This past year, we have all experienced an increase in screen time, either in virtual classrooms, virtual meetings, and virtual family visits while also experiencing a decrease in time spent outdoors. Even before the year 2020, there had been a decline in the amount of time that children spent outdoors. However, you can “rewild” your child by having them explore the environment and through nature-play.
Connecting to nature has many positive impacts on the lives of children and adults. Spending time outdoors can benefit not only children’s physical health, but their social, mental and environmental health. Playing in nature allows children to be creative, problem-solve and develop positive interactions with the environment. Nature-play in an outdoor setting is an amazing way for families to reconnect to nature and disconnect from technology. Nature-play is just that, letting children play in nature while using natural elements, such as rocks, mud, sticks and leaves to play with.
Now that the weather is warming up, it’s a great time to get outside and “rewild,” or reconnect everyone with nature. Here are some easy nature-based activities for you to enjoy with your family:
Have fun putting a leaf puzzle back together. Find a large leaf, break it into smaller pieces, then have everyone put it back together.
Adjective Scavenger Hunt!
Explore nature and learn to use adjectives. Create a list of adjectives such as soft, hard, fuzzy, spiky; either as a family or write down words for younger children. Explore nature finding items to match the adjectives, then ask the children to describe the items with the adjectives.
Deer Ear Tag!
Do you “deer” what I “deer?” is a game of listening tag. Have one person be the “deer.” They keep their eyes closed and can only use their sense of hearing, or “deer ears” to tag people. Everyone else will form a large circle around the deer and try to “capture” the deer by sneaking up on it while being as quiet as possible. If the deer hears anyone, they point in their direction and they have to go back to the starting circle. This game works best in a “noisy” environment, filled with leaves or sticks, that make noise as you walk across them.
Feed the Birds!
Create bird feeders for wild birds. First, you will need some type of fat (nut butter, lard, or solid vegetable fat), bird seeds, pinecones and string. Have the kids spread the fat on the pinecone and then roll in the seeds. Find a good spot to hang up the feeder and spend time observing it to see what birds visit!
If you and your family are excited for more nature-play, visit Oxbow Meadows on South Lumpkin Road in Columbus. There we host hands-on activities and animal displays, or you can hike our trails and spend free time in our nature play-inspired Discovery Forest.
To see a list of upcoming programs and event dates, visit oxbow.columbusstate.edu.
See our article on Oxbow’s Summer Programming.
References: Dankiw, K.A., Tsiros, M.D., Baldock, K.L., & Kumar, S. (2020). The impacts of unstructured nature play on health in early childhood development: A systematic review. PLoS ONE, 15(2). Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/3mcHAvQ. Reilly, J. J., & Tremblay, M. S. (2021, March 16). If in doubt, send them out!: Rewilding your children post-pandemic. Independent. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3sFEqmL