Question:

How can I get my child interested in spending more time outdoors, enjoying nature?

Answer:

Joy is highly contagious. We don't need to try all that hard to convince our children to appreciate what we appreciate. Our own joy speaks volumes.

When we are able to focus on the beautiful world that G‑d made, our perception seeps into our children as well. And nature – including all the plants and animals – has so much to teach us. Can tiny ants demonstrate how to work hard for a goal? As we carefully watch them carrying loads much bigger than themselves, they become exemplary models of industriousness. And if even a little ant on the sidewalk can be viewed with renewed respect, imagine the awe that's possible when viewing a vast ocean.

We can notice how, at certain times in the day, so many little creatures seem to be croaking and chirping all at once, giving thanks, it seems, in their own way. And we can freely share our wonderment about this. We can notice that there are so many different colored birds and think about how they all could have been the same color. Instead, G‑d blessed our Earth with so much variety to add joy to the world. That delight can be spontaneously passed along. We may feel a little silly at first, but the value of these genuine expressions are inestimable.

Just looking around, the life lessons are plentiful. We can see clearly how every detail matters in every tiny creature we meet – as it does in our lives.

We learn that a plant plucked from its source quickly wilts and then withers. And that's just how we feel when we get disconnected from what gives us life.

A fruit tree can tell us how to treat a guest – by freely providing us with food, drink, and a shady spot to rest!

Right next to a valley is a hill – life sure has its ups and downs – and hey, look, that's natural!

Each creature - like each of us - has its own beautiful and unique song.

There are spiritual messages found in each creation of our natural world, and when we pause to listen to them, we gain newfound wisdom. No make-believe "talking animal" stories are needed on a journey into the woods – or even into one's backyard – with time to spend and ears to hear. When given the opportunity, the creatures and vegetation we encounter really have a lot to say.

Collecting little reminders like shells, sand, pine cones, acorns, leaves, and special rocks while on a walk, bring added pleasure that can be later savored. If they are saved in a memory box, it can quickly turn into a timeless treasure chest.

The responsibility given to us to guard and protect our wondrous environment is often forgotten. As we roam across planet Earth with eyes wide open like a child's, our appreciation blossoms. Then we have a chance to value and care more deeply about the natural resources all around us. And this will be gently infused in the children who get to experience that sense of awe along with us.

Taking walks in parks, biking on a trail, going boating, or even just simply strolling in the neighborhood with our children can be an enchanting experience. During every season of the year, and at every season of our lives, spending time together in nature is something that can make us all richer. And at the very same time that we will be exploring more about our remarkable natural world, we will be discovering more enjoyable wonders about each other.