How Parenting and Teaching with Nature is a Powerful Tool
February 18, 2021
Growing up my parents made it a point to encourage an interest in being outside. They chose a home with excellent green space, took vacations with a heavy outdoor influence, and taught my siblings and I all they knew about nature. They used it as a tool to connect, teach, and parent us. We spent many hours helping my mom in her garden, making up games in our mud kitchen, and going on hiking, fishing, beach, and camping adventures as a family. They taught me how to enjoy, use, learn from, and find peace in nature. It goes without saying that I want the same experience for my kids. Read on to find out How Parenting and Teaching with Nature is a Powerful Tool.
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Using nature as a tool to parent can be done by anyone with an interest in the outdoors.
Even those with little to no green space at their fingertips can make it happen. If you have an interest, no matter how small, just share it with your kids! For example, rock collecting, bird watching, or hiking in the park and all common interests. Working parents, Stay at home parents, Teachers, and Kids in any kind of school situation can use and benefit from nature experiences.
I grew up in Baltimore City so there was a true lack of nature-filled areas to frolic in. However, my parents knew how to seek out green spaces for us to enjoy. They modeled a high interest in nature even though we weren’t fully immersed in the ideal outdoor environment. My Mom got me involved in Girl Scouts and she joined as a leader. She could shape my experience. Therefore we had more outdoor camping adventures than most normal Girl Scout Troops.
Any person, any age can benefit and participate in learning with Nature.
You can alter the subjects being taught quite easily. For example, if you are learning about rocks- the little kids can compare size, shape, and color. Older kids can learn about how and what they are made of. Making connections to things in other areas of life is fun and easy to do as well. Like spelling the word rock or creating addition and subtraction problems with rocks. Using nature, fresh air, and sunshine as tools for a learning environment are powerful!
Using the outdoors and nature as a parenting and teaching tool is beneficial to Kids and Parents.
Benefits for Kids
Builds Curiosity and Motivation to Learn. The great outdoors is full of the unknown. Therefore you can spend time in Nature every day and still find new things to learn about with Nature as your subject. My kids love finding unique leaves and stones. When we are out in nature if something is discovered that they don’t know about they ask and I teach! If I don’t know, we look it up together. This summer we are going to use a flower press and save some of our favorite flowers.
Nature models beauty. The beauty of the type that we can mimic in Art and Literature. For instance, imagine you see the colors of a beautiful sunset and make a painting or drawing with those colors. Similarly, think about creating a story about a bug or an animal when observing the great outdoors.
Fosters adventure with its endless mysteries and frontiers. To a kid- the natural world must seem limitless. Adventure can be created anywhere or any time you discover something new as well as when you go on an old favorite trip! Every time I take my kids to a new hiking spot I tell them it’s an adventure. Sometimes they get to choose the adventure by picking which trail we hike.
Encourages and motivates kids to test their boundaries. Can I jump over this stream? Am I able to climb this tree? Can I learn this many bird names? the outdoors has a nature playground. Climbing rocks and trees can feel like a right of passage to any nature-loving family.
Grows their physical and mental confidence as kids test those boundaries. Yes! I can jump the stream. Yes! I can climb the tree. Yes! I can learn each and every bird. Having a confident kid comes from letting them make some of the decisions and test their own abilities. Read more about creating safe and positive boundaries in Free-Range Kids.
Breeds enthusiasm for self-reliance. Learning how to take care of yourself on a hiking or camping adventure is an example of self-reliance. This makes the idea that it’s fun to learn survival and self-care in the outdoors real. Things like reading a map or carrying your own snacks and water. These are tools that will follow kids forever.
Reminder to be grounded and live in the present. Nature surrounds you and pushes away anxieties and pressures that the inside world holds tight to us. Jumping into a cool lake, being surrounded by warm beach sand, or sitting in a tree and feeling the wind blow the leaves around you are all experiences that can wash away the stress and pressure- even if just for a moment.
Helps to make connections emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Connections will be a tool for bringing nature into their everyday lives and future selves. Connection breeds interest and interest breeds knowledge!
Teaches compassion organically through an interest in the preservation of the natural world you are teaching them to love. Modeling “leave no trace” and even cleaning up messes that others left behind are great ways for kids to learn how to care for our natural environment.
Playing outside can create a readiness to get your hands dirty because we all know the best way to experience things is using all 5 senses! You can’t learn about dirt without putting your hands in it. Check out this post about Creating a Mud Kitchen for Your Kids.
Benefits for Parents
Many of the above-mentioned benefits for Kids will also work for Moms and Dads!
Low cost! Nature can be free or cheap to enjoy for almost anyone. You can use your backyard, neighborhood park, or even the trees you can find along the street in most urban neighborhoods. Nature is everywhere! Get creative! Look for an upcoming post on how to find nature experiences for your family anywhere!
Nature can be a great way to escape screen time for the whole family. There is something about nature that distracts from the entrapment of video games, phones, and computers. As I type this the sun is streaming through the window and making me want to be out in it! Check out more information on Moderating Screen Time.
It can be a tool for parents to model a passion for the outdoors and keeping it beautiful by leaving no trace and showing others love and interest in conservation.
It can be easy to interest kids of all ages and abilities. You can have your whole family working on a common goal like building a fire and everyone can help at their own ability. Tinder collector, Fuel collector, Wood arranger, Fire Building, and Fire Upkeep. Kids learn in different ways. If you want to learn more about the style your kid learns best check out the Learning Styles Quiz. Also, keep your eyes out for Nature-Inspired Learning Games Post coming soon.
Having messy, dirty, discoveries is easier to clean up and enjoy fully outside!
Where to Get Your Nature On?
Don’t let your location stop you from using the great outdoors as a parenting tool. The more urban your location the more creative you will have to get with planning natural adventures, but I am here to help.
Nature exists everywhere.
Seek out locations to grow your own plants and trees.
Look for wildlife or signs of wildlife.
Get a book from the library to learn about urban wildlife.
Take field trips out of the city when you can.
Help take care of the green areas like city parks and neighborhood gardens.
Coming soon a whole post on how to use Nature as a Parenting Tool in Urban Areas!
How to find places that fit your family’s natural interests.
Use your backyard or your property. Explore what you have already. You might be surprised, even the smallest of yards have nature.
Make your situation even better by adding gardens, birdhouses, and bird feeders to your home green space.
Take walks and notice the great outdoors around your home or on any hiking adventure you take.
Check out some local wildlife-loving groups on Facebook.
When is it good to practice parenting with nature and the outdoors?
This will very much depend on your family lifestyle. I really encourage you to be outside anytime you have a chance! I know in this fast-paced world you have to just do the best you can.
Details to consider when thinking about when to have nature and outdoor time include:
Time of day
Age of kid
Non Working parents
Stay @ Home parents
But really it’s good to use nature any time you can!
What does Parenting with Nature even mean?
This can be different for every person. Some will go for full immersion and some will just use their nature time as they walk through the park. There is no right or wrong way or amount. As long as you are making an effort to get outside it counts! Spend time talking about, learning about, thinking about, and being in nature. Find an interest you and your children can share together. When you are out in nature it is easier to live in the present moment and focus on your children.
How to use nature as a tool for parents?
Parenting with Nature is something I always liked about how my parents raised me. I also find a lot of my inspiration from several parenting groups on Facebook.
Use Nature to ground your family- for example when the world is going crazy around us taking a walk and enjoying simple things like fresh air, sunshine or rain can remind you to live in the present moment. A great many people used nature as a go-to retreat during this Pandemic we have all been experiencing.
Creating Common Goals or interests. There is always something new to learn about with nature- it can be found in every school subject but especially science. Other topics to explore include but are not limited to conservation, survival skills, and physical feats.
Fit your activities to your child’s learning style. Since nature can fit in every subject, it is effortless to differentiate or make it special for every age and learning style. Find out more about your child’s learning style here!
Parenting with nature doesn’t have to be full immersion like homesteading and homeschooling. All you need to do is just encourage awareness when you are outside. Daily walks, storytimes, and backyard/green space exploration are all great additions to the tool of Parenting with Nature.
When you are out exploring with your child, it is simple toFill their attention cupso they won’t need as much attention when it’s back to work.
Encouraging kids to be independent in nature can help with resilience, confidence, and teaches independent decision-making skills. Learn more about encouraging outside independence with this article about Free-Range Parenting.
Being out in nature has many benefits for parents teachers and kids alike. We should truly consider nature and the great outdoors as a tool in our parenting arsenal. How Parenting and Teaching with Nature is a Powerful Tool is I hope an inspiring article for any nature lover, no matter where you live.
Check out some other nature inspired Blogs I have created for more ideas!