As the temperature rises and the days get longer, it can be hard to compete for a child’s attention with a tablet screen. Finding ways to get your family excited about heading outside can be challenging, but not impossible. According to the National Wildlife Federation, children who spend time outside tend to be more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive, and show better concentration. In addition to that, the NWF cites participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11 as the best way to cultivate concern for the environment later in life – a concern that may be more important now than it’s ever been before! Read on for 5 outdoor family activities to do this summer!
1. Go to the Zoo!
For many people, zoos are their only chance to see some of the world’s most amazing, elusive, and endangered wildlife species. Zoos are a prime opportunity to capture your children’s attention and get them interested in nature and the world around them. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation.
Take your family to one of 231 AZA-accredited institutions and get up close and personal with species from around the world while feeling confident knowing AZA’s accreditation standards for animal care and welfare are comprehensive and extend far beyond the standard USDA license.
2. Nature Time!
The Audubon Society is a nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of birds and other wildlife and the habitats they call home. A quick internet search will yield your state’s Audubon society, where you can locate the center nearest to you. These centers are great resources for nature walks, hikes, educational activities, and special events at a low cost! Here your kids can become acquainted with some of your area’s treasured forests and conservation areas while learning about local wildlife. Best of all, your admission ticket purchase advances The Audubon Society’s conservation efforts.
3. Visit a local farm
With knowledge and concern for nature comes knowledge and concern for our food and where it comes from. Help your children gain a greater understanding of what’s on their plate by taking them to visit a local farm, like Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport, Maine! These farms depend on the support of the other members of their community and patronizing them helps to lower your carbon footprint! Some farms even offer volunteer opportunities. Your family can get busy lending a hand during the peak of the season and your children can witness firsthand where the contents of your refrigerator come from.
4. Transform your own backyard
Reimagine your backyard to get your kids excited about the space they probably feel they know every inch of! If you can’t find an activity-free weekend to take your kids camping, it can be easily accomplished by pitching a tent beyond your backdoor. You can purchase or build a small fire pit and recreate the whole experience for some family fun– right down to the marshmallows! Give your children the opportunity to experience nature at night by pointing out bats, fireflies, and the sounds of crickets and tree frogs. The Perseids meteor shower, which comes around every August, is an ideal time to move the family outside for a night.
5. Plant for the Future
If your family is more interested in daytime outdoor activities, consider involving your kids in planting a pollinator garden. In January, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee became the first bee species to be added to the United States’ endangered species list, due to pressure from disease, pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss.
You can do your part to lend these important insects a hand by researching native wildflowers and plants that bloom throughout the season. Your kids can help you pick out the plants, sow seeds, plant perennials, weed, and of course, keep an eye out for pollinator friends. Once you’re finished, you can even register your pollinator garden online and join the ranks of other folks supporting pollinators under pressure!
All of these ideas guarantee fun days, afternoons, and evenings spent outdoors. However, it’s important to keep in mind where children learn best – your example! Whenever you can, emphasize the value of nature and just how awe-inspiring and precious the natural world is.