You want your children to enjoy holidays in the Wilderness. But you find they are grounded in their smug urban life-styles, with little interest in exploring the Wild?
Your child knows the names of the Big 5 of Africa but can’t name more than 5 trees or birds in your backyard? Well…there is only one way to start. Head out!
Those starting young, have an advantage.
For those starting later…Well…it’s never too late! And to help get you started, here are some useful tricks and tips. My Top Ten on Getting Children started with Nature Walks.
- Begin Small
You must begin small and start with baby steps.
A 20-minute walk or a half hour drive through a thicket in your town or neighbourhood to look for birds, identify trees or just stay still and explore.
Don’t expect the first few sessions to be game-changers. Be patient and keep at it!
Take children out to local gardens/wooded areas and begin with small steps.
2. Avoid an Information Over-doze
It’s not important that your child know the names of every bird and tree he/she sees.
What’s more important is to develop a sense of wonder and awe, a deeper interest and a keen eye.
Don’t bamboozle your child with names and information. There is nothing more putting off.
Let them begin with rolling in the mud, swinging on the branches and have a good time.
3. Don’t fret and fuss over Mud and Wounds!
Children will fall and hurt themselves when they are out.
They will touch the mud and pick up all kinds of things.
Children are naturally curious and will explore.
Don’t kill their natural curiosity by fretting and fuming over bruises and infections.
Let them climb trees. They may fall a few times…but that won’t cut their wings like your discouragement.
Let them roll in the mud. They may dirty their clothes but that won’t kill their free spirit like your protest.
Take it easy and allow them to explore.
When you fuss over clothes and feet getting muddy or the child getting dirty, you sub-consciously discourage them from getting their hands in the mud and exploring more. Hold yourself back.
Mud is not Dirty. The Soil is not Dirty. It’s the magical substance that gives birth to Life and Food.
Peel off your mental conditioning. Allow your child to walk and crawl in the mud, roam in the wilderness, climb trees. That is the best way they will learn to enjoy Nature.
4. Thank out of the Box.
Avoid forcing your child to go for a Nature walk if they are not up to it. Neither will they enjoy it, nor will you.
Try different ways of convincing them to go. Make it a picnic. Invite their favourite friends. Add in some other treats they enjoy.
Introduce Fun and Games. Set up a Treasure Hunt around neighbourhood trees where the clues are related to guessing the names of trees.
Play ‘Spot’-the-Bird’ with your children and their friends. Have a Bird Race. Or a photography contest. Whatever spurs them on to enjoy being outdoors.
5. Document It!
If your child enjoys photography or making Videos, encourage them through this interest. Making a short film or writing a story about their findings and sharing it with their friends or at school might induce them to go out more often.
Encourage them to watch and observe, without placing a premium on what they end up spotting.
Get them to keep a diary of all that they see. It will encourage them when they note that at each outing, they notice and observe more.
6. Get a Good Field Guide
For a beginner in the field, a Guide Book is a must. Whether its trees or flowers, birds or butterflies that you want to watch and observe, a good field guide goes a long way in taking the interest further to the next level.
Moreover, it will help your child to see pictures and read more about what they are seeing and encourage them to go out on their own with the Guide.
I will be posting a list of Recommended Field Guides for Nature outings with children. Follow the site or subscribe to the newsletter to stay posted.
7. Join a Local Nature Club
Every city would have a Nature Club. Find a local one and join them for their weekend outings.
You will get to meet like-minded people, find out about tours and outings, and your child will learn about birding and nature walks.
As your child makes friends in this group and learns more, he/she will look forward to the outings.
Start by getting your Child to join Walks by Local Nature Lovers and Nature Clubs
Especially when it comes to Birding, it is good to have a group to go out with.
While Trees and Flowers are easier to watch and learn about, it is hard for children to spot birds and identify their calls.
Moreover, one needs to be out early in the mornings and one requires to learn how to use binoculars and focus with them. It takes time and effort. But once your child gets the hang of it, it is blissful.
I will soon be posting tips from a bird-watching expert on getting children started with birding. Follow my site or Subscribe to my Newsletter to stay posted.
8. Make it a Date!
Build the Nature Walk into your schedule. Like allotting the morning of the last Sunday of every month or an hour every Saturday morning for a Nature Walk. Else, it will get postponed with every little excuse and never get around to taking place!
10. Playing Guide
Once your child has learnt a few things on the field, allow her/him to be the Guide and take you, grandparents and neighbours, aunts and uncles, friends and relatives out on a walk.
Ask them to point out trees and birds they know about. Impressing others with their knowledge doesn’t fail to hook them. My children love to participate in the Tree Walks I conduct by telling a story or two about Holidays in the Wilderness are Delightful. You will be gifting your child a memorable experience.
My final tip would be to Let Go and Leave them Be. Every outing need not be about seeing or spotting something. Let your child be.
Let him/her watch and observe on their own. They learn a lot by silent observation.
They don’t need to be told and taught all the time. Allow them to discover and learn on their own.
But before you set out and plan big, begin with these small steps. Get your child to enjoy and experience the outdoors. Wilder experiences will come calling soon ?.
I shall end this post with LEISURE, one of my favourite poems by William Henry Davies. I hope the words stir you into taking some time out to step outdoors with your little one.