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Amid growing environmental concerns at a time when group activity is curtailed, encouraging your child to bond with nature can achieve two important goals, researchers say.

According to a recent study by North Carolina State University, solitary outings and shared outings with parents help children to not just understand and enjoy nature, but to build respect and personal concern for preserving natural resources. 

Preschoolers on a walk outside can identify flower colors, inspect insects, and collect and trace fallen leaves.

Older children can benefit from picnics in the park or in a wilderness area. They can do a soil test, create a wildlife habitat, learn to identify trees and shrubs and research their contributions to the environment.

Hiking, fishing, skiing, surfing and other outdoor sports are far more than a source of fun, researchers note. They boost physical health and emotional well-being and, especially when paired with parental questions and input, they inspire in children of all ages a connection to and an interest in nature and the environment.

Now, with screens taking up more of your child’s time than ever, health experts agree that it’s critical for parents to provide opportunities for outdoor activity and nature study.

  • Set up a treasure hunt – Make a short list of things for younger kids to look for outside, such as a smooth rock, something green or something that grows on a bush.
  • Schedule sidewalk activity – Skating, bicycling, skateboarding or scooter-riding are great ways to keep kids moving.
  • Plan a camping trip – Spend hours or days in a mountain or seashore environment. Talk about the difference between pets and wild animals. Talk about how things grow, about keeping the environment safe and about how tides work.
  • Try photography – Older kids can use a phone, but even young children can use a simple camera to photograph things in nature. Talk about the plants, animals or seashells they captured. Frame a few of their best photos and put the rest in scrapbooks. 

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