small child watering indoor plants

How can my kids experience nature during lockdown?

How can my kids experience nature during lockdown? 1024 443 Mediatrics

Q: I live in a high-rise apartment and am the father of two girls, ages 4 and 7. Before living in lockdown due to COVID-19, the girls and I would play outside nearly every day at a local park, and often go on nature adventures on weekends. The lockdown was recently extended and I worry that my kids are spending more time on screens and not getting the fresh air they need. We really can’t go out as my wife is high-risk – what can we do to experience nature indoors?

~ Nervous about the lack of nature, Chicago, IL

A: Dear Nervous,

Nearly all of us are adapting to our “new normal” including our ability to be in nature. For those of us living in cities (and elsewhere), lockdowns and health concerns have caused us to responsibly stay indoors and forgo the usual trips to the park or other excursions in the great outdoors. While experiencing nature has many mental and physical health benefits for kids, and cannot be replaced by screens, your children can still connect with nature and learn about their wonderful world while also sheltering in place.

Here are some ways you and your family can experience nature safely during the pandemic:

  • Open the window and watch: Looking at clouds, birds, trees, squirrels, or seeing if you can spot people and pets is another way you can help your child experience nature from afar in an unstructured way.
  • Make an indoor nature space: Whether it is a sunny corner where plants can grow, a table for a terrarium, or a place you can hang a butterfly habitat – there are many ways you can bring nature indoors and get your kids involved! Have them take pictures, chart growth, and journal about the progress they see taking place.
  • Care for a pet: Your family may already have a cat, dog, fish, or other critter, and know it is a great way for kids to learn about another species and what it needs to grow and thrive. During this time together you can increase your children’s responsibility for caring for the pet, or consider fostering a pet during lockdown. While this is not an option for every family, or every apartment building, if it is right for you, bring increased attention to the pet, making sure your children are helping to care for it and are empathetic to its needs.
  • Treat screens as a window to the natural world: Many zoos, national parks, and aquariums are offering 24/7 live streams of animals and habitats that you and your kids can access for free. Other zoos are offering online events with nature experts and allow kids to ask questions ahead of time or through live chats. Nature shows and documentaries can be another way kids can learn about the world outside of your apartment walls.

Finally, remember that even though your children’s routine has changed, they are still learning, experiencing, growing, and developing, and will be able to get back into the nature outside of your apartment once it is safe. Make sure to notice the little things outside of your windows, the budding plants inside the flowerpots, and have your devices transport you to the faraway places you can plan on visiting in the future.

Stay safe and stay connected to the natural world around you,

~ The Mediateers

For more information and tips on how to integrate nature into a child’s everyday life during a pandemic, check out: