We Go Outside – Encouraging Children to Love Nature

Thank you for joining me in some collaborative parenting discussion.


What can be more simple than going outside to encourage children to appreciate nature, the rivers, the dirt, the puddles, the bugs, growing our own food… and whatever else we can find in the natural world? And that’s how we do it. We go outside.

My husband, Michael, is notorious for going outside just to be outside – even when it’s cold. He meditates outside, prepares the fire pit for fire ceremonies, takes walks, maintains the yard, builds gardens, starts and plants seeds, plays basketball, swings on the tire swing, contemplates, clears brush, plays with the dogs, climbs rocks, dives off of bluffs, and chops wood. Of  course, that’s just a drop in the bucket for him because he really, really loves to be outside.

The kids follow him. :)

I love the outdoors just as much, although I do not go outside quite as often – especially when it’s cold. When I am not enjoying nature with them, I support their appreciation of the outdoors by asking the kids if they want to go play with the dogs, swing on the tire swing, play in the dirt or sand, pull weeds, pick up trash or cans, take a swim, ride bikes, look at bugs, find something interesting, enjoy the breeze, feel the rain, or whatever else they may safely explore.

That leaves a lot of room.

Bugs and I have had an interesting relationship together and I have come a long way in appreciating their presence in the last few years. Now when a wasp comes in the house I gently escort it back outside. As the kids point out or bring me a bug, I smile at their genuine curiosity and appreciation for the balance of nature. Truly, all creatures have their value in the world.

Ticks are common in our area and we’ve come to realize they can help a person increase body awareness. Through intending to notice them crawling on me I have become more sensitive to their journey towards a place to attach and suck my blood.  Since ticks numb the site before biting it is possible to get a bite without realizing it, unless you focus on being aware of the sensations of the body. Now I most often find them crawling, not sucking – which also applies to negative thoughts or energy in the environment.

At Michael’s parents we visit the chickens, goats, horses, and dogs… and bugs. His mom loves to be outside as well. The kids follow her, too.

During warm months we visit parks, rivers, and lakes regularly. The kids learn to swim, jump, and socialize with people of all ages while they build skills and develop confidence in their abilities. We feel grateful to live in an area where we are surrounded by clean water and plenty of trees to climb. As you can see, I’m not afraid to get messy in our adventures to appreciate the outdoors.

The farmers’ market, community garden, and our home garden allow the kids to see people growing their own food so they know it’s possible – even if we do much of our shopping at the local grocery or health food store.

In simple terms, we lead by example. We go outside. :)



Are you are struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something invaluable with you: hope. If you would like to change how you respond when parenting feels intense, I invite you to consider this challenge.

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25 Responses to We Go Outside – Encouraging Children to Love Nature

  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama May 10, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    I found your tick example so interesting. That is a great way to focus your awareness. I find I’m less antagonistic toward spiders inside as I get older. Other bugs I’m maybe not as kind to still, but I’ll keep trying. :)

    • Amy Phoenix May 10, 2011 at 10:54 am #

      It’s a process. :) The whole tick experience has been quite the progression as I didn’t grow up around them so when I found them where we currently live I was initially horrified. LOL I am glad I look at such experiences as opportunities… makes the progression a bit faster.

      Michael allows the wasps to climb onto his hand for a ride outside. I’m not quite there yet. I put a cup over them, slide a piece of paper over the top and allow them to fly out or just open the front door and wait. Interestingly, they often go out by themselves when I do that.

  2. Isil May 10, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    It’s so important to lead by example,isn’t it? I think we have nature in us, so we are always happy to be out and about -not in the freezing cold though :).
    I love the picture of you and the children with the sun shining from behind.

    • Amy Phoenix May 10, 2011 at 10:55 am #

      Thank you, Isil. I love how everything is so interconnected.

  3. Melissa @ The New Mommy Files May 10, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Just getting outside is really where it all starts! Thanks for sharing your perspective, Amy!

  4. Momma Jorje May 10, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    You do make it sound very simple and easy, but it can be a real effort for some of us. And it isn’t even like I dislike the outdoors. I LOVE to go outside! I just don’t DO it very often. I love to camp and go out to the woods… but have never really been on my own. It has always been under someone else’s planning. I would really like to get over that hump!

    • Amy Phoenix May 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

      I hear you, Momma Jorje. There are many reasons why simple can feel difficult. :) Perspective, past experience, practicality, personal preferences and patterns all play into it. All P’s … interesting. Yeah, the P’s that prevent us from feeling the ultimate P – Peace!

      Anyhow, sometimes we just get to make an in-the-moment decision to go outside, lead by example, and know that’s enough. Even if it’s for a moment to feel the breeze, look at the trees, and feel your feet on the ground. The more we do that the more sure of ourselves we become, the more we enjoy what we do, and the more simple it is to do what previously felt difficult.

    • Michael Phoenix May 10, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

      I love nature, there’s no other way to put it. In moments of non-ease, the outside of the door is what I prefer to be looking at. In moments of ease, the outside of the door is what I prefer to be looking at.

      I make it a point to enjoy myself outdoors AND enjoy being with the kids outdoors. If they have fun outside, they will more naturally be inclined to include the outdoors in their moments of “finding something to do.” I’ve found that it is much easier to encourage activity outside, away from the various electronic screens, when I enjoy time away from the screens and enjoy them away from the screens. I also make it a point to enjoy my time with them in front of the screens. All the decisions I make about this stuff are very purposeful when in the moment. The most purposeful decision I make is to enjoy my experience. And when I’m not enjoying my experience, communicate that respectfully and take the space I need.

      Mostly though, outside is my friend. I talk to trees, really, and bugs and dogs, cats, birds. Sometimes you might hear me having an in-depth conversation with a flower. It might surprise an individual to experience the depth of intimacy that can be reached when allowing oneself to fully experience the natural world. All that mental garbage just kinda needs to be put on hold to have a real communication with life.

  5. MJ May 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Wonderful post, pure and simple and so so true!! I also believe that the more you do it, the easier it gets :)!!

  6. Patti @ Jazzy Mama May 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Going outside is your NORMAL! I love it.
    I admit to going outside as seldom as possible from November through March–it’s pretty nippy here in snowy Toronto, I tell ya! But we practically live outdoors in the spring and summer and we let the kids take over the entire yard. I’ll have to work on getting out during the winter. I’ve heard that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, but I’m not convinced.

    Freedom and Joy to you, Amy!

    • Amy Phoenix May 10, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

      :) Patti! I’m of a small frame so I need to dress appropriately also. I have to admit that as I’ve released mental resistance to the cold and focus on inner body awareness, I stay warmer. I suppose some would chalk it up to positive thinking, but it helps. Still, the warmer weather certainly calls me out more! :)

      We also live in a rural area so it’s easy to go outside and enjoy nature – I am grateful for that.

  7. Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama May 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Great post! Just getting outside makes all the difference.

    Ticks make me so nervous. They are all over our area and a lot of people around here have Lyme’s disease. I try to let it go and we check ourselves regularly. I hate that it sometimes puts a damper on our time outside.

    • Amy Phoenix May 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

      Charise, I was nervous about ticks as well. Anything so sneaky is worth being aware of.

      I decided to really research the little bugs and look up the meaning behind them from a spiritual perspective. What I found was that they most often do not transmit Lyme’s disease unless left on the body for 24 hours or more. We check ourselves each time we come in and at bedtime!

      I also found that certain ticks are more likely to carry disease and about only 1 in 6 actually carry disease. That put me at ease a bit. :)

      The spiritual-mind-emotion-body connection is that they can point to what is attacking one’s joy and pep in life. I find that the annoyance or experience of them can be demonstrative of negative energy in the environment or our tendency to allow negative energy to affect us. In that sense, I pay attention to what’s going on when they seem to be around or if someone gets bitten.

  8. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama May 10, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    I see Momma Jorje made it over here – she’s looking for advice on how to motivate herself to get outside. It sounds like you have that one down pat :) My husband used to be much more outdoorsy than he is now – he camped and hiked frequently, etc. He’s still the more outdoorsy of the two of us, and I’m hoping he’ll help Kieran and I nurture a love for nature :)

    • Amy Phoenix May 12, 2011 at 9:45 am #

      Michael inspires me. Here’s to Tom doing the same for you! :)

  9. The ArtsyMama May 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    I’m not sure I’m ready as a person to share your appreciation for ticks yet. I haven’t found my body awareness to be as acute as to feel them crawling. My eyesight is good enough to see them on our dogs, though. We did have a bull-faced hornet trapped between our window and the storm window the other day. We took the opportunity to show it to Little Man and to let him study it up-close within the safety of the glass. It was interesting. What was also interesting was to watch the small spiders bide their time for the wasp to tire and then to eat it. (Sorry wasp – circle of life). I do appreciate you making me aware of the things that these creatures we are quick to dismiss, can offer us as teaching and experience tools.

    • Amy Phoenix May 12, 2011 at 9:49 am #

      It is fun to watch little critters, especially from outside a glass! LOL I’m with you on that safe way of observation. Especially when that’s what is most practical at the time.

      Moving to a rural area, in the middle of the woods, brought up an opportunity for me to appreciate the bugs coming in and out, etc. I couldn’t control them if I tried so I decided to start looking up their power animal totem association.

      Some people may consider that sort of woo-woo, but I like to look at all of the ways I can appreciate stuff because it helps me release resistance to life so I can enjoy it more. Anyhow, creatures big and small can have messages for us – in their presence.

      I have found it’s worth looking into… as I escort them back outside or off of my body.

      I do admit that I’d straight up prefer to not be around mosquitoes. I use natural repellent for those buggers – and for ticks. I also intend to notice them so I can get them off of me as quickly as possible. A “holistic” approach I suppose. :)

  10. Kelly May 10, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Beautiful post :D

    I am impressed with your new relationship to bugs…I was pulling weeds just the other day and several bugs scrambled out from underneath them. Part of me was thinking, I really need to get over this ick factor because I may well end up teaching it to my daughter and I’d rather have her fascinated by bugs than scared of them.

    The other part of me just couldn’t stop that shiver of disgust. :p Hopefully I’ll get there too eventually!

    Thanks for sharing the inspiration to get outside! :)

    • Amy Phoenix May 29, 2011 at 8:09 am #

      You’ll hear this from me often, it all starts with the breath – breathing into the feelings and sensations in our bodies as we feel them. It can be very cleansing, freeing. Of course the whole mind trip we often take ourselves on with bugs in another part. Kind of like the whole they don’t really intend us harm and if we just respect that we live on this planet together maybe we can co-exist peacefully. ;) Here’s to more peace with creepy crawlies!

  11. Kristina @ Hey Red May 11, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    Love-love-love this post. Your acceptance of the creepy crawlie critters is inspiring – I aspire to such acceptance. Bees, bats, wasps and such are all welcome ’round here. Ticks, not so much. What an amazing lesson of compassion for your children :)

    • Amy Phoenix May 29, 2011 at 8:09 am #

      Lovely. Enjoy the journey of learning to love all little creatures… :)

  12. Lisa @Granola Catholic May 12, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    We go outside too, Sometimes I just throw the kids outside to play. it is okay they are older, 7,10 and 13. I grew up outside and it did me good so I figure it is good for them.

    • Amy Phoenix May 29, 2011 at 8:11 am #

      Yes. I loved being outside when we lived in the country as a kid. I love that “I just throw the kids outside to play.” I often do that with my son. He is a mover and a shaker; if he’s stuck inside or immobile for any length of time it doesn’t do him well. The outdoors is vast. It may be potentially messy, but so is life. That’s what warm showers were invented for, right? ;)

  13. Colette May 18, 2011 at 10:00 pm #

    The other day my oldest (usually jumpy, almost squeemish, about bugs unless accompanied by her sisters–although she likes snakes) and I found a cicada cast-off skin. They are really ugly looking, and really facinating for me. She didn’t want to touch it at all. I mentioned casually that if you took the casing off the tree, the little feet were like hooks and it would hang on your clothing if you placed it there–and then I walked away to do something my husband wanted. Soon after, here she came sprorting her all natural ‘cicada pin’ on her shoulder. One more successful encounter with the outdoors. :-)

    I remembered the time when my brothers and I were younger and decorated ourselves with about 20 of the casings. It’s pretty cool. They’ll hang on about anything.

    • Amy Phoenix May 29, 2011 at 8:13 am #

      Thank you, Colette! We found a bunch of casings and live cicadas around here and at the in-laws. I had just read your comments and was able to share the experience in a similar manner. Martin and Az came in wearing the pins also. :)

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