Parenting Blog

The official blog for Ann Douglas, parenting book author and weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio. Ann is the creator of The Mother of All Books series and the author of Parenting Through the Storm. Her most recent book, Happy Parents, Happy Kids, was published by HarperCollins Canada in February 2019.

Summer Reading: The Big Book of Nature Activities

Me as a toddler, exploring the wonders of nature at the family cottage.

Me as a toddler, exploring the wonders of nature at the family cottage.

Review of The Big Book of Nature Activities by Drew Monkman and Jacob Rodenburg. New Society Publishers, 2016. Paperback. 352 pages. Fully illustrated. $39.95.

My earliest—and happiest—childhood memories are of times spent in nature:  accompanying my dad on walks in the woods at the family cottage, collecting and pressing wildflowers with my grandmother, and heading into the marsh behind our suburban home to make forts with other kids from around the neighborhood. It was all about freedom (to make my own fun) and discovery (the chance to experience any number of untold wonders for myself).

In recent years, scientists have begun to document the countless ways that spending time in nature benefits children physically, mentally, and spiritually. But, of course, it’s one thing to know that spending time in nature is good for your child. It’s quite another to come up with strategies to convince him to ditch the electronic devices and head outdoors.

Fortunately, there’s a way to sidestep the potential standoff between technology and nature. Simply invite the gadgets along. Whether it’s taking photos, making videos, or keeping an electronic journal of discoveries made in nature, your child will find all kinds of ways to put his technology to use on your family nature adventure. As Drew Monkman and Jacob Rodenburg note in their brand new book, The Big Book of Nature Activities (New Society Publishers, 2016), “Although it might seem counter-intuitive, there are actually many ways in which digital technology can inspire people of all ages to get moving, exploring, and enjoying nature. Sharing through social media, and the feedback from others that often follows, can keep the outdoor experience alive for days or weeks.”

Once your child has the opportunity to experience the wonders of nature first-hand, he’ll be more included to want to unplug from the wired world. Of course, you can be a powerful role model on this front by parking your smartphone, too. “Take the time to unplug and savor the natural world, with no filter for your senses, Monkman and Rodenburg recommend. “As someone once noted, ‘There may not be any Wi-Fi in the forest, but I promise you’ll find a better connection.'”


About the Book

Looking for ways to pique your child’s curiosity about nature? The Big Book of Nature Activities is jam-packed with child-friendly crafts, games, and projects designed to promote a connection with the natural world. Make a fish viewer. Create a batch of wildflower perfume. Or try your hand at Citizen Science (when everyday citizens act as the eyes and ears of scientists, collecting crucial data about the natural world). You’ll find four seasons’ worth of ideas and inspiration in this practical and accessible guide.  

Reviewed by Ann Douglas