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10 Ways to Connect with Nature in your Neighbourhood

children in garden

Explore ideas to keep children connected to nature and engaged in stewardship

Surrey's urban forests are made up of more than just parks—it includes the plants on our balconies, in our front and backyards, and of course, along our streets and school grounds.

Take time to slow down and really focus in on what’s around us. Regular and repeated visits to the same natural space over time will help your children feel connected to nature, begin to understand how it works, and grow a deeper appreciation for it. It’s easier to care for something once we have a relationship with it.

Try some of these free, easy activities with your children and don’t forget to make a nature journal to keep a log of everything you discover!

1. Noticing Walk

Notice the small things in nature that you might normally pass by. Walk slowly as you imagine exploring the space for the first time. What are some neat things you’ve never noticed before?

2. Signs of Spring

From bugs and blossoms, to sunshine and singing birds, there are many signs that spring is here. See how many signs of spring you can spot. What are your favourite things about spring?

3. Wonder Walk

As you explore all the nature, see how many things you can wonder about. For example, I wonder what that bird is doing, or I wonder how old that tree is. You don’t need all the answers! It can be fun to dream up the answers yourself. Try to create a story around your wonders.

4. Wildlife Watch

Bees are buzzing, worms are wiggling, and squirrels are chattering. Now’s the time to search high and low for these busy critters. Discover trees, turn over rocks and logs, and count how many different animals you can find. Be sure to put their homes back how you found them.

5. Get Growing

It’s a great time to make things more beautiful! Help grow our urban forest and wildlife habitat by planting seeds in a flowerpot or in your backyard. Every little bit helps. Talk with your children about how to care for their growing seeds and remember to check on them each day or week. Do some research and find further information to make sure you’re not planting any invasive plants.

6. Sensory Walk

Awaken your senses as you explore your nearby nature. Take a big breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Compare the scent of a flower to some crunched up leaves. Use your owl-eyes to look up, down and all around. What is the farthest thing you can see? What is the closest thing you can see? Cup your hands behind your ears to make deer ears – what can you hear? Compare natural and human-made sounds.

7. Backyard Birds

Sit quiet and still for five minutes (or as long as you can). Watch for different bird behaviours. Can you spot any birds gathering materials for their nests? Help birds by providing a collection of nesting materials for them. Check out Nest Watch for the dos and don’ts of providing safe nesting materials. Tune into some live web cams with Cornell Lab Bird Cams to see some birds up close!

8. Micro Hike

There’s a lot to discover if you take the time to explore and take a closer look. Choose a natural area about one foot by one foot, and (with a magnifier if you have one) scan the area inch by inch, or as long as your attention allows. Look for tiny seeds, fuzzy hairs on the backs of leaves, or if you’re lucky, itty bitty bug eggs. You can even spend your whole time looking at one tree trunk!

9. Nature Art

Art inspired by nature helps to build your observation skills. Try using pastels to colour a picture of a bird that you see in your neighbourhood. Looking it up on a website such as All About Birds will give you a better look at its details as you’re colouring. Focusing on animals native to Surrey will help your child develop a sense of place as they learn who their wildlife neighbours are.

10. Play, Play, Play

You’re connecting with nature anytime you’re outside. Whether you’re hoola hooping in your backyard, picnicking on your patio, or bike riding around your block, nature is all around you. Take advantage of any learning opportunities that might come up – an eagle circling overhead, a slug crossing your path, or a pollinator flying around your patio.