3 Nature Awareness Activities That Take Less Than 5 Minutes
Nature Awareness is getting a lot of buzz these days.
There is a good reason for that, too! The benefits of time spent in nature abound and include some pretty important stuff, like sensory development in children, activating the Default Made Network in the brain at any age, and simply working our ability to actually USE our senses (actually strengthening the muscles of the eyes and refining hearing <- CRAZY!). That is an impressive list alone and yet, it doesn't even scratch the surface. But for our purposes, we will just agree that setting down the electronics and stepping outside is pretty darn important.
Bringing Nature Awareness activities into your home doesn't have to be some elaborate endeavor!
In fact, I would argue that small doses, especially if this is all new to your family, are easier to gently slide into the day to day groove without much fanfare. As you gently and slyly slip stuff into the day, see which things make your family light up with excitement and use that as a guide for bigger projects and longer, deeper dives into Nature Awareness activities. This type of guidance is what we use at the Deep Roots Nature School. It's called Coyote Mentoring!
3 Nature Awareness Activities to do this weekend:
1. Look Up!: This one is so very easy and you can literally do it ANYWHERE. You actually probably did this as a kid back when we lead boring lives where we didn't look down at a phone all the time. Wherever you are, look up and find a crazy looking cloud. "Oh my gosh! Look at that cloud it looks like (insert something erroneous here)!!" I like to make sure I "see" the most ridiculous thing possible, like a stegosaurus wearing a cowboy hat. Then, follow it with a question. "Who gave that dinosaur that hat?" If they take the bait, try to show them the cloud and outline it with your finger. A couple things are happening here. First, you are actually doing a MOVEMENT that we rarely do in today's world- looking up. Neck mobility has been critical in human history for survival, tracking, and natural navigation. Second, you are using forcing the eyes to look farther off into the distance, which again is a rare muscular stress in today's world and important for all the same reasons. Finally, you are tapping into a creative part of the mind that sets the stage for storytelling and storytelling is the very fabric of the Human Experience.
2. Search and Find: This activity is good in some down time, whether you are killing a few minutes, romping around the park, or noticing that your family is disengaging when playing in the yard. In other words, just before you hear "Mom, I'm bored" or just as some bickering starts. Grab anything off any plant, a leaf or a flower. It's important that there are multiples of the specimen, though. Run over and say, "Look what I found! Isn't this leaf neat?" Then point out a defining feature. "See how the edges are ragged and the bottom is fuzzy?" Now, drop the hammer. "I bet you can't find which plant it came from." I like to stick out my tongue her and turn to walk away. You might also add, "Whoever can match it can find the next thing for the rest of us to match." If this one engages everyone, it's fun to keep a collection of the stuff you search for in a spot for reflection. You can compare the leaf morphology, or notice the minutiae of the flower. We have a central table that always has random findings on it and the kids go back to it over and over.
3. What's Missing or What's Different?: This is a great activity for honing in attentiveness and there are lots of variations. In the simplest version, collect 5-8 different nature items (acorn, small rock, dead leaf, green leaf, red flower) and lay them out on a dish towel, bandanna, or small table. Give everyone 30 seconds to stare at it and memorize it. Then have everyone turn away and cover their eyes or run a lap around the yard or do 10 pushups or whatever. Now change something. You could take something away and see if they can recall what's missing. You could swap the red flower for a yellow flower. If it's just one or two kids, they can whisper in your ear the answer or if it's more kids/older kids they can write it down and everyone shows their answer at the same time. This one works great as a rainy day activity if you think to collect items ahead of time!
There you have it. 3 super duper simple Nature Awareness activities that don't require any real planning or materials. Bringing these activities into your week will bring a new depth to your family's next hike or outdoor experience as you put your awareness, attention to detail, and stronger senses to the test. Have fun and let us know which ones you try!!