Lack of access to nature, or nature-deficit disorder, can have a negative impact on children’s mental and physical wellbeing. This is a particular issue for young people growing up in disadvantaged urban areas without the transportation or finances needed to visit nature parks. But nature doesn’t only exist in parks, it is around us everywhere, from trees on street corners to the weeds growing through cracks in the pavement or an empty factory site overgrown with brambles..
Building connections with everyday nature is just as exciting and meaningful for children as visiting grand landscapes. We support children to explore wild spaces in their neighborhood where they can discover spaces for relaxation, play and develop a respect for the natural world.
1) Encourage your child to notice and engage with the nature around them. Nature can be found everywhere – from wild spaces through to parks, gardens and window boxes. You could point out examples of nature – such as trees – as you travel to and from school. This helps your child connect to everyday nature that is accessible to them.
2) Invite your child to talk about nature. Draw their attention to the seasons by pointing out changing colours and foliage. You don’t need to be a botanical expert, just encourage your child to talk about what they can observe. You also don’t need to go to a special area – look at the examples of nature around you on the school run.
3) Give your child space to roam. Children love to explore. When you are in an outdoor space, let them ‘lead expedition’. Follow them as they understand the space and discover it for themselves.
4) Set challenges. Children love to collect things. When you are out on a walk, ask your child to collect something specific such as acorns or simply ask them to collect things that capture their interest. Ask them about what they have collected and why.
5) Play in nature. Children love hide and seek, den building, tree climbing and stone skimming. Take time to have fun with your children outside.