Here are some ideas and resources to help parents encourage a love of nature in their children. Just one of these ideas alone may not make much of a difference, but a combination of several should begin to have an impact on the way children perceive the world we live in. I hope so anyhow! Please give some of these a try:
1) Get your kids outside! Go for a hike, or even a walk around the neighborhood. The National Wildlife Federation has a website for parents and kids called The Green Hour which is filled with ideas for what to do outside. Also check out Backyard Nature with Jim Conrad for 101 nature-oriented activities that change seasonally.
2) Have your kids plant a small garden. If you live in the city, have them plant a pot or two on the deck or even in a sunny window. Here are some of my tips for gardening with children: The Children’s Garden.
3) Subscribe to nature magazines for children such as Zoobooks (ages 4-12), Zootles (ages 2-5), National Geographic Kids (6-14), National Geographic Little Kids (ages 3-6), Ranger Rick (ages 7 and up), Your Big Backyard (ages 3-7) or for really little ones (ages 1-4) – try the National Wildlife Federation’s Wild Animal Baby. Not only do these magazines teach kids about nature, but they encourage reading too!
Note: Ranger Rick must have been around for eons, because even I remember getting it, and loving it, as a child.
4) Subscribe to a nature club such as the Arbor Day Foundation’s Nature Explore Club.
5) Put out a bird feeder, or better yet, a variety of bird feeders (hummingbird, thistle seed, suet feeders, platform feeders, peanuts in shells, as well as the traditional sunflower and millet varieties). Even in the city it should usually be possible to hang a small feeder outside a window. If you can put out a bird bath, especially a heated one for climates with cold winters, you will notice an even greater number of bird visitors.
6) Get a kit for raising butterflies, frogs, ladybugs, or hermit crabs for example.
Or how about an ant farm?
Or my personal favorite…sea monkeys!
7) Set an example. Whether we like it or not, kids model parents’ behaviors. Show your own interest in nature, and point out interesting animals, insects, plants etc. on a daily basis. To inspire yourself, I suggest reading Rachel Carson’s book The Sense of Wonder. Read my review of it here. Also, you can check out the adult resources here, at the Hooked on Nature website.
8) Come up with some nature-themed art projects for your children, or recycled art. Good resources for ideas are: Nature’s Art Box, Recycled Crafts Box, and Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children
9) Involve children in your recycling. Let them help sort. Take them with you when you drop it off. Older children might benefit from a book like Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming. Read my review here for more information.
10) Read nature-themed stories to your children. Here are some suggested reading lists by age from the Hooked on Nature website:
11) Set up a seasonal nature table in your home where children can display their outdoor finds. A fall table for example might have fall leaves, acorns, and pine cones, whereas a spring table might have spring flowers, feathers and grasses. Change the table seasonally and see what wonders your children come home with.
12) Start solstice celebrations in your home. Explain about the movement of the Earth, what causes the seasons, and what the solstice means. Last year we had our first annual solstice celebration on the winter solstice. We lit candles and had a special meal. The children gathered whatever they could find outside to create the centerpiece (pine branches, pine cones, rocks, and twigs). They still talk about that evening more than any other holiday celebration that we have had! I believe that being more aware of the natural rhythms of life, helps build an awareness of the importance of nature and the planet.
I really wish I had begun this post three weeks ago instead of last night, because I know that there are many more great ideas for getting kids excited about nature and the environment. This will definitely have to be an ongoing project for me.
I hope you have enjoyed my ideas, and will find them useful. The main point is that children are the future of out planet. Get them outdoors and teach them just how wonderful our planet is…PLEASE!!!!