17 ways for kids of all ages to connect with nature without leaving home
It’s easier than you imagine to take those first steps to inspire your children to be true kids of the wild.
Nurture nature from birth
Start creating connections with nature as soon as you can.You may already be doing lots of things without even knowing it and these initial simple suggestions don’t even require you to leave the house! Start when your children are born and they will effortlessly grow into kids of the wild. There are hundreds of things to try, here are a few suggestions.
17 Indoor Nature Ideas
- Soft toys
- Teddy bears picnic
- Watch insects
- Wildlife inspired toys
- Grow indoor plants
- Wild-inspired TV
- Nature-themed crafts
- Birthday ring
- Bed bouncing
- Stair swing
- Christmas tree or evergreen wreath
- Homecoming tree
- Butterfly growing
- Season tree
- Create a nature display area
If you need reasons why nature is so important, check out my post Wild Kids rock – 11 reasons to get into the wild NOW
1. Soft toys – most babies receive a soft toy at birth so you are starting with nature right there.
Anatomically similar toys are better than cartoon or stylised ones. You can make up singing rhymes for favourite toys, to encourage understanding of where the animals fit into our world.
I’m Caroline’s Otter, furry and brown
With a long soft tail I swim upside-down
I live in the bank of a river in a hole
And I’m friends with the rats and the water voles.
I’m Caroline’s penguin, black and white
I spend all day living on the ice
I slide on my tummy and waddle on my feet
And I swim in the sea to catch fish in my beak.
I’m Caroline’s Otto; a big brown bear
I live in the woods making people feel scared
I climb trees, hibernate, eat the food I love
And I love waking up with a big bear hug!
2. Books – Most ‘first’ books use the topics of nature or animals (or moving vehicles/heavy machinery) giving immediate visual cues about the natural world (and how cool giant diggers are!)
3. Pets – one of Sir David Attenborough’s first steps in nature was being given a pet fire salamander as a child, and look where it got him!
Animals living alongside us give brilliant insight into the natural world and teach understanding and respect for living creatures as well as responsibility in caring for their needs, which quickly extends to nature and the outdoor environment as children grow.
4. Teddy Bear’s picnic – children love taking care of their cuddly toys. Enough said.
5. Insect watching – in every home in the country there appear spiders, ants, flies, daddy-longlegs (crane flies), wasps, bees etc. Before evicting them back outside encourage your toddlers to watch them. A spider creating a web is fascinating.
6. Wildlife inspired toys – from farmyards to fishing games, snakes and ladders to science kits, the range of nature-themed and naturally-made toys is immense.
A wooden farmyard provides hours of entertainment and the style of play changes as the children grow and understand animals and farming differently. Anything with a natural theme is great for creating kids of the wild. Here are some of my favourite Nature and Outdoor Inspired Toy and Gift Ideas .
7. Grow indoor plants – children love the magic of watching plants grow and helping water them.Older children will love fly-eating varieties like Venus Flytraps and Pitcher plants and also growing fruit from seeds. Additionally, houseplants help clean the air according to NASA research. Bonus!
8. TV – I don’t advocate tonnes of telly but if your children must watch, why not make it wild-inspired? From Octonauts and Peter Rabbit to Attenborough’s brilliant documentaries, Countryfile, Springwatch and Deadly 60, there are dozens of programmes that make screen-time (almost) acceptable 😉 to a wild family.
9. Nature crafts – with imagination, most crafts can be turned to a nature theme. For example, Julia Donaldson’s Tiddler book came with instructions for making a shoe-box aquarium.
Not the best photo but here’s one made 4 years ago, with added rock pool extension.
10. Birthday ring – one of my favourite new family rituals since becoming a Wild Mummy. Our ring comes out for everyone’s birthday.
Buy the wooden base, adding decorations and candles to suit. All involve nature or the seasons. They look and feel beautiful on a birthday table.
11. Bed bouncing – being a Kid of the Wild isn’t just about nature, it’s about having a great sense of adventure too and that can start indoors. We banned bouncing on our expensive orthopaedic bed (and jumping off the beds after a downstairs light fitting broke during a particularly exuberant jumping session!) but bed bouncing is fair game on our spare beds. Our guests may have lumpy mattresses but the children have a wild time!
12. Stair swing – not everyone will have the right staircase for this, nor necessarily the parental stomach! Our Wild Girl rigged up a woolly scarf from the upstairs bannister which overhangs the lower stairs. She has since become a veritable Tarzan, encouraging her friends to join in. It could obviously be dangerous so we check the knot regularly and only allow one child at a time, but wow! I wish I’d had one as a child, and I am proud that she has such a sense of imaginative adventure.
13. Wreath making and Christmas tree decorating – we love a real Christmas tree for its smell as well as it’s ability to bring nature inside. Tree decorating is great fun and involves children in the spirit of the season, and wreath-making is something they can enjoy from an early age. See Adventures in Wreath Making.Florists provide cheap wreaths and evergreens. We pick ours from the garden, and parks have evergreens you can use if you take a small amount without damaging the plants.
14. Homecoming Tree – we created this as a way of counting the days when Wild Daddy was away but it’s great for counting down the days to any special occasion.
Draw whatever sized tree you need and add something to it every day – feathers, stickers, shells, artwork, sweet wrappers, pictures etc. When the tree is full, the event has arrived. Read more about event trees at Make a Special Event Tree.
15. Butterfly raising – ‘growing’ your own butterflies with an Insect Lore Butterfly Garden kit is a great way to watch nature in action.
The Butterfly Garden either comes with live caterpillars or a voucher to order them during the right season. You feed them daily until they pupate then watch the cocoons until the butterflies emerge. Releasing them into the wild is a truly magical experience.
16. Season Tree – we have some form of tree or branch in the house all year round which is decorated according to the season, often with things found outside or things we’ve made. It helps formulate the idea of changing seasons even if children don’t get outside much.
17. Nature table – when toddling begins, kids of the wild will start ‘collecting’. Sticks, stones, feathers, shells, heart-shaped lumps of soil… Don’t discourage it, instead provide a display space, connecting the indoors with the outdoors. We have a nature table, a nature step, a nature ..
..in fact ‘nature’ is all over our house!
For inspiration on nature ideas and activities in the garden read 25 Garden Projects & Activities.
Keep checking for future posts on how to do some of these activities or see Wild Kids rock – 11 reasons to get into the wild NOW for scientific reasons why nature and the wild are so good for us all.