Unstructured outdoor play – from a game of hide-and-seek to watching the clouds – helps kids find nature on their own terms. It also helps them appreciate that the “outdoors” isn’t a far-away place – it’s in their backyards, a neighborhood park, or a little creek down the road. Even more important, it shows kids that nature can be FUN!
Structured activities, in which you are leading the way, can have benefits too. Just be sure to build a sense of accomplishment into the experience. For example, teaching a child how to identify a flower or tree based on shapes or number of leaves can make the outdoors feel more familiar and a little less intimidating. Here are some great wildlife identification apps to help you get started!
- Seek: From the iNaturalist team, Seek is a kid-friendly app that helps you identify animals, plants, or fungi you find outside.
- Merlin Bird ID: From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Merlin Bird ID can help identify birds you spot using three simple questions or a photo.
- Creek Critters: From the Izaak Walton League and the Audubon Naturalist Society, Creek Critters helps you identify stream bugs and discover whether a stream is healthy.