Summer is finally here, and that means one thing for you and your family: It’s time to get outside!
Why does nature rock? An increasing number of studies illustrate that kids who spend time outdoors are happier, healthier and smarter.
Developed by the nation’s leaders in bringing families and nature together, Nature Rocks is a national program to inspire and empower families to play and explore in nature.
This new initiative gives busy parents and caregivers the tools, instructions and tips for quick, easy, inexpensive (or free) activities, so they can enjoy quality family time in nature.
The Nature Conservancy has joined ecoAmerica and the Children & Nature Network, along with REI and the American Camp Association, to make nature rock for your family this summer.
Nature Rocks: Find, Connect, Explore!
At Nature Rocks, parents will find more than 100 fun, easy-to-implement, and interesting activities based on their specific needs (time available, ages of children, location)—inspiring and empowering families to enjoy bonding experiences in nature.
- The parent-friendly Web site offers a Find Nature tool for parents to input their zip code and quickly locate a list of nearby parks, forests, Conservancy preserves and more, including places that offer nature tours, classes and even gear.
- Parents can also take advantage of additional tools to invite family and friends to join in Nature Rocks activities—spreading the fun and turning nature adventures into adventure parties.
Celebrate family bonding via “Nature Staycations”—free or inexpensive, fun, close-to-home activities.
EXPLORING IS GREAT FOR EVERYONEEveryone agrees it’s good to hang with trees. Families and experts say that play in nature is good for the whole family - whether at home, in the back yard, or the local park. The result? Children and families are happier, healthier and smarter.
Nature turns frowns upside down. Studies indicate that children who play and explore outdoors are less stressed and may further benefit by learning confidence and social skills. In nature, kids and families get a chance to move at life’s natural pace, where time disappears, no one is bored, and exploration turns into fun adventure. Key to nature play is the chance for kids to explore on their own terms and with their own choices, so they can discover themselves what is interesting and fun (this builds confidence too!). Choosing to climb a tree, hanging onto a rope swing, jumping over a log, skipping stones —all of these are examples of experiences in which children learn more about themselves, their decisions, and what to do in new settings.
Get out with the bugs to prevent getting a bug. Nothing’s better at keeping away the bugs we don’t want than staying active. And nothing keeps kids active more than fun and interesting things to explore and do. Studies indicate that even as little as 30 minutes of activity a day will keep you healthy. It can be as simple as a bike ride around the neighborhood or a hike in a local park. There are so many options when you’re in nature -- running, jumping, climbing, building and more. Research suggests that the most important thing for kids to make a habit of an active life is being introduced to their activities by a parent. And of course it’s good for the parents too! Try it, you and your kids will like it.
Better focus without any hokus pokus! Nature has all sorts of patterns and parts. And all the parts somehow fit together...
Better focus without any hokus pokus! Nature has all sorts of patterns and parts. And all the parts somehow fit together. When children get to play in the outdoors from the earliest age, they learn - what is what, how things fit together, what they do. Opportunities for regular play in the outdoors — especially in gardens, woods, and creeks -- are especially beneficial.
In nature, kids see, hear, smell and touch things all at the same time, getting them to observe, ask questions and figure out things that have a lot of parts to them. The richness in the outdoors is far more stimulating—and gets the mind working more—than only watching television or playing electronic games. There is a place for that stuff but they are no substitute for what experience in nature brings to kids' development. In fact, children who play and learn on a regular basis in the outdoors take these enhanced skills with them to school—and tend to have higher school achievement and test scores too!
Free is always a great price. Most activities you can do outside don't cost a single penny. The outdoors can offer you your very own economic stimulus package. You want to make your dollar go the extra mile. What could be better than having a great time for free? There are more things you can do in and around your home and nearby that will fill your family’s days with great adventures. Families are event planning their summer “trips” with backyard campouts or hikes in local parks. And another great thing is that you can get all your favorite friends and families together too. It’s not far away, you don’t need a plane ticket or big entrance ticket. All you have to do is go explore!
Unplug, relax and explore, together. Want to do something for the family that is easy and fun for you too? Activities in nature are something the whole family can enjoy. Whether the whole family, a grandparent and a grandchild, a dad or mother and a son or daughter, or others spend time outdoors, they may be changed in positive ways for ever.
With nature games, family activities, or camping, everyone can participate – letting go of the stresses of the day – relaxing and having some creative time to just be. And that time offers the kids a real chance to really benefit from a parents advice, knowledge and support in a way many other activities don’t offer. This is that special time to share, explore, build memories – and through that build real family togetherness. Research indicates that children feel respected and cared for when adults they respect spend time with them outdoors. Kids, in turn, learn how to behave with the family and adults. They also tend to talk and communicate more, engage in conversation. Beyond family, a sense of connection to community and place is nourished. Everyone benefits—from individuals, to families, to whole communities.