Take Time to Enjoy Nature with Kids

This is a milkweed seed
pod with wishies.
            The old adage “the only constant in life is change” is never more present than in nature. Children should witness nature changing firsthand whenever possible. The changes don’t need to be dramatic; like the Colorado River carving out the Grand Canyon. No, changes can be as simple as the yellow dandelion flower turning into white, puffy, “wishy” seeds for a child [or adult!] to make a wish and blow into a crystal blue sky. 
A walk at Wissahickon Creek in Pa.
showed us tadpoles in a puddle. 
Parents don’t need to be botanists or geologists or even a biologist who understands the mechanics of how a tadpole becomes a frog. No. We can just be parents watching alongside our children the tadpole’s transformation in a puddle we discover on a nature walk in the woods. 
But as parents, we need to understand that nature is fascinating to our children. We should allow them time to make discoveries. Let the kids feel the difference in the grit of rocks in the desert or on a mountain and think about the smoothness of stones lining a streambed. Help them to understand the power of water to tumble and smooth sharp jagged rocks. Add a pebble to a cairn, a small marker of stones or rocks on a trail. 

We added a pebble on top of this
           cairn when we passed by it on a trail.

Show your children the difference in a tree’s flaky bark or the shape of its leaves. Help them to smell the scent of pine trees in the mountains or the brine of the ocean beach at low tide. Point out the sea creatures trapped in a tidal pool or a moose cooling himself in mud along a forest trail in the summer. Never approach wild animals in their natural habitat, but merely observe them and ask questions. Then discover the answers together from a park ranger or at a nature museum or even take out a book from the town library or research online. 
You don’t need to go any place in particular to observe nature. My children and I love to lie on blankets on the lawn or in a field and watch the clouds puff by. We use our imaginations and “see” animals and objects in the cloud shapes. Take the time to walk around the neighborhood. The key words in that sentence are “take the time” to walk around. Don’t hurry the children. Allow them to notice acorns from oak trees or the various sizes and shapes of the “helicopter” seeds from maple trees. 

Kicking through brown oak leaves,
we found a purple mushroom.

Watch the bees pollinate the peonies or hydrangea flowers or search for a four-leaf clover in a patch of clover. Pluck a buttercup blossom to hold under your child’s chin to see if he “likes” butter by looking for a golden reflection on the flesh. Crackle through a pile of dried, leathery brown leaves together to discover what’s underneath. Watch a centipede or a salamander wiggle along the path. Any season can be an adventure when you take time to notice the change in nature. 

Centipede on the Appalachian Trail

            Whether you’re hiking or camping with kids, please remember to take your time to notice your surroundings. I hope you found this more reflective post helpful about spending time in nature with kids. Please share any experiences you may have about exploring nature with children in a comment here at Camping with Five Kids. It would be truly appreciated. Enjoy your adventure! 

Little orange newt!


13 thoughts on “Take Time to Enjoy Nature with Kids”

  1. My son loves to explore outside. He would spend all day outside if I let him. I always let him explore his surroundings and never rush him. He likes to collect rocks and pick grass and flowers. I always try and identify anything he finds. Great post as always!

  2. Hi Victoria Marie – so true … let kids learn as life unfolds around them … one can always learn something, ask questions etc … in this day and age – look things up once home! Or take photos and then check things out … but just make stories around one's time outside.

    Some kids just enjoy using their imagination for their stories …

    Keeping a journal too perhaps … or write those stories down – only if they want to! Cheers Hilary

  3. Absolutely, Hilary! Thanks for these great suggestions. I've only been able to get the kids to keep journals during our camping trips. Those journals are treasure for them now, though.

    It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids. Thanks for sharing your insight. Enjoy your weekend!

  4. That is the best thing to do, Michelle. Exploration takes lots and lots of time with young children. It's always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids. Thanks for sharing your insight. Enjoy your weekend!


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