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7 Ways To Help Connect Kids With Nature On Family Roadtrips

Written by Sandi Schwartz

Photography by A.J. Schokora

While family road trips can be a headache (depending on your kid’s age and temperament), there’s clearly a reason why we do it. It gives both parents and children the much-needed opportunity to see new places, get out of the rut of day-to-day life, and make lasting memories in an often more-affordable way. Plus, it’s a prime opportunity to explore all Mother Earth has to offer.

“Giving our children the chance to soak in nature’s beauty during a family vacation is especially important these days as children spend more time inside on screens and less time outside in the fresh air,” says Sandi Schwartz, author of Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer. As Schwartz explains in her book, a growing number of scientific studies from around the world show that spending time in nature can have a profound impact on children’s emotional well-being, helping to reduce stress and anxiety and increase attention, creativity, and their ability to connect with others. Bonus points: Experts have found that individuals can reap the benefits of nature even by observing natural scenes from a window.

Which brings us to family road trips. Schwartz’s book offers numerous ways for families to interact with the outdoors to feel happier and calmer while traveling. Below, she recommends the following 7 tips to connect kids with nature and enhance your next on-the-road adventure. Good luck!

Take the Scenic Route: Instead of traveling on monotonous highways the entire trip, search for nature-filled drives to take during day trips, weekend getaways, or cross-country adventures. Identify local spots to drive to or plan vacations around areas you would like to explore. Some ideas include farms, drive-through zoos or safaris, tree-lined paths, and coastal roads. This country is packed with so many gorgeous places to explore from the road.

Play the Cloud Imagination Game: Staring at fluffy white clouds and observing the amazing images that appear in the sky is intriguing to children. Ask your kids what they see in the clouds, such as animals, shapes, people, or other objects. Take it one step further and challenge them to create a story about the cloud images.

Watch for Wildlife: Have your children keep an eye out for wildlife. If you are traveling in a rural area, you can spot cows, horses, and sheep. If you are in a coastal area, look for birds like seagulls. In wooded areas you can find squirrels, deer, skunks, and raccoons. Keep track of all your special sightings on your trip.

Find Flowers and Trees: Ask your children to keep a look out for different kinds of flowers and trees that they see during the drive. Colorful gardens can be a real source of peace and can be found in all types of communities. You can make a game out of searching for flowers and trees by asking questions like: Who can find the tallest tree? Who sees the most colorful garden? Can you name that flower or tree? Feel free to bring a nature guidebook on the drive to look up what they discover.

Soak in a Sunset: Time your drive when the sun is setting and point it out to your children. Have your children describe the colors and how the sky is changing as the day slowly ends. Add excitement with a countdown or contest to see who can guess how long it will take for the sun to disappear. Capture the moment by taking a photograph and then see if your children can recreate the sunset by drawing or painting it.

Gaze at the Evening Sky: Children are often awestruck as they look up at the moon and stars in the sky. The night sky provides them with a sense of wonder and curiosity. See if your children can spot any planets or name the constellations. A really simple game is to have your children count the stars and see who can find the most.

Play Car Nature Bingo: Create your own nature bingo cards to take along for the ride, which include pictures of animals and scenery that you are likely to see out the car window. The game will encourage your children to be observant of nature during the car drive as they keep an eye out for butterflies, trees, dogs, flowers, ponds, and parks.

Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer is available from Bookshop, Amazon, and wherever books are sold. For more information, visit ecohappinessproject.com.

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