FROM SCREEN TO GREEN by Kirsten Alexander

Get your kids off their screens and into the wild. Here are ten ways to inspire your little ones to enjoy going outdoors.
On average, children aged 12 the world over will receive their first cell phones. With today's children growing up wireless with access to abundant games and online entertainment, encouraging your little ones to play outside can prove challenging. It's no secret that young children need the opportunity to use their whole body to develop their gross motor skills ' something a tablet or phone offers little opportunity for. To (literally) get the ball rolling, here are ten nature-inspired activities to use to encourage your tots to explore being outside. GROW A GARDEN Gardening can be a beautifully participative family activity that provides a chance for kids to learn about life-cycles, pollination and nutrition. Research has shown that children who plant vegetable gardens tend to make healthier nutritional choices as adults. Dedicate a small portion of your garden for growing tomatoes, carrots, sugar-snap peas or a vegetable your little one might like (this might also encourage them to become more passionate about eating veggies). NATURALLY ART Nature's exquisite beauty is a few steps from your back door; why not turn it into art? Do this by pressing flowers or making leaf-prints. Get your kids to press their favourite natural find between two sheets of wax paper and close them into a book. To make leaf-print art, ink a leaf with a sponge and press it onto paper. MOON SHADOW Enjoying the outdoors doesn't have to stop when the sun goes down. Get your little ones to spend time with the stars, moon and other night-active creatures. Go for a short moonwalk, trace the constellations and identify nocturnal insects. You could also begin a moon journal and encourage your child to understand the phases of the moon. MAKE A MAP Have your child make a map of the neighbourhood, with a difference. Encourage them to only use natural landmarks to build their map. This will heighten their observational skills and could even serve as a field-guide to the nature in your neighbourhood. HEAD IN THE CLOUDS You don't need special expertise or supplies for this one ' cloud watching. Picking out shapes in the clouds is a great way to engage a visual learner. All you need is a blanket, a sky filled with big, white fluffy marshmallow clouds and a whole lot of imagination. You could even get them to draw or photograph their finds to show you later (if photogrpahing, go old school and give them a real camera, instead of a phone). UP A TREE Climbing a tree is an important childhood rite of passage. When you feel your little one is ready for it, climbing trees can teach them about assessing risk and building self-confidence while exercising their bodies. Let your child get dirty. A growing number of researchers believe that good old-fashioned dirt can expose your children to myriad bacteria and microbes that strengthen their immune system. It may also get you out and about, especially if they get stuck and you need to launch a rescue. TAKE A RIDE Riding a bicycle is a fabulous way to tour your city parks or forests. Why not make your next family outing a nature ride? Hop on your bikes, pack a picnic, do some bird watching and explore a new neck of the woods with your little ones. CAMP OUT The outdoor vacation is certainly making a comeback. Hiking and camping have been increasingly popular over the years and is a way to introduce your young ones to the wonders of the outdoors ' the really great thing is that there aren't many plugs so screens may just die over a camping night out. If your family isn't quite ready for wilderness camping, set up camp in your own back yard; a safe and inexpensive way to inspire spending time outside. PHOTO SAFARI A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that on average kids spend around seven hours per day with electronic media. An antidote for gamers' eye or texter's hand is the sights, sounds and smells offered by your neighbourhood nature. Turn a wildlife expedition into a photo safari and see how many pictures of birds, insects or flowers your child can take. BIRDS OF A FEATHER No matter where in the country you stay, birds are probably the most familiar wildlife you see every day. You can invite these little critters into your garden by making decorative up-cycled bird-feeders out of plastic bottles and toxin-free paint. What do the birds in your garden like to eat? Fill your feeder with birdseed and different fruits and see what beautiful winged creatures accept your garden invitation.

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