Getting your child interested in nature now can foster a life-long love of nature. Perhaps your child will grow up to invent innovative ways to preserve the environment he or she has come to love. Participation is key – the more your child can feel, hear, see, touch and taste nature, the closer he or she will feel to it. Here are some tips for fostering your child’s interest.
1. Start a collection of rocks, feathers, plants (where appropriate), or other freebies from nature. Check out or purchase books about the subject of your collection. Learn to identify the various plants, rocks, and birds. Prepare to preserve and display your collection – maybe a flower press for plants (this can be as simple as an old phone book), and a shadow box for displaying rocks and feathers.
2. Search for wildlife. Using a simple pair of binoculars, you and your child can watch birds, butterflies, deer, and other wildlife. Once again, enhance the experience with books. Consider a scrap book of where your child can paste her pictures or write her impressions and thoughts about viewing wildlife.
3. The insect world holds much intrigue for children. Bugs are fascinating, beautiful, sort of scary, and somewhat gross. They are perfect for kids! A little simple equipment can help. A magnifying glass is a good start. You can also get various kits that include an insect habitat and even a vacuum for capturing your insects.
4. Grow vegetables, herbs, and other garden plants. This can be as simple as sprouting seeds in a jar on a windowsill, or as elaborate as preparing a garden bed just for your child. A good compromise is to have a container garden for your child. He or she might like a journal to document the growth of the plants as well.
5. Do some crafts with those lovely seed pods, flowers, twigs, and other fall-out the woods and fields provide. Learn to make picture frames from branches, wreaths from vines, and animal shapes from seed pods and pinecones. Another fun activity is to build log cabins of various sizes with sticks.
6. Take your child on a picnic. You can use your own yard, a park, or other outdoor area. Prepare outdoor activities to go with your picnic, such as playing catch or throwing a Frisbee. This would also be a good opportunity to start that collection.
7. Find a nature trail or make your own path in the woods to walk on. Try to walk the trail at least once a month to observe the various seasonal changes.
8. Wild foods are an exciting way to collect gifts from nature. Make sure you are well-versed in plant identification, and pick a few easy species to find and eat. Try gathering honeysuckle flowers to make tea, pick wild blackberries, or snip wild onions like chives. Make sure you do not harvest any wild foods near roadsides or on public lands.
9. Feed the birds in your backyard. Get some good books on birds, a pair of binoculars, some birdseed, a feeder, and enjoy observing your feathered friends.
10. Stargaze with your child. Find a good star map and identify stars, planets, and constellations. You can use binoculars to observe the moon and many of the stars. There are also simple telescopes for children.