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Five tips to unplug your kids, get them out into nature

Unplug your kids and get them out into nature this spring with these five tips. From chasing a lightning bug, to splashing through puddles, they'll have fun, and maybe even learn something about our planet.

By Guest blogger / April 26, 2012

Unplug your kids and get them out into nature this spring, as the weather gets warmer and opportunities to interact with our planet in new and fun ways abound. From chasing after a lightning bug, to running through the puddles after a rainstorm, they'll have fun and maybe even learn something.

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“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

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Rachel Carson Silent Spring, 1962

As parents, we need to be the guides, the pied pipers and the role models extraordinaire when it comes to showing kids why they should be outside exploring nature rather than in the basement, on Xbox live, with their friends. While our children may know and learn much more than we do about the threats our planet faces, like global warming, their direct contact with nature is much less then was that of their parents, when they were kids.

As we live more “urban” lives today, and as technology plays a bigger part in our more limited free time, our “hands on relationship with nature” and that of our children’s, has been reduced.

Richard Louv, in his book, "The Last Child in The Woods," discusses how visits to the national park system have dropped significantly since the late 1980s is one example of our growing disconnect with nature. He ties this with a 2006 study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago who show that an overwhelming percentage of the drop in attendance at our national parks (more than 90 percent!) is due to the increased time Americans spend plugged into electronics.

Other reasons included: shorter vacation time, shortage of family time, the shrinking American “road trip,” a decline in park budgets and services, and increased entrance fees.

So unplug and unplug your kids, and get outside! Here are our Top 5 warm weather favorite outdoor activities you can do with the children in your life. Remember, you don’t need to travel to some exotic place to do these things; all of our top 5 can be experienced in your own backyard or in a local park!

1. Native Nature Scavenger Hunt: Wherever you live, something is “native” to that area. Many of the native animal and plant species that used to thrive in a given area, may be hiding “in plain sight” or in fact becoming extinct. Manicured lawns in the suburbs and gentrified city parks often use what “looks” pretty, but may not be native to that region. Take out a book at the local library on local plants and animals and explore your yard or park with the kids in our life and find and identify five species native to your area!

2. After the Rain: Get out after a rainstorm and run barefoot in the puddles with the kids in your life. Let the mud squish between your toes and experience nature up close. After a rainstorm is also a great time to look for earthworms, which “surface” after it rains. Catch a few and examine them closely before you return them to the garden.

3. Chase a lightning bug (or firefly): If you live in the northeast, the spring is a magical time to view lightning bugs. These creatures love warm, moist conditions, and appear in large numbers in the springtime when those conditions are ripe. Stay up late, and as the sun goes down, chase down some of these creatures with the kids in your life. If you have a local pond or marshy area near some trees or shrubs, this is “prime” firefly territory. Catch a few in a jar and watch them closely, but remember to let them out when you are done!

4. Bug Hunting: Find a tree stump or fallen tree, a big rock, or rotting piece of wood, grab the kids in your life and slowly pick it up! Watch them (and the bugs underneath) scurry with delight. Find out what lives “under a rock!”

5. Bird Rise: Get up before the sunrise, or better yet, sleep outside, and as the sun comes up, listen to nature as it wakes up with the sun. Not only do “roosters crow” but many birds start chirping as the sun rises, not just in the country, but in the middle of the city too. See if you can get a “bird” book, and identify five local bird species.

What are your favorite ways to “get back to nature?” This post was inspired by the amazing women of The Green Phone Booth, who are hosting this month’s Green Mom’s Carnival on “inspiring ideas for getting back to nature with kids!”

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Harriet Shugarman blogs at ClimateMama.

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