Suzy Cato’s 9 tips for getting kids outside to explore the natural world

Home » Features & Profiles » Profiles » Suzy Cato’s 9 tips for getting kids outside to explore the natural world

1 January 1970

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Earth to mums and dads: now’s a great time to get your kids outside and exploring the natural world, says Suzy.

It’s on April 22 this year, but I suggest you celebrate Earth Day regularly, with an outdoor, device-free day of discovery and fun. Have spare clothes and a picnic ready – maybe a plaster or two – and see how well everyone sleeps at the end of the day.

When we have tamariki, we have the perfect excuse to enjoy all the incredible earthy crafts, creations and adventures this special day can bring. It’s is a time to get our hands, feet and even our faces dirty with our little ones, as we investigate and enjoy all that is living, loving and enlivening on our beautiful planet.

Children have endless opportunities to learn about the many challenges
we all face due to unsustainable mass production, climate change and mindless waste. In fact, that knowledge can be quite a burden, especially for the shoulders of our wee compassionate souls.

Instead of planning a lesson, have fun and focus on what matters most (that will depend on your child) – be it creepy-crawlies, cute and cuddlies, wet and wilds, walks and talks, seedlings and saplings, crafting and creating, or just cloud watching from a cushion on the deck.

1. Put all devices away for the day – yours and theirs – and just enjoy the great outdoors.

2. Have fun exploring. Check out your backyard, nearest park, beach or native bush path. Dress appropriately, arm yourself with water, snacks, weather protection (rain or shine) and even a magnifying glass if your little one wants to get up close to nature. Lift logs and push back leaves to find the slithery and slimy.

3. Go on a treasure hunt. Make a list or create a bingo card for ants, butterflies, vine hoppers, snails, spiders, slugs, slaters. If you’re venturing further afield, like the beach or bush, hunt for sand hoppers, pipi “spit spots” or native plants and birds, like ponga trees and pīwakawaka (fantail).

4. Get crafty. Collect and create with twigs, pebbles, leaves, shells, seed cones – you may even find some interesting rubbish to recycle. Try leaf and bark rubbings or prints. Make a collage of a crazy critter, a fabulous flower, a funny face.

5. Instead of crafting, you could “plant” your collection in a saucer of sand or dirt. Use an old baking tray or breakfast tray for bigger projects.

6. Use those same collected items to encourage creative play. Twigs and fallen branches can mark out a game of hopscotch or four square boundaries. Or, they could make the walls of a tiny house or a mini tepee – who lives here? What do they need in their house? What would be good for a bed?

7. For older children, pop some timber offcuts, big empty boxes and cobblestones or concrete blocks into your backyard. Can they create an obstacle course? A shop counter? A science lab? Rocket ship? Wildlife hospital? A house?

8. Bug off! Turn an old garden pot, wooden box, baking tin or concrete block – anything sturdy – into a “bug motel” on the other side of the garden. You don’t need to create separate compartments. All they need is twigs, kindling, dried leaves, pinecones and maybe strips of bamboo or garden stakes cut into lengths.

Help your children gather leaves, twigs and other organic matter to create a “bug motel”.

9. You don’t have to go it alone. Check out outdoorkid.co.nz for adventure ideas and informative guidebooks.

Even if you don’t have kids with you, make the most of the opportunity to celebrate this precious taonga, Earth, with the joy and delight of a child – all you need is time and a little space in that busy, beautiful mind of yours. Allow yourself the freedom to marvel in the wonders that are our seas, mountains, bush and whenua.

Make the most of the opportunity to celebrate this precious taonga, Earth

Subscribe & WIN!

Subscribe to WOMAN+ for only $19.99 for the year and you’ll have a chance to WIN 2 Nights for 2 at JetPark Rotorua +
an Evening in the Polynesian Spa.

*You can unsubscribe at any time. By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.