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How to Teach Kids About Nature in Your Own Backyard

You'll never regret teaching your kids about nature. You don't have to have grown up in the country or been a nature freak yourself to steer your kids towards a love of nature. Sometimes - often, I'd argue - the best place to start is in your own yard. Don't have a yard? Then a small patio, porch or balcony will do! I'm here to tell you that nature will find you if you provide nature with a spot.

Consider these statistics from the National Wildlife Federation:

  • Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago.

  • Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive, and show better concentration.

  • Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health.

  • The most direct route to caring for the environment as an adult is participating in “wild nature activities” before the age of 11.

Being in nature is also proven to improve your mental health. Nature can help decrease your anxiety levels and can help lessen stress and feelings of anger. Exercise can also help this, but it's even better when you're outside. *UC Davis Health

Regular access to green spaces has been linked to lower risks of depression and improved concentration and attention.

Can you imagine...Getting your hands in the dirt. Watching butterflies and birds....birds and butterflies bingo anyone? Not flipping out at bees (which starts with parents not flipping out at bees) and other crawly things and teaching kids their value.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Start a small butterfly garden, maybe 20 sq ft. Add a few milkweed plants and a couple of native pollinator plants and you'll be amazed at what beauties find you!

Get a brochure or download a pdf of butterflies for your area, so you know what you're looking for. Find this brochure for Ohio HERE or the pdf HERE
  • Create a very small pond and stock it with small fish or find some tadpoles. A water feature is an excellent way to attract some wildlife (frogs...toads will mate in the water and then hop off to a cool spot in the yard)

  • Plant a small veggie garden with fun foods for kids to pick: snap peas, green beans, cherry tomatoes. This requires full sun.

  • Plant some fruit bearing bushes: raspberries are amazing and so easy to grow, you won't believe it! If you can find Champagne currants - a small bush suitable to grow in Ohio - kids love the berries! They're slightly tart, a little sweet and kinda look like teeny fish eyeballs, which is what I call them: eyeballs. All our neighbor kids and grandkids ask for eyeballs, LOL

  • Add a bird feeder, bird bath and/or birdhouse. Even Ohio birds are cool, once you get familiar with them!

  • Don't have a yard? You can plant a small pot of native flowers and one pot of milkweed and you'll be amazed at who visits your balcony or patio! You can even plant cherry tomatoes, pole or bush beans and snap peas in a pot! All this requires full sun.

  • You can hang a hummingbird feeder from a balcony...but if you have a pot of native trumpet shaped flowers (ask your local nursery for hummingbird plants or click HERE), you'll have a better chance of attracting them.

I hope these ideas help. I'd love to see the spaces you create! Tag Backyard Columbus if you post your backyard nature pics to social media. I want to share all of our progress, not just mine, so tag me!

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