Almost every Mom or Dad intuitively knows what scientists and education specialists constantly seek to prove. A child that plays and engages in nature tends to be more physically fit, more mentally stable, less stressed, more self-disciplined and more creative. (National Learning Initiative.) However, in this “techno” driven, fast paced, junk food world, it is sometimes difficult to get “out and about” in nature with your kids. These parents at Sunrift Adventures are experts at getting their children involved in nature. Here are some of their tips.
Cat Williams, a long distance hiker, biker, camper and climber, is a mom of two boys. She says “I take the initiative to unplug [my children] from their devices and take them into the woods. They are instantly interested, especially if I start them off by showing them “cool stuff [like] trees, bugs [and] rocks or tell them about things we see down the trail.”
Julie Cush, mom of three, who is a hiker, a paddler and a runner, says “I always try to make it fun – an adventure. Sometimes we plan out a scavenger hunt, or [see] who can paddle the fastest but in a straight line.” She also suggests that parents ensure that “everyone has their own job such as pumping water, [or being] in charge of the food… Giving them their own responsibilities encourages them to be independent and have confidence. They love the outdoors and exploring new experiences with their family.”
Jared Hancock, a climber, paddler and mountain biker, and the dad of one, has the challenge of keeping a single child engaged in nature. “As for the climbing,” he says. “I have always been careful not to force [my daughter] to do something she doesn’t want to do at the time. We take her to the climbing gym once a week, but some days she would rather play instead and not climb at all. I try to be encouraging, but never forceful about it because I want her to enjoy it. Other days she won’t stop climbing.”
Jared also “feel[s] like it is also helpful to have multiple options so she can decide which activities might be fun that day. The key is to make it fun and have plenty of snacks.”
Engaging your children in outdoor adventures and in nature helps ensure that your child lives a healthy and happy life. It also provides great bonding moments for your entire family.
The parents who work at Sunrift Adventures know the gear kids need and how it should fit. They know the places that are kid safe and kid fun. They know how to encourage your child in outdoor adventures.
For more information stop by and chat about kids with Cat, Julie, Jared, Eric, Vince, or Heather.
A few good places to explore nature with children around Travelers Rest are:
Your own backyard – Your own little ecosystem, is the best place to start outdoor adventuring. Search and find bugs, birds, plants and seeds. Cartwheel, take off the training wheels, watch the clouds roll over. No packing is required. No special clothing or gear is needed. The bathroom is near and pets are always welcome.
The Swamp Rabbit Trail. Our own Swamp Rabbit Trail is stroller friendly. Along the trail, you can see innumerable plants and the traces of the animals that live among them. You can close your eyes and listen to the birds. Common non-venomous snakes, chipmunks and squirrels are frequent visitors. Early mornings on the trail, if you are quiet, you may see coyotes, deer and an occasional bear. But don’t fear, these beasts have their own lives to worry about and won’t interfere with yours.
Paris Mountain State Park. Easy to get to, our own state park has lakes for exploring the shoreline, upland forests, creeks and bogs. They have backcountry and car camping facilities and a varied trail system. Log in to their website at http://www.southcarolinaparks.com/parismountain/introduction.aspx for information..
Jones Gap State Park. Here you can find boulders to climb, trails to walk and creeks to explore. Jones Gap features backcountry camping as well. Visit their website at: http://southcarolinaparks.com/jonesgap/introduction.aspx for more information.
Bunched Arrowhead Nature Preserve, 140 McCauley Rd., Travelers Rest, SC 29690. This is a very easy stroll featuring creeks, fields and bogs.
Furman University Lake Loop. This is a GREAT place to remove some of the restraints you place on your kids and give them a little more freedom. Take the bikes. Take a picnic. The lake loop is paved so it is stroller friendly with easy handicap access. The shoreline reclamation project highlights our upstate environment. There are waterfowl, turtles, birds and flowers to watch.
Lakes Keowee and Jocassee. THE flat water paddling destinations in the area. Both feature kayak friendly boat ramps, swimming, easy parking and lakeside campsites.
Some great books for parents who want to connect their children with nature are:
Golden Guides, published by St. Martins Press. Golden Guides are pocket sized plant and animal identification guides. Titles include Trees; Rocks, Gems and Minerals; Pond Life; Insects; and Birds and Weather just to name a few. They retail at about $6.95. Some are available as Nook Books.
Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America by David Allen Sibley. (Also available in a coloring book format.) THE book for birders.
Peterson’s Field Guides published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – The most enduringly popular series of field guides.
Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv. THE book for parents about the connections between children and nature.
The Kid’s Guide to Exploring Nature by Brooklyn Botanic Garden Educators.
“Benefits of Connecting Children With Nature.” The Natural Learning Initiative. NC State University, https://naturalearning.org/sites/default/files/Benefits%20of%20Connecting%20Children%20with%20Nature_InfoSheet.pdf
Janie Helms Ray is a retired former employee of Sunrift Adventures. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Secondary Education – Science Teaching from Clemson University and is currently seeking a second bachelor’s degree in writing and publishing from Clemson University.