Getting outside and connecting with nature is essential to creating healthier minds and bodies.
In Central Indiana, we are fortunate to be surrounded by many parks and nature centers where families can do just that. Helping your child develop a love of nature and a desire to preserve the land is easy, and starts in one of the most obvious ways.
“The easiest thing to do is to take your kids outside and enjoy nature with them — simple as that!” says Melissa Moran, outreach coordinator for The Nature Conservancy. “Like most adults, kids are keenly interested in the electronic world — video games, smart phones and tablets. Parents can encourage kids to disconnect from devices and reconnect to the outside world.”
Bridge the Digital-to-Nature Divide
Parents in Central Indiana can check out the Children of Indiana Nature Park website to find parks and nature centers near them. Moran says that in Indianapolis, for example, the Children of Indiana Nature Park has four outstanding nature center partners in the city: Holliday Park, Eagle Creek Park, the Nina Mason Pulliam Ecolab at Marian University and the Indianapolis Zoo. All of these places have nature programs and events that are available to families.
“These nature centers are great places to connect with nature, with most offering opportunities for hands-on conservation activities, such as bird watching, pollinator counts, invasive species removal or native plant gardening,” Moran says.
Nature Near and Far
Families can also learn which nature preserves — owned by The Nature Conservancy or the Indiana Department of Natural Resources — are near them. For example, an hour west of Indianapolis is Big Walnut Nature Preserve, which is filled with native plants and in which the Tall Timbers Trail winds through a portion of the grounds. Moran suggests grabbing a wildflower guidebook before visiting for a day of fun nature learning.
But families don’t have to travel far to enjoy scenic getaways, Moran says. In Indiana, it’s all around us.
“Even yards, neighborhood parks and playgrounds are great places to inspire children’s love of nature and the outdoors,” Moran says.
Nature is everywhere and can look different for everyone, Moran says. “Spending time with your child outside taking a walk, observing ants or inspecting that rogue dandelion on the sidewalk sparks curiosity,” he says. “If you show your child that you are enthused and want to explore our natural world together, they will follow your lead.”
Nature Play Days
Another way to celebrate nature happens each year in early June, when the Indiana Children and Nature Network (ICAN) sponsors Nature Play Days. Visit indianachildrenandnature.org to find a Nature Play Days event near you.