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Children are typically drawn to the outdoors, and have an innate connection with the natural environment. In this segment of my series on Dr. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, we’ll explore how you can strengthen your child’s naturalist intelligence through some fun and engaging activities!

In the last post of this series we learned how to spot characteristics of the naturalist intelligence, so you should have an idea of how to identify aspects of nature-smarts in your child. For those who are not big naturalist learners, the activities below are still important. Remember, regardless of how your child is most inclined to learn, everyone is gifted with all nine intelligences. To improve your family’s nature-smarts, just incorporate some of these activities into your day!

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Outdoor Imaginative Play. Both with and without adults, it is important for children to have unstructured playtime outside. Imaginative play is improvisational; kids use elements from their immediate environment to create complex stories and to explore various social roles. When you encourage this to happen outdoors, the natural world becomes an intimate part of your child’s growth.

Point Out Sensory Experiences. Drawing your child’s attention to her different senses when you are outside together is an easy and experiential way to connect her (and yourself) with the immediate environment. Simple questions will do the trick. “Close your eyes; what do you hear? What does it smell like? What does the moss feel like? What can you see in there? What do you notice about….?”

Short Hikes & Picnics. Exploration and curiosity are driving forces in your child’s life. Participate in exploring and simply being in the natural world with your child; your enthusiasm will fuel theirs, and it establishes meaningful ways to bond.

Nature Journal. Nature journals are similar to scrapbooks, and are fun to bring on hikes, picnics, or any appropriate outdoor adventure. You can write personal reflections while sitting in next to a waterfall, jot down factual information about birds, draw the flora and fauna around you, sketch a bug you have never seen before, collect and identify leaves, glue in pictures from newspapers and magazines… be creative! Depending on what seems best, you can make a family nature journal that everyone contributes to or let each person have their own.

Grow something. It is powerful for children to have responsibility for another living thing and to witness life cycles in action. The chance to care for a sunflower, tomato or mint plant (for example) can be quite meaningful for kids, because it allows them to be the caregivers for once. This teaches your child responsibility and empathy, and forces them to balance the needs of others (watering the plant) with their own desires (running out to play).

Nature Art. When playing outside or going on a hike, bring a bag with you. Collect interesting things like feathers, pine cones, twigs, pebbles, etc. and put them in the bag. When you get home use these materials in an art project. You and your child can make a collage, make and label a feather poster, create pine cone animals, create leaf-people, or anything else you can imagine!

*Parts of this post are taken from The Everything Parent’s Guide to Raising Mindful Children (Adams Media), a book I authored along with partner Jeremy Wardle. Order your copy here!

What other activities could families do to cultivate their naturalist intelligence?

Share your ideas here!

Want to catch up? Read these earlier posts from the Multiple Intelligence series:

1) Multiple Intelligences: An Overview For Parents (p.1)
2) Multiple Intelligences: An Overview For Parents (p.2)
3) The Linguistic Intelligence: How to Identify Word-Smart Learners
4) Cultivate Your Linguistic Intelligence: Activities for Word-Smart Learners
5) The Logical-Mathematical Intelligence: What Is A Logic-Smart Learner?
6) Activities to Strengthen Your Child’s Logic-Smarts

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