Reasons to Look Under a Dead Log

1. Nature is not dangerous for children. Take commonsense precautions like sunblock and bug repellent, but if you find yourself on a path by a river on a gorgeous day in May, sunlight streaming through new, unfurling leaves - think of it as an extra dose of vitamin D and keep walking. I'll admit that when I had two children under 2, and when I had two children under 3, and now with three children under 5 - I avoid deep water because I feel it isn't safe with only one parent. There is no need to worry about wild animals or bugs. Hiking with kids is safer than a lot of other activities due to lack of motor vehicles.

2. Children do appreciate nature. Kids need you to model appreciation for nature - to call their attention to beautiful or fascinating aspects of the natural world. This pays off when your 4 year old spontaneously prays, "Thank You, God, for this day! The sky is so blue!" and your 3 year old pipes up, "Mom, I see a forsythia! It's a beautiful yellow forsythia, over there!" My kids love water - small streams that they can dam up with rocks and sticks, or still water to throw stones into. They love sticks, for walking, throwing, weilding, smacking - and in the open woods, they can have sticks. They will eagerly hunt for Signs of the Season, identify plant species and observe animals.
3. It's not difficult to introduce your children to nature. All you need to do is step outside. The book, Last Child in the Woods, makes a point that natural world is not a separate entity from an "artificial world" that you live in, but can be found immediately outside our doors and windows in most cases, if not down the street. Your yard probably contains plenty of plant species, bugs and worms, and you can see birds, squirrels, clouds, sun and moon. This book posits that continuity in observation of a familiar nature spot is more important than far flung exploration, climbing mountains, etc. Louv demonstrates the importance and lasting effect of watching a single area, for instance an empty lot at the end of a city block, or the ditch behind the grocery store where kids ride bikes - or your backyard.
4. There's a lot to do in every season. In our area, hiking can happen all year long, with the exception of really cold snaps where temperatures are in the teens and low twenties. Bundle the kids up, keep the activities short. Include short outdoor play sessions when you do another activity, like a museum or shopping. Snow is the ultimate play dough, blocks, art surface, science experiment... Kids are different - I have one that complains of the cold incessantly and another who will hardly wear his coat. Experiment with what works for your family, but don't stay in once the temperature dips below 50, or refuse to walk in the rain. A rainy day is a day you are living and breathing.

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