In the field of environmental education and interpretation, professionals are increasingly faced with children who are removed from nature. In addition to children who are naive to what many consider basic environmental concepts, what concerns me personally even more are the growing number of children who have an aversion or down right fear of nature. As a parent, how do you reconnect your children with nature in an age where we are all connected to WiFi and satellites? It all begins with you, their parent.
Get outside with your child
In a recent study conducted by the Outdoor Foundation, a survey of over 40,000 individuals over the age of 6 found that 75 percent of children between the ages of 6 and twelve say their participation in outdoor activities was influenced by an adult. Don't just tell your children "It's a beautiful day, go play outside!" take the time to go outside with them. The interaction will benefit your child and I'd be willing to bet it will benefit you as well. Be sure you set an example by having everyone, including yourself, turn off their cell phones and iPods during your outdoor time.
Tune your child's nature experience to their interests
Is your child a budding photographer? Arm them with a camera and take them to a local park, where inspiration abounds. Does your child love everything having to do with music? Have them listen to the natural sounds around them, from the songs of birds and insects, to the creak of swaying oak branches and the roar of rushing water. Tech-savvy teens could even be encouraged to record those and create their own natural remix composition on their computer.
You don't have to be a Nature Geek to teach your kids to love nature!
If you're thinking "I'd love to teach my children about nature, but I don't know that much about it," the great news is that makes no difference whatsoever. So what if you don't know the name of that bird that flew overhead or that bug you found under the log. You and your child can observe and learn about it together. What kind of food is the bird looking for? Is this bug flat because it lives under a log? For those burning questions that your child (or you) just have to know the answer to, remember or write down as much details as you can about what you observe. At home, research together what you found. (And don't forget, if you get stumped you can always consult your friendly Nature Geek!)
These are just a few of the ways you can get involved in reconnecting your child with the natural world. The main thing to keep in mind is that by exploring and getting outdoors with your child, you are showing them your interest not only in nature, but in them as well. So get outside this weekend, then share your experiences here!