Originally published: May 2023
Think back to when your teen was a young child, playing outside with creativity and joy. You may have found them digging in mud, jumping in leaves, or gazing at the sky.
These days, your teen may have much less interest in connecting with nature. Teen life can be busy and full of other priorities. Still, rekindling that early love of the outdoors is a great way to support teen mental health. Research confirms that when young people spend time outside, they’re able to handle stress and tend to have better moods.
Let’s explore some ways to spark your teen’s connection with nature. Talk with your teen about the ideas that are most meaningful to them and use those as a starting point. Try to be flexible and open to their creativity.
Explore nature all around
Help your teen get to know natural areas near your home and in your local area. Nature is all around us in Alberta! From parks and pathways to forests, lakes, and fields, talk with your teen about green spaces they can visit. Help them try Map and Explore Your 2.4, an interactive mapping tool for exploring outdoor spaces within a 2.4 km radius of home or school. Be sure to set ground rules for staying safe while driving, biking, or walking.
Help them notice nature
Encourage your teen to deepen their connection with nature by noticing it through their five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Sensory activities
and other mindful practices can help teens pay attention to the present moment and their surroundings. Try these ideas together:
- Guided meditations
- Mindful walking
- Nature photography and videos
Talk about how nature makes them feel
Help your teen cultivate positive connections with nature by reflecting on how they feel when they’re outside. They could journal, text a friend, write a post, or talk with you about their experiences. Helping your teen connect to and name their emotions can support them in developing a relationship with nature.
Try a nature gratitude activity. Ask your teen what they appreciate about the outdoors and what they’re grateful for— you can do this when you’re outside together, or when you’re back home. Use their ideas to spark conversations around the dinner table.
Flex your green thumb
As a family, consider growing plants, flowers, herbs, or vegetables in your yard or in planters on your balcony. Short on outdoor growing space? Encourage your teen to take part in a school or community garden. These types of gardening activities support a sense of pride, ownership, and joy in connecting with nature.
Make nature art
Encourage your teen to collect natural items (like twigs, rocks, bark, grasses, and pinecones) and make them into art they can display at home. Or try nature DIY projects like making birdfeeders, natural fabrics, or leaf prints.
Look for everyday opportunities
Help your teen plan everyday ways to spend more time outside, nurturing love for the outdoors. Here are some practical tips they can try:
- Taking nature breaks—spending just a few minutes outside when they need a break from homework or other life pressures.
- Meeting up with friends for outdoor sports, games, and clubs, or simply to relax and unwind.
- Getting involved in citizen science—nature-based science projects and experiments in the local community. From tracking wildlife sightings to measuring trees to monitoring ice thaw, there’s something for everyone. To find local opportunities, to go the Government of Canada’s citizen science portal.
- Taking the lead on planning an outdoor family activity, like hiking or canoeing.
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