10 Fun Ways to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Educational opportunities abound in nature, from the magical transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly to the roar of the ocean tucked inside a seashell. An appreciation of nature helps kids understand that they're part of a larger universe and that all living things serve a purpose, says Susan Buttross, M.D., chief of child development and behavioral pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, in Jackson. Try these ten fun family activities to spark your child's interest in the natural world and to build his imagination, inquisitiveness, and compassion.

Go Bird-Watching

"Once kids are introduced to this activity, a love of nature evolves naturally," says Jane Kirkland, author of the children's book Take a Backyard Bird Walk (Stillwater). "Watching birds requires that kids look from the sky to the ground and everywhere in between." Get to know the birds in your region. The next time you head outdoors with your child, bring a pair of binoculars. Survey trees, bushes, telephone poles, and grass for feathered friends. Observe a bird's colors, size, and behavior. Listen to its song, and watch how it flies. Younger kids will need you to tell them what they're seeing, but older kids can make notes and later identify the birds in books or online. Attract birds to your yard with a bird feeder, a birdbath, or a nest box.

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