The Digital Detox for Children: 5 Ways to Get Your Kids Loving Nature Again
The summer holidays are here, the sun is shining, the back doors are open and our beautiful natural world is just waiting to be explored by youngsters. Yet these days we might find that our kids prefer sitting in a dark corner with the glow of an iPad screen lighting up their faces, or hiding indoors with a smartphone stuck to their hand.
Today’s digital savvy toddlers are learning to use the iPad before learning how to speak. Children are so hooked to their electronics that 40% of 8 to 12 year olds say that they’d rather sacrifice their summer holiday than give up their mobile phone for a month. Like all parents, I’ve often wondered whether our children have fallen into the digital world so deeply that they’ve forgotten how to unplug and enjoy time without technology.
Here are my top five ways to get kids loving nature instead of apps this summer – parental participation is required too!
Grow Your Own Delicious Garden Treats
The first step to getting kids to love nature again is to get them into their own back garden. Children love to have a purpose, so growing delicious fruits in your garden is a great way to keep kids engaged with nature over time. Plant strawberry bushes, blackberry bushes, or even some small apple trees. Explain in which seasons the fruits will be ripe and ready to pick, so that your little ones can look forward to snacking in the garden.
Create Your Own Outdoor Art
An art project is a great way to get kids excited. Instead of colouring at the kitchen table, get everyone outdoors and collecting sticks, stones, flowers, leaves and whatever they can find. Use these all natural materials to draw and print on a large paper canvas. Leaf prints are always fun for really little children, and nature collages can make art more of a challenge for older ones.
Go Fossil Hunting along the Coast
Take your kids away for a couple of days (with a pre-warning that their gadgets won’t be coming with them) to go fossil hunting. Children are fascinated by the idea of dinosaurs and will love learning about history in a hands-on way.
The National Trust have a full list ofUK fossil hunting sites, but my favourite fossil hunting spot is The Great Orme in Llandudno, North Wales. There are trails all over the incredible carboniferous limestone headland on which ancient coral and large brachiopod fossils can be found. If you’ve only got little ones, there’s a tramway which runs between the Victorian seaside town below all the way to the top of the headland.
Exploring Wild Nature Trails
Encourage your kids to get out in the wild. The UK is home to some amazing nature trails, from woodland walks to mountain tops. Young kids will be more keen to walk if they have some activities to distract them along the way. Try tracking animal footprints, collecting feathers and making bark sketches.
Challenge older children to achieve something they’ve never done before! Reaching the top of Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales, or exploring an old castle, like Tintagel in Cornwall, are great excursions for older kids – and they’ll be able to tell their friends all about their adventures when they’re back at school.
Stargazing and Moon Spotting
When night rolls in, get the family together for a moonlight adventure in the garden. Being out at night is exciting for children, and it’s a great way for them to unwind before bed. Lay down a big picnic blanket and gaze up at the stars. See if anyone can spot some constellations! Moon spotting can be fun for younger kids and they can start keeping track of how the moon changes and when the full moon might come along!
Do you have any other ideas for getting the kids to disconnect from their gadgets and reconnect with nature this summer?
Author Bio: Ben grew up in Conwy, a world heritage site on the North Wales coast. He loves waking up to sea views and exploring beautiful North Wales with his two young sons in his free time. Ben runs Great Escapes Wales, a website providing self-catering holiday cottages in North Wales.