I recently read somewhere that we (Americans) spend 90% of our time at home INSIDE.  Honestly, I haven’t researched the exact statistic, but I would bet it isn’t too far off with reality.

It’s comfortable inside.  We have everything imaginable at our fingertips:  television, video games, smart phones, music, food, drinks, air conditioning/heat.  It really is a luxurious place to hang out.

BUT, a sedentary lifestyle is a dangerous way to live. A sedentary person will, most likely, have a shorter life expectancy and may suffer from a slew of health problems.

So, here are some ways you can engage your children in nature-based play.  It gets them out of the house and into the great outdoors, which has both health AND educational benefits.

1 )  Bring Toys Outdoors.

And I don’t mean the IPad.

Bring regular old toys that can be used to mimic real life.

Bring dump trucks, shovels, old baking utensils and pans.

Let your children create their own ramps out of wood and let them get their toys messy.

What’s important is that they are reaping the benefits of being outside and enjoying unstructured play.


2)  Go on a nature walk together {NO DISTRACTIONS}.

There is so much to be gleaned from a walk in nature.  It doesn’t always have to be a walk through a magical forest, perse, but even a walk through the backyard looking with a different perspective, could change the way a child interacts with nature.

If you’re looking for a way to stay organized and intentional with unschooling, check out my Unschooling With Purpose Binder  set HERE!

Bring a large baggie to carry “treasures” in and then display them proudly inside your home.  We have nature boxes that we keep cool sticks, rocks, leaves, and other nature-y type things in.  We also have a rock collection and seashell collection.

This triggers my kids’memories of finding these treasures and it sparks some great conversations and interest.


3)  Find an awesome local park to go to.

We are lucky to have the most amazing parks in our community.  They are so jam-packed with fun stuff to do that you could spend a full day exploring and still not see everything.

My kids love to go to the parks to see ducks, turtles and fish.  They love the hiking trails and standing on the water’s edge looking for algae.  These simple activities in nature really instill a love for learning more about the outdoors.

Parks are a great, free way to engage kids in outdoor play.  Use THIS LINK to find a park in your area.  The National Park Service also has a page on their website completely to kids activities.  You can check that out HERE.

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4)  Let Your Kids Get Messy.

is more intriguing to a child than being able to get their hands a little dirty.

When I think back to when I was little, the sky was the limit when it came to my nature explorations.  I had a dresser top full of jars that housed anything from spiders to water beetles to a three-legged frog to a chameleon.  My parents not only allowed me to have my collection, but they also encouraged it and assisted me in housing the creatures.  They taught me to be compassionate toward living things while I learned about them.

Mud pies?  YES!  The more the merrier.  Jumping in mud puddles?  Ab-so-lu-te-ly!  And I loved every minute.  And I wanted to be outside more because it was FUN.

Had my parents been constantly hovering over me making sure I was clean, I probably would have ducked back inside to avoid the hassle.  Instead they let me explore and get messy and grow my love for nature.


5)  Bring the outdoors in.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  Okay, not so much.  But, pets and other creatures can really make nature fun for kids.  Go on a bug hunt with a jar and see what you can find!  Books like the  Ultimate Bug-opedia can help guide your research and get your kids excited about creepy-crawly learning!

Related Post: DIY Ant Farm

Even a stick and rock collection that you take inside to examine can spark some pretty amazing conversations.  Nothing is boring when it comes to nature!

6)  Show an authentic appreciation for nature and engage in nature activities with your child.

“Monkey see, monkey do” is spot on when it comes to our children appreciating nature.  I believe that people are innately drawn to nature, but that can be swayed if parents don’t encourage their children to be part of it.

If you take your child on a hike and then text the whole time, you are indirectly saying that there are more fascinating things to be found on your phone.  However, if you are genuinely involved in explorations with your child, they will follow suit.

You don’t have to be an expert at all things outdoors, but even just questioning “I wonder what made all of these holes in this rock?” sparks interest in children and gets them thinking more in depth about the world around them.



What are some ways you engage your child in nature-based play?  What is your favorite thing to do with your kids outside?  Comment below!  


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