It's holiday time and many families will celebrate by spending time together (though likely in much smaller gatherings), eating lots of food and buying too many gifts.
Although December has become the most commercialized time of year, this time of year doesn’t have to be about spending too much money on things your kids and the planet don’t need.
Think about what it would feel like during this season of giving if you taught your kids the importance of giving back to nature, helping them adopt some new nature-based habits and traditions along the way.
If your family’s holiday traditions could use a little less materialism and a little more inspiration from nature, try out these alternatives to celebrating the season—and nature.
Yes, we actually mean counting birds. This year, think about taking your holiday celebration outside by having your family take part in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This early-winter bird census, in which thousands of volunteers across the U.S., Canada, and many countries in the Western Hemisphere go out over a 24-hour period on one calendar day to count birds,
CBC is a fantastic way to introduce your kids to the excitement of birding, citizen science and hopefully set them off on a lifelong hobby. No experience birding? No worries. Beginning birders can join a group with at least one experienced birdwatcher.
Check out the CBC map to contact the volunteer organizing the count in your area. Audubon's 121st Christmas Bird Count will be conducted between the dates of Monday, December 14, 2020 through Tuesday, January 5, 2021.
Adopt an Outdoor Tree
Befriending a tree is a great way for your child to learn about one of the most important living things on this planet— and one that is likely just outside their door. By becoming a friend to a tree, your child can learn not only about the vital role of trees, but they will develop an appreciation for these dependable but dynamic organisms. Visiting their tree year-round and noticing how it changes from season to season, will also help them tune into local ecology as well.
Your child can even decorate their tree with ice ornaments, a wonderful way to teach that value as well as show appreciation for trees outside.
Do a Nature Cleanse
Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese practice that literally translates to “forest bath” (“shinrin” means forest and “yoku” means bath). To forest bathe, you immerse yourself in the forest, taking in the atmosphere through the senses. It’s being calm and quiet in a forest, observing nature around you while breathing deeply.
Stress-reducing effects aside, perhaps one of the most important reasons for children to forest bathe is that it teaches them to tune into nature, which is crucial to their connection with the natural world, and themselves. One of the best days to press reset on our nature connection clocks is the winter solstice. The winter solstice (December 21st this year) is the first day of winter and the longest night of the year and an important way of reconnecting us to the seasons and great cycles of nature, which we have become increasingly disconnected from.
Feed the Birds
In Scandinavian culture, kindness towards animals is an important holiday tradition. Families in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland will place seeds, grains, and nuts outside for the birds on Christmas eve, with many people holding off from eating their holiday meal until the birds have feasted. Bring this tradition to your family by making your own homemade feeders out of pinecones, peanut butter and seeds or suet. Bird feeder crafts are fun, easy and will make your backyard feathered friends happy. Just make sure you and your child are consistent with feeding, supplying food regularly as birds may become dependent on your food source.
Tune into Nature
Getting your child started with nature journaling is such a delightful and instructive way for them to experience and connect with nature and such a great habit to start off with for a new year. Whether they use their journal to write down observations, sketch, press flowers or create diagrams, a nature journal is a place they can continue to come back to while exploring nature and their relationship to it.
Decorate with Nature
Nature holiday crafts are a fun way to spend time with your child. But perhaps the best part is heading outside together to gather objects in nature. Plus, they're beautiful, simple, (nearly) free and teach your child that not everything has to come from a store. Take a look at this post for some of our favorite ideas that are super easy and mainly supplied by nature.
Make Shelter Animals Happy
Remembering shelter animals during the holiday season is a great way to teach your kids about giving back. Most kids will feel great satisfaction at donating their time or spending their own pocket money on food or other supplies for shelter pets. Here are some suggestions from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to give back to animals at your local animal shelter this holiday season. If you can open your home and heart to a foster animal for the holidays, or even consider giving a little one their new forever home, even better.