How do I make my children fall in love with nature?

Delancey (Left) and Savannah (right). Photo courtesy Mama Bear.

Delancey (Left) and Savannah (right). Photo courtesy Mama Bear.

Adventures are so much harder with kids; what do I do?

Hi Willow, Angus and Becky,

Day adventures used to be so easy before I had children. Doing anything with children adds some amount of stress. I have a 2.5-year-old and a 5-year-old. I want to instill in them a love for nature. It is very important to me that they enjoy the outdoors so when they are older they will have the incentive to take care of it. They love "hiking" (short loops on clear dirt paths in the woods) and spending time outdoors, like at a farm or the beach.

Prepping for a morning hike and the hike itself can be extra tiresome. I find that I prepare for the worst. Extra food, extra water, extra clothing, extra sunscreen, bug repellent, and bandaids, which I end up carrying ... just in case. If they get tired or hurt during the nature walk, I often end up carrying them too. We need to be wary of ticks, and I think anything I see could be poison ivy or poison oak. The problem with the poison ivy poem "Leaves of Three, let it be," is that I find everything has "leaves of three," and I become reluctant to explore areas slightly off the trail for fear of contact with something poisonous.

Do you have any tips for outdoor adventures with children? Have you ever brought a child on a hike longer than a mile? Do you have any fond memories from childhood that connected you with nature that you would recommend?  

— Mama Bear

One of the things I always tried to do with my kids was to make our outings FUN. ... I didn’t want to turn them into death marches.
— Becky Jensen

Recommended books for outdoorsy parents

• Compiled by Out There advice columnists Angus Chen and Becky Jensen •

1. Bird Talk by Ann Jonas

2. Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown

3. DK Eyewitness books, DK Watch Me Grow, and DK Eyewonder (these have large, vivid photos that kids love)

3. Any books to help identify animal tracks and scat

4. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide (adult guides with lots of pictures can work great for kids)

5. Peterson's Field Guide for Trees and Shrubs 

6. National Audubon Society ID guide books (these have really great photos) 

And for when they get older ... 

1. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

2. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell


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