No parent has ever made it through the great journey of child-rearing without hearing two very frustrating words – “I’m bored!” Whether it’s sitting in a church service, a lazy day at home, or even partaking in the wonders of nature, kids everywhere are just a few breaths or activities away from finding themselves simply unable to proceed without complaining that they’re bored.
Kids, though, are in fact just kids, and rarely will they experience an activity through a lens of gratefulness. They’re not aware of how much work we put into them, and they can’t see the idyllic images we’ve created in our minds. Simply put, as much as we want our children to love something, if we don’t give them purpose they will mentally check out, and quickly.
The same is true even for nature studies. As much fun as it sounds to spend a day of school in the great outdoors, catching frogs and following dragonflies, if our kids don’t know the purpose of their exploration they won’t have a reason to feel invested and will find nature study is boring. The appeal of dirt and sunshine simply isn’t enough to capture their excitement, so it’s up to us to make nature studies fun, varied, and educationally meaningful.
Nature Study is Boring No More
When nature study is boring, these three tips can help fast!
1. Give Your Nature Studies Purpose
I hear quite often from parents who started out with so much excitement for nature studies, only to feel the fervor fizzle out within a few weeks. What could possibly be boring or unappealing about spending time outside, in nature, learning while playing? More often than not, it’s because there is no plan in place to begin with.
Simply standing outside isn’t likely to strike a child with inspiration; they are naturally curious and desire to explore, discover, and learn. Heading out on a nature walk without expressing its purpose is a solid recipe for boredom. If your children know what they’re looking for, why they’re looking for it, and what they hope to learn from it, their senses will be more alert and their minds will be more engaged.
Start with one of my grab-n-go nature studies, which are perfect for finding purpose in your outdoor adventures. Allow your children to pick a nature walk to complete and watch them engage with excitement. Any one of my nature studies is a wonderful reason to get outside, providing you with questions, lessons, and anything else you may need. Communicate the purpose of your adventure, and your nature study will go from uninspiring to educational.
2. Make Your Time Outdoors Fun
Especially with younger children, incorporating games or contests help to hold the attention. Challenge your children to races, see who can spot the most species of butterflies or spiders, pretend to be animals that might live in the area, or play I Spy.
Challenge your family to find an animal’s lunch outdoors. Look for berries, greens, mushrooms, or anything else that looks like it might make a nice meal for an animal. Look for places the animal can find water, too. A fun scavenger hunt of sorts like this helps kids to find inspiration in nature.
Have your children write a play or puppet show about the creatures or plants they’re learning about, and have them perform it in the natural setting. For even more of a twist, declare that props, costumes, and puppets may only be made from found materials surrounding you.
Lie back and find shapes in the clouds while you learn all about them from my Captivating Clouds nature study. See if you can find images in the ridges and bumps of tree bark, create a rainbow using only leaves and petals, or collect fallen acorns, seeds, and dried leaves to make pictures. Present ways for your children to view nature through different eyes and watch them come alive with creativity!
3. Bring Your Nature Journals
It’s almost such a natural practice that it seems odd to recommend bringing along your nature journals. After all, you’re outside to learn and observe, so of course you’d bring them, right?
Like many acts, practices, and routines, however, nature journaling runs the risk of falling into a rut. Yes, nature journaling can sometimes go stale and even become boring.
Spice up your journaling by using unconventional materials like berries for ink or grass for paint. Do a tree rubbing and use the markings from the bark to create a maze. Visit the same tree in all 4 seasons and document the changes it undergoes throughout the year. Write a poem or short story about the squirrel you’re watching dig, or sit with eyes closed and attempt to draw what your child describes to you.
Another option is to leave the nature journal at home and bring along a prepared nature notebooking page instead. Each of these give your children a fresh way to look at nature as they excitedly learn and do everything mentioned on the printable.
The next time you’re gearing up for a day outside with your children, remember to pack some fun, some direction, and a whole lot of excitement. When your child learns to experience nature in so many different ways, they’ll never say nature study is boring again!
When Nature Study is Boring: More Help!
I’ve written tons about practical and creative nature study. Here are just a few other blog posts that can help you kick the idea that nature study is boring to the curb!