6 ways to foster a love of nature in your children

Teach children of all ages how to love the outdoors and appreciate the natural world around them.

By Daniel Chiras

Below is a list of activities for children of various ages. I have tried to gear most of these to specific age groups. You may still need to tailor some of these activities to your own children, simplifying them for younger ones for instance.

1. For children from nine months of age till age seven:
a) Get a pet or
b) visit a petting zoo or farm where you can view and pet animals.
c) Or, you may want to visit the local zoo, especially if your zoo humanely houses its animals, which most do these days.
d) Visit a local butterfly pavilion, if there is one in your area or while you are traveling with your children.
e) Read animal stories. Repeat these experiences many times.

2. For children aged eight to 11:
a) Take your child to a local park (preferably a provincial park with some wild land) or visit a local forest, field, lake, pond or ocean. Sit with your children while they play. Share their fascination if they are eager to show you what they are finding. Don't worry about them getting dirty. In fact, expect them to get dirty and don't punish them if they come back muddy. Go back often.
b) You may want to take your children camping, fishing, hiking, canoeing, rafting or bird watching. Take a camera along and encourage your children to photograph what they find interesting. Keep trips short at first and leave the distractions (portable TVs and the like) at home.

3. For children age 12 to beyond 15:
a) Take your children camping, fishing, canoeing, hiking, rafting or bird watching, or encourage them to engage in activities through camps, Scout troops, outfitters, clubs or schools.
b) Now is a good time to start talking about issues. Show videos of environmental problems such as global warming, overpopulation, acid rain and species extinction. Talk with you child about problems and solutions. Visit examples of activities that both create problems and solve them.

4. Go on a nature hunt in your backyard, photographing or videoing local plants and animals, and then go to a wilder area such as a local park, field, forest, lake or seashore. See how many plants and animals you can identify in 30 minutes at each site. Compare the two sites. Ask your children what they think were the most unusual species or the most beautiful species. You might ask them what these species need to survive and how they are similar to and different from humans. What lessons can we learn from nature? You might ask them why a developer would call the field or forest "vacant land."

5. Camp out under the stars and look for satellites and shooting stars. Identify constellations. Set up a blanket with your child in an open field and watch the clouds. Take time to listen for all the different bird calls.

6. Sign up your child for a work trip with a local conservation group to build or repair trails or plant trees. Go along with your child, if possible, to share in the work and fun. Talk about why you are doing it, especially the benefits your work will create.
 


Excerpted from EcoKids: Raising Children Who Care for the Earth by Daniel Chiras. Copyright 2005 by Daniel Chiras. Excerpted by permission of New Society Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 
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