Making Friends with Nature: Nurturing a Connection to the Environment in Childhood

From an early age, children love to play outdoors. But all too quickly television, smart phones and computers can distract young people from the beauty of the outside world. 

Nature is dependent on us and our children to secure its future. However, children need to actually care about nature in order to look after it. They need to experience nature in a way that actually makes them feel like they are part of it.

Teaching children to love nature

The world can often just seem full of pollution, traffic and concrete. But you can show your child the nature that's all around. 

These days, children don't seem to have as much to play outdoors. And if they do have time, there aren’t that many green spaces around for them to explore. In fact, in his book, author Richard Louv says that this sense of isolation creates 'Nature-Deficit Disorder' in children. He believes it harms their mental and physical well-being and affects their creativity.

Why should children connect with nature?

Being outside around nature helps children become more aware, engage all their senses and stimulate their curiosity. The opportunity to explore nature helps children improve their attention span and learning capacity and is an important part of their development. Outdoor activity also provides fresh air and exercise, helping children to be physically and mentally fit.

How can you encourage children to love nature?

There are many things that you can do to help your children develop a love for nature. Start when they are very young by encouraging them to play in the garden. Let them touch the leaves, flowers and rocks and don't worry them getting a bit dirty. Encourage them to feel confident and curious. Tell them the names of the different insects you see and birds, trees and animals that visit.

Gardening: A great way to help children connect to nature is to get them to help in the garden. This gets them in touch with the soil and encounter all kinds of insects and interesting creatures. Caring for plants and seeing them grow and flourish is wonderful and satisfying. Simply by transforming part of the garden into a home for wildlife, letting some grass get a little overgrown or making piles of logs for insects - your children can help protect the future of the environment.

Learn bushcraft skills: Bushcraft skills can help encourage children to understand and engage with nature. From foraging, tracking animals to learning how to identify trees and plants. These are all fun ways to discover more about Mother Nature.

Enjoy eco-friendly events, wildlife sanctuaries and green spaces: From regular visits to wildlife sanctuaries and special eco-friendly events to enjoying picnics in beautiful natural green spaces and hiking, there are so many things you can do as a family to explore and enjoy the natural environment.

Teach children how to conserve: As they grow older, teach your children to value nature. Encourage them to adopt conservation practices and make sure you are setting an example here too. Explain to children about how just little things like recycling, using water carefully, turning lights off can all contribute to protecting nature.

Encouraging children to cherish nature will help them to become responsible adults, but also will make them good custodians of our world in the future.

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