Never too old or young to experience the wonders of nature

Child walking in the woods (Photo by Lisa Grilz)

Child walking in the woods (Photo by Lisa Grilz)

September 14, 2014 | by Wendy Ho

Some say there’s a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

Without a doubt, family plays an important role in the nurturing, upbringing and education of children. Through this familial interaction, wisdom and values get passed on to the next generations. Grandparents often extend their care for their own children to their children’s children as a way to support the family. The many ways grandparents offer their love through encouragement, knowledge, loyalty, care and companionship are a few of many reasons why their contributions should be appreciated in words and in action.

Jeff Polakoff, Manitoba regional vice president for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), tells of his joys as a grandparent and the rewards he and his wife experience when sharing their love for nature with their grandchildren:

“Deb and I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to share our love of the outdoors with our grandkids the same way we did with our children, Mason and Jamie. In turn, our children, their partners and now our grandchildren, continue to expand our appreciation for nature and make us remember just how lucky we all are to have the opportunity to experience nature first hand, together.”

Jeff says his years of experience have taught him that experiencing nature with his granchildren is one of the the best ways for grownups to foster an appreciation for the outdoors and the plants and animals. Seeing nature through children's eyes can reintroduce adults to a sense fascination with the natural world.

“We sometimes forget the sense of wonder reflected by a child when they encounter animals, plants and insects as they interact in their natural habitat and surroundings for the first time,” says Jeff. “The sense of wonder of a child is infectious and inspiring in a very special way.”

Being a grandparent can truly be a special and humbling experience. Grandparents can leave a legacy of their own by sharing nature with their grandchildren in fun and engaging ways. Here, we showcase five ideas for cross-generational activities to consider for your next visit:

For the active

Staying active into the golden years certainly has its health benefits and incorporating nature into the routine can be nurturing to the mind. Kids are bundles of energy so why not harness the opportunity and take a walk through the urban forest or take a canoe trip down a river? Be sure to point out any interesting landscapes, flora and fauna along the way and play the “name that tree” game. Or, scout out a scenic spot for a picnic lunch with these delicious recipes.

The truth is, you don’t need to go very far to get in touch with nature. A day spent digging around in the garden and planting pollinator-friendly plants can keep you and your grandkids busy all day. Check out Gramma Good's tips for planting a "Greatest Pleasure Garden" that yields seasonal fruits and vegetables for the entire family to enjoy.

For the crafty

Pictures and objects tell a thousand words. Make a memory box or a scrapbook recollecting the time spent in nature with the grandkids. Use this as an opportunity to talk about how being in nature feels and find out what they enjoy most! These exercises can also help young naturalists build their vocabulary.

Another fun activity for older grandkids is making felted birds. No matter what the weather, borrow inspiration from the birds you see around the neighbourhood. At the end of day, you may even churn out a stockpile of gifts and ornaments for the next major holiday!

For the volunteers   

NCC's Conservation Volunteers program offers plenty of opportunities to engage Canadians of all ages by taking action for conservation. Each volunteer event provides a meaningful, hands-on educational experience in ecologically significant natural areas. Activities include property clean-ups, invasive species removal, seed collection and native species plantings. It’s not just about the labour on these trips; it’s also about  meeting like-minded people, making friends, learning about nature and appreciating one another's company.

For the student

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn,” and I find that quite true. Learning is a lifelong process, and it is certainly not contained within the classroom walls. For Grandparents Day (September 14 in Canada), teach your grandchild something from your generation, be it a trade like carpentry, a way of life or an everyday skill such as sewing or cooking. Alternately, learning a new skill together such as photography or birding is a great way to get outdoors.

For the laid-back

If all you want to do is unwind, take a breather and put your feet up, enjoying the day in tranquility and savouring the sounds and sights of nature may be the best way to spend time together. Take out a quote book, make up a rhyme, look at the clouds...They say the best things in life are free and wild.

In speaking with Jeff, I learned an old saying from Lois Wyse:

“Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generations to generations.”

To which Jeff adds, “A shared appreciation of nature makes those dots just that much bigger!”

It’s never too late to engage yourself and your young ones with nature. Explore NCC's website to see what nearby properties you can head out to visit.

Wendy Ho (Photo by NCC)

About the Author

Wendy Ho is Nature Conservancy of Canada's digital content manager.

Read more about Wendy Ho.

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