Bringing the Outside In: Clever Ways Growing Families Can Add A Touch of Nature in the Home

Mother and daughter gardening.

A mother and daughter tend to their outdoor garden. There are many ways to bring the outdoors inside, without the mess.


Anyone with children knows that kids bring in dirt, leaves, sticks, rocks, shells, and other bits of nature that parents may not be too keen on. Yet nature, if properly incorporated, can add a sense of calm and beauty to a home.

“Using elements that appear in nature make a home feel lived in, warm, and welcoming,” Karina Jones, an interior designer in North Carolina, said. There are a number of ways to bring the outside in, that aren’t messy or dirty and that the whole family can appreciate.

Embrace Those Natural Tendencies and Go Foraging

Kids love collecting, and I have a sneaking suspicion that adults do, too. We just learn to suppress the desire as we grow older and realize that every material possession we collect is also a responsibility — something we’ll have to clean, organize, maintain, and display or store. It is important, however, to remember that spending time in nature also has many benefits. According to Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, “Time in nature is not leisure time; it's an essential investment in our children's health (and also, by the way, in our own).” 

Before heading out into nature, consider what your family might want to collect and where you can display your collection. Seashells or sand can be placed in a glass jar on the bathroom counter. Interesting branches can be placed in a vase on a table. Smooth pebbles can be placed in a bowl. Driftwood can be incorporated into a macrame wall hanging. There are so many possibilities!

Make Memories

Natural objects you collect can also serve as a reminder of a family vacation or a commemoration of a certain day. I collected sand from a beach on my birthday last year, and it now sits inside of a glass lamp on my desk. It’s a beautiful reminder of that day and place. If the touch of nature you add to your home is meaningful, it will give you a wonderful feeling whenever you see it. Who couldn’t use more of that in their home?

Pet Plants

Giving kids their own easy-care plants as “pets” is a fun way to bring nature indoors. (It’s also a great way for them to learn about responsibility.) 

Buy terracotta pots and let them paint and decorate them. Have them name their plants to make it even more personal. Where you place them is up to you, but they’ll be more likely to remember to water their plant if it’s in their bedroom, playroom, or bathroom. Succulents are beautiful and interesting, plus they’re easy to care for since they don’t need much watering. Simple vines like English ivy or small potted plants like peperomia are also great options.

Fresh Flowers

Freshly picked flowers add a burst of color and beauty to any home. Depending on your skill set, patience, and time, there’s always a way to bring fresh flowers into your home.

Grow Your Own
If you want to regularly have fresh flowers in your home, the most affordable option is to grow your own. If you don’t want to cut into a carefully designed landscape, planting a wildflower mix for your growing conditions is an easier alternative. Many people also find gardening to be a relaxing activity and a great way to teach children about plants and ecosystems. 

U-Pick Farms

Most areas have farms that offer opportunities to the public to come and pick their own flowers for a great price. While it isn’t something you’d likely do on a regular basis, it’s a fun activity to do with kids or friends. 

Grocery Store Flowers
Not all grocery stores offer the same flowers. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s offer more exotic varieties that you likely won’t find in your own garden, plus you’ll know they are ethically grown. Even the fillers they sell are interesting and work well on their own.

Flower Delivery Subscriptions
Whether from your local florist or an online company, there are many companies offering regular flower deliveries. Check Groupon for some great bargains!

Get Crafty and Think Seasonally

Many holidays (including religious ones) are in some way connected to seasonal changes in nature. So why not incorporate objects from nature into your seasonal decor? Autumn leaves and gourds around Thanksgiving, pinecones or an evergreen garland or snowflake paper cutouts during winter, and bird feathers and dyed eggs in springtime. There are really far too many nature crafts on Pinterest to mention, but painting stones is a favorite! Because these decorations will only be up for a short time, parents can involve their kids without worrying about long-term impact on interior decor. 

A little bit of nature in the home goes a long way. You don’t have to make any dramatic or extravagant changes. If you’re able to use some of the ideas above or find your own ways to wrangle your kids’ natural ability to collect in the great outdoors, you will have a touch of nature in your home in no time.

Sarah Kinbar is a freelance writer and editor for leading print and online publications. Formerly editor in chief of Garden Design, she has also written and edited for Cottage Living, Modern magazine and Orlando Arts. You can find her on Google+.

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