There’s no better time than now to inspire children about the natural environment around them. And by incorporating a little fun in the great Saanich outdoors, “learning” just becomes part of the experience!
For a few go-to suggestions about exploring nature with children, we checked in with Saanich Parks’ Rick Hatch, assistant supervisor of natural areas, and Katie Turner, Park Stewardship Coordinator.
“Let’s try to get children to learn about nature and our environment by being in it as much as we can this fall. Nature play and learning can encourage care for the earth, and contribute to environmental stewardship in adulthood. It’s is easy, fun, and healthy,” they note.
Here are 10 of their favourite tips for learning outside:
- Find the right place: With 172 parks in Saanich, there are many places to choose, from nature-inspired playgrounds, to quiet forest, streams and meadows.
- Keep it balanced: Balance unstructured fun and free time with more focused nature study opportunities.
- Dress for the elements: Dress for comfort to avoid miserable children.
- Use your senses: We learn about the world around us by smelling, seeing, hearing and touching. Incorporating multi-sensory activities into outdoor leaning is so much fun.
- Experiment – do science! Sort rocks, cones, sticks and other bits of nature, see what floats or sinks. Remember to leave everything you find in the park, and please do not pick wild plants.
- Make nature art: Children love art projects of every kind, so do a bark rubbing, sketch a leaf, paint with mud, and then learn a bit along the way.
- Let nature be your teacher: Find creative ways to practise numbers, look for colours, symmetry and patterns in nature, and connect with First Nations stories about local plants and animals.
- Hands-on messy lessons: Don’t expect kids to stay clean when learning and mucking about outdoors. Many studies show that messy play is one of the best ways for children to learn and develop, and what better place to do this than outside?
- Learn the 10 essentials: Inspire independence by getting children to carry their own backpacks containing items for outdoor survival.
- Finally…remember to tread gently: It may be common sense but we are guests in parks. It’s up to us to teach children the basic courtesies. Pack out food and trash. Don’t take anything except photos – yes, even a stick is a habitat for a bug.