With all the modern tech toys, tablets, games, social media sites and streaming videos, it can be difficult to get your kids to go outside. With children so removed from the nature around them, it is no wonder that more than three-quarters of adolescents and adults in the U.S are vitamin D deficient. How can you encourage them to get out into the sun and into the great outdoors? Here are three entertaining and educational activities you can participate in with your children to help them to gain a greater appreciation for nature and the landscapes that surround them.
Geology, the study of rocks, is an excellent subject to stir your child’s interest in the earth and its composites. Choose a spot in a rural, forested landscape near your home, grab your hiking boots, a collecting bag and a rock identification guide, then set your kids loose in the open air. Each area has rocks and plant life indigenous to its region, so collecting, examining and analyzing rocks from specific local spots can unveil a wealth of information about that area. Slate rock, for instance, is easily identified and has been mined in central Virginia for two centuries. A metamorphic rock, slate can be used to inform kids about the heat and pressurization produced by the earth to create it.
Fall is the perfect time of year to get out of the house and witness the wonder of Mother Nature. With the changing of the season effortlessly lends itself to lessons on climate change and plant and animal behavior. Take your children to an area filled with trees to teach them about the botanical events that occur as summer gives way to autumn. Explaining that the leaves change colors because of the shift in temperature and daylight hours, which results in the leaves ceasing to make their chlorophyll “food.” Once the chlorophyll breaks down, the green hues change to oranges and yellows. If you’re lucky, you might catch sight of some geese flying south for the winter, opening up a dialogue about the migratory patterns of birds.
Circle of Life
Though it may not be apparent at first, hunting is a excellent activity that helps children appreciate nature. By taking your children along on hunting trips, they are able to see where food comes from and understand that it does not just magically appear in the grocery store. Hunting can be used to teach them the importance of species equilibrium and how a healthy ecosystem depends on a balance of nature and animals. Additionally, teaching children to only hunt enough to eat and to use the entire harvest for the other resources demonstrates how to be responsible and respectful when in nature. Hunting, though, must be conducted under the right circumstances and with the right training and credentials. Those that reside in the state of Virginia can even obtain a hunter education card online.
With children so overwhelmingly distracted by modern gadgets and conveniences, it is up to the parents to remind them that there is a big, wondrous world out there just waiting to welcome them. And if that presents you with the opportunity to teach them a few things about life and the environment in which we live, all the better. But they don’t have to know it’s educational.
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