Photo: How to start a nature habit

Get your kids outdoors for play and learning. (Credit: Chiot's Run via Flickr)

We're all guilty of the odd bad habit (I chew my nails).

This fall, the David Suzuki Foundation is asking 5,000 families to take up a new, healthy habit — to spend the next four weeks getting hooked on nature!

I know. You've got piano lessons, hockey practice, supper to make and cell phone bills to pay — and, for goodness' sake, someone please walk the dog!

Luckily, we've made this new habit easy to get into.

Here are four fun and easy ways to enjoy your neighbourhood and start thinking about your connections to nature:

Week 1: Food miles for the family: Visit a local farmers' market to see the bounty of the fall harvest.

Week 2: Discovering nature has limits: Hike through the fall colours, explore nature's wonders and learn to respect its limits.

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Week 3: Water, water everywhere: Hunt down ponds, streams and puddles in your neighbourhood to start off a conversation about the importance of water in nature and our lives.

Week 4: Home heat blow'n with the wind: Pull on sweaters and hunt for drafts around your home to help fight climate change.

Each activity has been adapted from the David Suzuki Foundation's new educational guide for grades four to six. The free guide has already received praise from the Ontario Ministry of Education and will be used by teachers across Ontario this fall to help get students outside.

We hope you'll enjoy the guide and pass it on to your favourite teachers, too. It's time to take your kids into nature and create lasting childhood memories.

How will you make time to be outside with your family?

Comment on this blog to win a bug poster signed by David Suzuki (draw date October 9th)


Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green

September 30, 2012

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Oct 10, 2012
10:30 AM

As a mother of two young children, I find the MOST important thing I can model for them is an appreciation and understanding of nature. It is my responsibility to create global citizens that respect the outdoors and desire to preserve it for future generations. As a Kindergarten teacher, I believe the best classroom I can give my students is just outside our door. I strive to take my Kindies outside as much as possible, where they are able to learn in a hands-on environment. Much of our science curriculum calls for the student to look beyond themselves and critically to the world around them. I hope that by inspiring students in nature at such a young age, they will grow to do amazing things and become ambassadors for our world.

Oct 10, 2012
8:47 AM

Our family supports our local vendors at the markets by purchasing their produce, this past week-end my daughter and I went outdoors to collect some autumn leaves to take home to paint, we visited our local nut farm and picked our own pumpkin from a pumpkin patch. This spring we started our first garden and I have joined a local herbalist group and am in my second year of studying wild crafting. Once the first frost hits we will be harvesting some of our rose hips for rose hip syrup. We are learning about weeds and how to add them to our diet. Getting back to our natural roots has been one of the biggest blessings to our hectic daily routine.

Oct 10, 2012
6:27 AM

Yummy! The local farmer's market is wonderful. Tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, homemade breads with no preservatives, crispy crunchy apples, bouquets of sunflowers, one-of-a-kind pottery, local musicians keep you entertained!

Oct 09, 2012
4:25 PM

Whenever I've become stressed or too busy with everyday life—that's when I know it's time to head out of the city, to the mountains or ocean. Most of my best creative thinking or self-reflection occur when I'm out in nature. My dad also has a strong draw towards nature, and we enjoy hiking in the mountains together along with just taking walks locally to enjoy the smells

Oct 09, 2012
4:23 PM

Grades 4 — 6 are perfect years to leverage off children's natural interest in nature. At this age, I notice my daughter has developed the ability to prioritize the benefit of attending the farmer's market or exploring a forest trail over the cost of getting out of the house and transported to the destination. In the past, only a playground would be appealing enough to warrant leaving the yard, although she has always enjoyed outdoor activities, plants and animals when confronted with them at the instigation of her parents.

Oct 09, 2012
4:14 PM

I'm an wildlife and outdoor educator and take classrooms out every day. Our family does creative little ventures depending on the season, ie

Oct 09, 2012
3:48 PM

Without the knowledge of all nature has to offer, the youth of today are becoming detached, but we are nature, we neec to nurture nature

Oct 09, 2012
3:44 PM

I can't say enough about the amazing city playgrounds in my neighborhood! Time to find a new hidden spot with my two girls every weekend for the next four weeks..thanks for the inspiration!

Oct 09, 2012
3:28 PM

Not that our nature times are themed with conservation, which we love, but to help motivate my autistic son to walk to school, we turn it into a bug-hunt. We take a little longer but look around trees, under leaves and stones, etc. In the winter, we will turn it into a tracks in the snow hunt. We find that if the walk outside has purpose, it is a great way to explore our environment, while providing incentive to walk to school.

Oct 09, 2012
3:26 PM

David Suzuki, this is an inspired idea!!

Oct 09, 2012
3:20 PM

What a wonderful reminder! I like that you've broken the call into four, single week segments to keep it fresh for kids and parents alike during the perfect time of year to take to the outdoors! Thanks for the post…

Oct 09, 2012
3:18 PM

Yesterday, I took my 5 year old son out looking for acorns to plant in our yard next year. However, the squirrels had stripped the trees bare by this point, so we changed our focus and started scanning the flowerbeds in the area for evidence that the soil had been disturbed. Sure enough, we managed to unearth at least a couple intact nuts (and countless pinecones) that the squirrels had burried for the winter. It was a great way to teach him about the processes that animals use to survive.

Oct 09, 2012
3:14 PM

We are fortunate to live within walking distance to the sea and hills and over the summer we have participated in a few guided nature and marine walks, which were wonderful for this prairie girl! To try to instil a love of nature in my young children I have created little activity folders for them to hunt out various plants, birds, marine life, and mini-beasts. Of course this means I'm also learning about them as well! There is always something to learn, and it's great to see my 2 year-old knowing a bird by name, or my 4 year-old pointing out a plant or fungus. It's much different to my city-slicker life, but we all really enjoy it and miss the days we don't make it out for a walk due to severe weather. I like that the education units are easily adaptable to individual families and to children of all ages. They are also applicable to any geographic area. Well done!

Oct 09, 2012
3:11 PM

Walking the dog is how I connect with nature! Walking her on hiking trails, nature paths etc. is my excuse to get away for awhile. After all, the dog HAS to be walked. Right ? :)

Oct 09, 2012
3:09 PM

We took your advice a few months ago. Every night after we eat, our family goes for a sunset walk down the road at stunning Trafalgar Park, Victoria, BC. I thought adding one more thing to the agenda would be hard but it actually seems to give us more time. Everyone calms down, we have time to connect and when our 3 year-old gets home, she doesn't ask to watch videos or TV. There's less conflict in the house. It's a great antidote to a busy day. And there's always something stunning to see.

Oct 09, 2012
3:05 PM

So glad to live so close to a nature trail, and to live in Brampton that just finished up another year of their Farmers Market (We even won a basket full of goodies this year!) I couldnt imagine not getting out side for a walk every day :)

Oct 09, 2012
3:24 AM

This is a great article to give people even more reason/ways to get outside and enjoy the real pleasures in life. And these 4 ways outside have alittle twist, they get people to help out, without making it seem like work. Too bad now adays you have to "trick" people in order to get them to do something good. Nonetheless, great article!

Oct 08, 2012
9:16 AM

I love saying "We can do that!"

Thank you for those do-able suggestions to get our family to stop and reflect as denizens of planet earth.

Oct 08, 2012
9:02 AM

Reading Last Child in the Woods really made me realize how big the disconnect with nature is…being raised in the country, you take your relationship with nature for granted. I have a friend who is a teacher and an inspiration: he allows his students to have nature in the classroom by keeping hissing cockroaches and stick insects. He challenges them to create terrariums for the insects so that they know what living things require to survive, and not to be afraid of wild creatures. It's a positive step.

Oct 08, 2012
8:43 AM

This blog makes me feel exceptionally good about my choice of post-secondary education. I go to a school for Recreation, Fish, and Wildlife Technology in a small city. All of the groceries I buy are locally grown. I have classes in which I discuss the importance of water and how it influences our lives. My classmates and I go on hikes and walks every day to appreciate the beautiful scenery and wildlife here in beautiful British Columbia. This blog only made me appreciate even more what I'm already so grateful to have. I hope this inspires more people to get involved, because I am so lucky and EXCITED to be spending the rest of my life immersed in the beauty and mystery of our planet.

Oct 08, 2012
8:40 AM

Every week, I'm going to take a few minutes with my wife to see shapes in the clouds (partly to bring more creativity into our lives and partly to appreciate the clean air we have).

Sep 30, 2012
3:45 PM

for me, nature is like a religion. it is something i believe in without question — nature ALWAYS knows best. my children (when i have them) will be free to choose their own beliefs, but respect, appreciation, admiration and protection of nature is something i hope to instil in them from an early age. and your suggestions above are now on my list for achieiving that.

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