10 Ways to Celebrate Nature With Kids

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Article contributed by Naomi Krueger. (Meet all our writers here.)

For the beauty of the earth,

For the beauty of the skies,

For the love which from our birth

Over and around us lies

Lord of all, to Thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.

This hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth” by Folliott S. Pierpoint is such a joy to sing, because it reminds me to praise the God who created the wonders of the earth.

I’ve always loved being out in nature. The rustle of leaves, the sight of wild flowers, the fresh taste of spring air has always made my heart sing. I feel close to God when I look up at a starry sky or glide across a lake of glass in a canoe.

But kids don’t always know how to slow down and appreciate the world around them.

Not all children have learned to love nature or appreciate its connection to God yet. Imaginative moments in meadows or by woodland streams sometimes get passed by for video games or organized sports on artificial turf. But the good news is there are many ways parents can help cultivate a love for God’s creation at home, in the everyday moments of interacting with the natural world.

I don’t have children of my own yet, but lately I’ve been trying to make a point to notice nature with the kids in my life—my nieces and nephews or the kids at my church. The other day I showed six-year-old Henry how to throw a maple seed in the air and watch it twirl to the ground. He wanted to know where the seed came from, so we went looking for a maple tree and I showed him how to identify a maple tree by its leaves. Isn’t God’s creation beautiful?

Inspiring an awe for creation in children doesn’t require acres of open prairie land or lakeshore property. You can pay attention to the details of nature anywhere you are.

Here are 10 ideas for noticing nature with children:

  1. Pay attention to what kids are noticing.
    Kids are naturals at noticing things in nature. When they stop to pick a clover or crouch down to watch ants crawling along the sidewalk, kneel down next to them. Ask them what they see. Wonder together about what you’re witnessing.
  2. Pull the car over.
    If you’re on a quiet street or country road and you see deer standing in the ditch or a field of sunflowers, or a particularly large tree, pull over. Sit in silence and watch or get out and explore. It’s okay not to be in a hurry.
  3. Go on hikes
    Look for parks and trails in your city and explore them as a family. Make enjoying nature a part of your family culture, enjoying different outdoor activities depending on the season. Go hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, or even picnicking together. These experiences will strengthen your family bond and renew your appreciation for God’s creation.
  4. Take a vacation.
    Next time you’re planning a family vacation, consider camping or visiting a national park. Focusing your vacation around the outdoors will teach that God’s creation is a place for rest and fun.
  5. Grow something.
    Plant a vegetable or flower garden, whether it’s in your yard, a window box, or a pot on your patio. Give your kids, or kids visiting your home, the chance to water, weed, and harvest the plants. Watch the plants grow and marvel together at creation in action.
  6. Be an example.
    Kids grow up to value the things their parents and caregivers value, so set a good example by getting out into nature yourself. When kids see adults exclaiming over a turtle or skipping rocks on a lake, they’re more likely to follow.
  7. Set limits on inside time.
    Similar to setting limits on screen time, parents can limit the time kids spend indoors. Even if it’s cold out, encourage children to play outside. You may face resistance at first, but once they’re out there making their own fun the trick will be getting them to come back in!
  8. Encourage exploration.
    If your kid is a daydreamer or a wanderer or a tree climber, encourage it! Nature is not something to be feared. Let them touch the bugs that make you squirm or climb the rock that makes you worry a little. Let them test their limits and discover things for themselves.
  9. Start a collection.
    Press autumn leaves and glue them to a notebook. Collect colorful rocks from the river in a jar. Take pictures of the bugs you discover that bring you joy and make a photo album. Take that “perfect” walking stick home that you found on a hike. These collections are tangible reminders of the good memories and feeling of awe felt the first time you came across that particular object.
  10. Be creative.
    We were created in the image of God, which means we’re creators too! Dig deep into your creative side to come up with ways to enjoy and appreciate nature that is totally unique and personal to you and the kids in your life. And have fun!

As you’re exploring the natural world, always remember to reflect praise back to the God who created it all. Every acorn, every blade of grass, every squirrel and bunny were created by the God who created us! Amazing.

For the wonder of each hour

Of the day and of the night,

Hill and vale and tree and flower,

Sun and moon and stars of light:

Lord of all, to Thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.

Photo credit: Themiz

Originally Published 9/1/2015

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