Raising Nature Kids
Updated: Jun 15, 2020
In our family, nothing compares to packing a bag (and a few baskets), and heading out into the wild for an adventure. I'm talking the real wild places - overgrown woods and forests, nature reserves with lovely brooks and ponds, tiny pocket parks that not many people know about or the bays of the coast away from the crowds that travel into our area on a hot summers day. For us, a nature inspired home educating family, I find little more enriching, educational and rewarding than walking through the depths of the wild. Through bramble bushes, wildflower meadows, the woods filled with hundreds of years old trees contrasting with the young life sprouting through the damp ground and hearing my curious daughter asking questions about everything that her senses are absorbing when surrounded by the gifts of nature.
There has been a huge boost in people taking an interest in environmental issues in recent years. People wanting to do their bit, and maybe a bit more for the planet. Yeah, this is great and all, every single attempt to look after our planet helps, but what about the next generation? If we want our children to grow up respecting the Earth, caring for it and helping to nourish and protect it then we have to consciously help them along the way. And for young children, I believe the answer lies within offering plenty of opportunity for them to form a relationship with the Earth.
Ella is young, just four. We encourage gentle discussion on environmental issues and hold space to talk about how to be eco friendly. We take a gentle approach to being honest when she asks questions about why we do certain things such as recycle, pick up litter or avoid packaged food in the shops in favour of loose. As she grows we will introduce more. But is this enough? Is it enough to be taught about the importance of being kind to the Earth? I don't think so. To truly want to protect our beautiful planet, we have to truly love it first. We can't expect our children to spend most of their life indoors, or even playing outside but not within nature (I believe there's a huge difference) to lead an eco friendly lifestyle and driving change if they don't have a relationship with the Earth, with animals and nature.
So how do we raise Earth loving children that want to genuinely protect our planet? We give them ample time within nature, to observe the gifts that Earth offers to us. The bugs and flowers, the trees, plants, berries, the birds and the weather and so forth. Let them explore. Show them different levels, up high and down low. Show them all seasons. What does nature offer us in summer compared to winter? Plant seeds with them, let them take control of caring for them as they shoot. Give them space to run free. Let them get dirty. Use nature as a playground. Encourage them to experience nature with all of their senses. Encourage them to touch different textures in nature, to smell the flowers, to breathe in the fresh air, to stop and listen to the bird song or the silence. Show them how to look and identify things that they find and the most exciting of all, teach them how to taste nature safely. Allow children to bring nature home - set up a nature shelf to display their findings. Create a nature journal for them to draw their experiences and write in it what they recall from their time in nature that day. And then, and only then will you see how your child develops a true relationship with the Earth.
If you're not a natural nature person yourself, it's never too late. Prepare a nature bag for your family. I recommend waterproofs, binoculars, a note pad and pencil, a camera, a basket to collect nature goodies, a decent field and foraging guide and a water bottle and you're prepared to go. Check out the history of your local area or search online for walking guides and I bet you'll be surprised what wild and wonderful places are around you, or at least a short distance from you (always check accessibility where any mobility needs are present). Slow down guys, your wellbeing, family connection and the Earth will be beautifully rewarded for it.