In these new and strange times, we’ve all been told to limit the amount of time we spend outside of our homes and not to venture too far. So how can you ensure you and your family are experiencing nature and all its benefits?
Getting out in nature, can help children (and adults) to have a broad sensory experience, it can encourage imagination, and get children using their body in different ways. It is often motivating and soothing. The great outdoors is becoming more and more accessible for people with a disability with work happening around accessing national parks, beaches and the wilderness.
Even with social distancing in place there are some great ways that you and your family can get out and enjoy nature.
- Lie out in your yard and watch birds flying, butterflies fluttering or clouds drifting
- Try some star gazing at night. You can find star charts online and subscribe for notifications when the international space station can be seen from Brisbane.
- Your child can carry a basket (or use their wheelchair tray) to collect flowers from your garden or around your neighbourhood. Ask them to describe them to you - the colours, the smell, how they feel. They can use their communication device, signs or words to help.
- Go for a walk or take your child in their wheelchair/stroller. Collect leaves, sticks, feathers, flowers, seed pods and rocks along the way. When you’re home these can be a nature sensory basket to smell, feel and look at.
- Use a magnify glass to look at objects from nature. This could even be the dead moth you’ve found in your pantry while you did a deep clean!
- Use sticks, rocks and seed pods to create sound. Can you play a tune with two sticks together?
- On a rainy day, get out into the rain (pending health and equipment). Try to catch the rain on your tongues or feel a gentle sprinkle turn to heavy plopping rain.
- Have a picnic on your balcony or in your garden.
- Your picnic rug can double up as an exercise mat to do home exercises and therapy activities outside.
- Collect and paint rocks (even if you have to buy them from Bunnings if the nearest creek isn’t possible right now). You can practice identifying and requesting colours and have fun being creative.
- Use a stick to make shapes in the dirt or in a tray of sand.
- Do you usually go for your walk/ride in the day? Why not go at night? Put some bike reflectors on strollers or even wear a reflective shirt. Take a torch and see if you can spot some possums on wires.
- Fill a bucket or dish with water. Experiment with objects to see which will flaot and which will sink. Do feathers float? Will a rock sink? Print or upload a ‘float’ or ‘sink’ symbol and your child can communicate what they think will occur by switching, pointing or speaking.
- Use an old bucket, washtub or wheelbarrow as a mud pit. Allow your child to explore their inner mud baker to create some masterpiece mudcakes! Check out Nature Play Qld tips on making a mud pit.
- Start a vegetable garden or grow indoor herbs. If you don’t want to venture to the nursery you can order plants online.
- Water your garden. Let your child use a watering can or the hose or even a spray bottle.
- Use a piece of book contact to make a collage of nature items you find. Peel off one side so the sticky side is facing up and your child can put the pieces on. Use another piece to cover over this and they’ll have a piece of art to keep.
- Take photos of your nature adventures. Photos of ants, spiders and leaves will be great to look back on if there are days you can’t get outside.
These explorations of nature can be part of your home school program. They can be used in your child’s therapy. They can be used as part of a sensory diet. They can be used for your whole family to connect. We encourage you to help your child engage with nature as much as you can and however you can. We understand the effort it may take to adapt these ideas for your child so please let us know if we can help! Nature is available for everyone to enjoy, experience and explore!