A major benefit of living in the city is that you have access to just about anything 24/7. You can order pizza, dash to a pharmacy or swing by the grocery store at almost any hour of any day.
However, one thing the city lacks in abundance is evidence of nature. Considering this, how do you teach your kids the importance and beauty of nature when they don’t see it around them?
Believe it or not, there are simple ways to incorporate nature into your everyday city living.
Samara Kamenecka has shared this story as an addition to Take Them Outside’s Connecting with Nature Series. Sometimes life in the big city can feel a little lifeless and grey, but Samara has found ways to bring green into her family’s day. Since I don’t know what it’s like to live with kids in the city (let alone a big city like Madrid) I’m happy to have her share some tips and advice with us.
(For your convenience this post contains affiliate links. Please see my About Page for more info)
By Samara Kamenecka
Befriend a Tree (or Two)
Have your kids choose a favorite tree. Ask them to do a hands-on examination of the tree, take notes and snap pictures. Have the kids draw or paint pictures of the tree from all angles and in all different weather and seasons.
At the end of a year, hang up the artwork to create an indoor forest and a gallery showing of “A Year in the Life of Our Favorite Tree.” This is a surefire way to foster a strong connection between your kids and nature. Chances are they’ll never look at trees quite the same way again.
Tie on sneakers, snap your littlest one in a stroller, and head outside as a family investigative unit. Whether you explore a city park, a playground, or the winding sidewalks of a your own neighborhood, the key is to scope our your surroundings with a fresh, inquisitive eye.
Take along a list of things of things found in nature (a flower in bloom, a bee, a spider’s web etc.) and see who discovers what first. Write down the shapes you see in the clouds. Gather a few items that are strewn about like acorns and petals and bring them home. Encourage the kids to research what they’ve found (what type of flower grew those petals?) and start a “Nature in My City” sketchbook or scrapbook that they can add to on a regular basis.
Spend a day visiting your city’s community gardens. Stroll through and talk about what appeals to you and perhaps how you might have planned this garden differently. Then look around at home and see what you can use to create a container garden of your own.
For example, place the bottom of a bunch of celery in a shallow dish of water and watch it sprout leaves in just a few days! After it grows roots, plant it in a container and the stalks will continue to grow. Explore your city gardens regularly to get inspiration for your own live indoor creations.
On any day of the year, find fun and recreation at one of the 100,000 public parks across the country. Urban parks range from sprawling lawns (perfect for picnics) to expanses of concrete (perfect for skateboarding or learning to ride a bike).
In the heat of the summer some parks turn on water features or allow access to public swimming pools. Some offer organized activities for kids. A day at a park is win-win because not only does it entertain your family in the fresh air, it also supports local communities, and play parks are one of the easiest ways for children to get the benefits of free play and movement.
Meet the Farmers
Get up close and personal with the local farmers! Grab the kids and some reusable shopping bags and head to your nearest farmers’ market. If your little ones are picky eaters, they might actually give broccoli another try if they shake the hand of the cool farmer guy who grew it.
Meet bakers, fishermen and gardeners and encourage your kids to ask them questions about their farms and their harvest. This is a great time to talk about how food is grown and how it gets to your table. Don’t leave before sampling new flavors and filling your bags!
Bring Nature Home
When you grow up in the city, you automatically learn street smarts and gain a tolerance for crowds. What you may not learn, however, is how nature influences your everyday life.
Whether it’s creating an indoor garden, painting pictures of trees or bonding with local farmers, parents of city kids need to bring nature closer to home so their children can begin to build a strong relationship with the great outdoors. With a little effort, it is possible to connect with nature in the city.
Samara Kamenecka is a New York-born freelance author and translator living in Madrid, Spain. When she’s not exploring the city with her boyfriend, kids and dog, she’s usually chained to her computer. You can find her blogging over at Tiny Fry.
The Connecting with Nature Series: Read how other families are finding time to reflect on, appreciate, and bring more of the natural world into their day.
Not wanting to miss any new stories in this nature connection series? Then make sure to sign up for the Take Them Outside Newsletter. You’ll get notice of new additions to the series, tips, nature activities, goodies, and more delivered right to your inbox every few weeks.