As Summer winds down and the school year kicks off again, us modern-day humans often find ourselves naturally shifting away from the quintessential outdoor-oriented lifestyle that the warmer months bring here in the PNW. Days filled with hiking, camping, and swimming subside as cooler days and nights transition us into a more domesticated, indoor-centered existence. Wetter weather, fewer hours of daylight, and less free time in general often deters folks from pursuing as many outdoor adventures with friends and family.
Less outdoor adventure-time often translates to fewer nature connection experiences overall. But what if we could shift away from that tendency? What if we didn't have travel to connect with the natural world? How might we create opportunities for nature-immersion experiences right in our own urban or suburban backyard?
My philosophy is that nature connection doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing phenomenon. You don’t have to surround yourself with deep woods in order to connect with the natural world. In fact, some of the coolest nature experiences that Pat and I’ve ever had occurred right in the city of Seattle. We encountered countless Owls, stared into the eyes of a coyote, observed mating and nesting Falcons, discovered baby hummingbirds in their nest, and biked past a resting Otter on the Burke-Gilman trail, all while living in such a dense urban area.
Sure, we were blessed with some of those experience because we just so happened to be in the right place at the right time, paying close attention to our surroundings. But our nature connection journey also gained momentum when we chose to create a culture of nature awareness at home, using certain tools that help facilitate opportunities for those connections.
Today I’m sharing with you some of those nature connection tools in my list of 4 Simple Ways to Rewild at Home. Whether you live deep in the city, deep in the forest, or any where in between, may these suggestions help facilitate nature connection opportunities for you and your family throughout all seasons.
4 Simple Ways to Rewild at Home:
1) Create wildlife habitat in your backyard.
No matter how small your yard may be, there are some simple ways to create a natural oasis for wildlife. Plant native fruit-bearing shrubs and trees for birds and pollinators to enjoy, hang a bird feeder or establish a bird bath to provide sustenance for winged friends over winter, or build a bat box to create shelter for these mysterious mosquito-lovers. If you build it/plant it, they will come! Your child will love the opportunity to get involved with creating and maintaining these habitats as well. Once you've established some natural habitat, you might be curious about what those birdies in your yard are chattering about. If so, check out my blog post on bird language HERE.
2) Find a sit spot.
Find a place in your yard that you can access easily, and invite your child to find their own "secret spot" as well. Visit your sit spot as much as possible, ideally once a day. While you’re there, take some deep breaths, sit quietly, and observe your natural surroundings. Listen, smell, taste, touch, and see. You may eventually notice that your “ordinary” yard is actually quite the stomping grounds for wild things. You may find yourself becoming acquainted with a family of Robins, a territorial Douglas Squirrel, an opportunistic Raccoon, or a sneaky Coopers Hawk. Are these creatures suddenly attracted to your yard because of the new habitat that you’ve created? Or have they been visiting all along and you’ve just never taken the time to notice? Either way, visiting your sit spot will completely transform your relationship with your own backyard and will provide an opportunity for your whole family to connect with nature in a more meaningful way while at home. Check out my article Sit Spot Lessons From a Squirrel for more sit spot tips!
3) Take up backyard animal tracking.
Tracking is a way of reading and interpreting the "stories" left behind by animals on the landscape. Hovering over a set of animal footprints and curiously questioning which creature might be responsible for imprinting them is an exciting and engaging way to connect with the magic and mystery of the natural world. You don't need to travel far to take up animal tracking, you can find some pretty cool tracks in your own backyard. Although firm sandy substrate is ideal for capturing animal tracks, if you don’t live on a beach or next to a creek I suggest building a tracking box. Check out this article HERE on how to make one. You may be surprised to discover how many different animals roam your yard when you aren't looking! If you're new to animal tracking, be sure to read my blog post 6 Tips for Tracking Animal with Children for some pointers. Another exciting way to "track" the creatures of your yard is to set up a motion-activated trail camera! Check out the footage of the cougar that our trail camera captured in our own backyard HERE.
4) Share your nature discoveries.
Create a culture of nature connection at home by establishing a nature museum filled with items such as animal skulls, bird feathers, plaster-casted animal tracks, owl pellets, and handmade items made from plant materials. Accompany this nature museum with field guides that can assist you and your family in identification and further study of these natural items. Nature museums inevitably lead to story-telling (another potent nature-connection practice!), as each discovery holds a special story of how, when, and where that item was found!
I hope you find these suggestions for rewilding at home to be helpful, and I look forward to hearing the stories and nature discoveries that emerge from utilizing some of these tools. Please share your own rewilding ideas in the comments below!