spent in nature. Easy to do, isn’t it?

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My daughter, Erika, who is the mother of a magnificent 9 month old, Guy, has talked to me on numerous occasions about her memories from childhood of spending a lot of time outside running around, playing kickball in the cul-de-sac, climbing trees, hanging in the garden with me, and just being in nature.

She thanks me for not letting her watch Madonna on MTV: Today she is adamant about not allowing Guy to play with technology or sit in front of the TV. Her attitude is that he will be inundated enough with it when he goes to school.

And guess what? She’s right. I have observed Guy numerous times in his stroller gazing at the leaves in the trees, taking in the sounds and sights: I witness his senses being awakened and heightened as he takes in the fresh air,  sunshine, flora and fauna.

“What do parents owe their young that is more important than a warm and trusting connection to the Earth…?”   Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth

How Parents Feel About The Kids and Nature

I applaud parents, relatives, and communities for the hard work they do in raising children. When I’m a speaker at an event or as a coach, parents express their concerns about their kids not spending enough time outside.

But the problem is this: They don’t know what to do about it.

Parents feel helpless in the face of society’s emphasis on technology and achievement.

They have given over their power to our culture’s values and often use phrases like “That’s just the way it is” when discussing this subject with me.

“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.”           Valerie Andrews, A Passion for this Earth

The Truth is This

Guess what? The belief that ‘that’s just the way it is’ is a ridiculous cultural belief system that you’ve been brainwashed into thinking this is reality.

The truth is this: If you wait for the culture and schools to lead the charge on this subject, you’re wasting your time.

You need to believe that you have the power to make the change: and you will!

You, as parents, relatives, friends, and community are the backbone of the “Kids Back To Nature” movement. All of us can get involved now, no matter where you live or what age, in helping our kids (and ourselves) be outside more, connected with the natural world.

If you know you want to make the change but feel lost on how to go about doing it, not to worry: There are plenty of terrific resources which I will list below.

The Benefits

The positive impact of spending time in nature are plentiful.

By now, it’ known that spending time in nature and gardening promotes optimism, generosity, social bonds, helps to mitigate ADHD and obesity, and can have an impact on creativity, concentration, and even academics.

For a robust listing of the health benefits, check out the list on National Wildlife Federation.

But one of the most gratifying benefits of being in nature more with children is that allows you to develop stronger relationships.

Something as simple as going on a walk in the woods, nature trail, or at a park near your home, with your child can equal time spent together. When I used to take walks with my daughter on a nature trail near our home, it was her time to talk with me about issues in her life that she was grappling with.

“It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to…The feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.”Vincent Van Gogh

5  Easy Tips

Give your child the gift of nature from the time they are born. Even as a newborn, you can take a child to the window and show them the sky or when out in a stroller, point out the trees and flowers. Integrate nature into their lives from the beginning and familiarize them with the words that are associated with nature so that they build up a nature vocabulary.

 Spend time in a park. From infancy on up, spending time in a park is a wonderful way of being outside. Lay a blanket down on the grass, bring some food and drinks, and let your child explore the elements surrounding them, everything from the blade of grass to the clouds in the sky, to the birds scavenging about.

Maintain a positive attitude about making nature a part of your child’s life. View it as an opportunity, rather than another thing that you ‘should do’. Kids will pick up on your enthusiasm. Even though they may give you a tough time initially, before you know it, they’ll be asking you for more nature activities

Schedule nature activities: Put it on the calendar. If you’re casual and have the attitude that “maybe we can take a walk in the woods this weekend if we have the time”, it’s not going to happen. To make nature a part of a child’s every day life, you need to be focused and committed.

Play hooky. Yep, you heard me. Take your kid out of school for a day ( I used to love doing it) and spend at least part of the day doing a special activity in nature. You might want to go pick apples or strawberries, on a hike to a state park, or even to a fresh air flower market.

 “Here is this vast, savage, howling  mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man.” Henry David Thoreau

Excellent Resources

Children and Nature Network

Nature Conservancy

American Hiking Society

National Wildlife Federation

Natural Start Alliance

Nature-Based Preschools

Books To Read

Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life, Richard Louv

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv

Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children, Angela Hanscom

A Little Bit of Dirt: 55+ Science and Art Activities to Reconnect Children with Nature, Asia Citro

“I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.”  Rachel Carson

Now it’s your turn!

Share nature activities that you do with your own children, or as a relative, friend, or community member.

If you enjoyed this article, please share with friends and family members on social media. Doing so can help make a positive impact on other peoples’ lives and it’s good karma!  With love, Fran

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
8 Comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Christina salwitz June 16, 2016, 10:18 am

This was a lovely piece! Don’t forget that your local independent garden centers are incredible places to learn about nature as well. There are events and classes for all ages to come together and engage with plants, insects, edibles, birds, fragrance, crafts with natural elements, as well as the visual and tactile learning opportunities for children where they can see and learn about plants from all over the world in one place! YOu local horticultural experts are eager to share their depth of knowledge to delight, entertain and encourage kids of ALL ages to spend time with nature. 🙂

Karen Chapman June 16, 2016, 10:36 am

A wonderful post Fran-how sad that we need to be reminded. As a young mum in England I would take our two children out to go puddle jumping in the rain, gather leaves for projects in fall, collect moss, stones and flowers for mini Easter gardens ( before miniature gardens were in vogue!). Our family vacations always involved hikes with me automatically pointing out and naming flowers, trees, lichen, berries. I wasn’t doing any of this consciously-it’s just how we lived. They even had a little patch of garden of their own where they grew easy flowers and miniature vegetables from seed.
Today my adult daughter has her own garden, asks for tickets to garden tours for her birthday and is learning to grow her own food. Our son is another story….but he does at least appreciate home grown fruit and veg!!

Fran Sorin June 17, 2016, 3:59 am

Hi Karen,

Your children were very lucky, indeed, to have you as a Mom. It is sad today that our culture even needs to be reminded how important it is for our kids to be outside and feel connected to nature….as if it’s a dear friend. I would guess that a lot of us gardeners had favorite trees from our childhood that we can tell stories about. How wonder how many kids can do that today? The good news is that change is taking place. And most parents really do want to do what’s best for their kids. They just need to be shown how. Thanks for your comment. Fran

Fran Sorin June 17, 2016, 4:02 am


Thanks for the reminder. Yes, I agree….especially if the gardener in the house can ‘kill 2 birds’ with one stone. A question for you. Do people in your community come to events at the independent garden center who are not gardeners? Just curious. Hope you’re having a great spring. Fran

James Weisz June 17, 2016, 5:14 pm

Hey Fran,

I couldn’t agree more with you about how kids of today are stuck with technology and move away from nature. As of now, every second kid has a smartphone in his hand. Back in our childhood, we used to play in the fields in our leisure, unlike staring at the computer screen. It’s high time that people should consider getting off their desks and taking a stroll in the woods.

P.s., I wonder why you haven’t enabled capitalized text in the comments

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Nature lover September 30, 2016, 4:58 am

I cannot agree more with your words about kids not spending enough time in nature. It’s a shame how many of us do not take advantage of the undeniable benefits such as stimulation of a child’s imagination and development of qualities that every human being must have, but most of all sympathy and understanding of how the natural world works. Technology is taking all this away from them and as much as parents try to keep their kids away from it, it just works as a magnet for them. Your article is much appreciated!

Fran Sorin September 30, 2016, 4:35 pm

Hey nature lover,

Thanks for your kind words. I continue to be hopeful about our childrens’ futures when i see groups like Children’s Nature Network that is leading the charge to make nature an integral part of every child’s life. Warmly, Fran

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