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The joy of getting outside

Young boy getting assistance from a parent zipping up his coat

Feeling the wind in the trees, hearing the birds sing and the water rush by or exploring a nearby forest, it’s all about the joy of spending time in nature.

The benefits of play have been clearly shown but when it’s combined with spending unstructured time outdoors there’s added value. Here’s how to enjoy nature together:

1 Start by going outside. Whether that’s a local park, or a full-blown provincial or national park where you can take an accessible trail walk or nature hike, head out the door. Any kind of contact with trees, plants, animals is better than more TV time.

2 Let them get dirty. A little grime on children’s clothes and tree sap on their hands does no harm. Jumping in puddles, building forts, rolling over logs to look for bugs and worms, and picking up sticks can stimulate senses. Look for ways to engage with your kids as they explore and experience different the textures, sights, and sounds.

3 Play simple games. You don’t need any equipment or expertise to play and modify games such as follow the leader, I spy, hide-and-go-seek, and pick up sticks. However, if you are more ambitious and ready to do a little preparation in advance, you might even want to organize an inclusive scavenger hunt or try geocaching.

4 Our kids need this. Between the hours of sitting in school or in front of screen devices, and concerns over safety, today’s kids are increasingly less likely to get into nature—some even call it nature-deficit disorder. It’s healthy, freedom giving and a great way to foster creativity.

5 Make a list, set a date. Start by making a list of the natural spaces available nearby. Look at your calendar and schedule a weekly outing with one, or all of your children.

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