Experts say the first 14 years of a child’s life are crucial for establishing a connection with the natural world. Children have a natural affinity to the outdoors. They are fascinated by it, attracted to it, and eager to explore it. This lasts until about age 14, at which point, unless parents have made a concerted effort to provide their child with rich and repeated experiences in nature, they tend to lose it. This means that the preteen years of your child would be the most ideal, if you want to instil a love of nature in their hearts and minds. But how can you do this? Here are some methods that will help.
Set an example
We all know that children emulate their parents. If you spend all your time busy with a phone, they’ll want to do the same. But if you show interest in the great outdoors, that will pique their curiosity too. Take time out of your day to be outside. If children see you making an effort to be out in nature, they’ll want to come, too. It’s also important for parents to speak positively about nature. Choose your words carefully, avoiding descriptors like “yuck” and “dirty.” Express curiosity and wonder, instead.
Find adventure hotspots where you can go with your children
As your kids get older, it gets easier to tackle the bigger adventures. Giving children time to unplug and, god forbid, be bored, is a key part of helping them begin to take notice of the natural world around them. Even an overnight camping trip can be an escape to the wild with the right mindset. Leave the electronics at home, grab some paper and pencils to draw and write with, and don’t forget the yummy snacks. Kids run a little freer outdoors, jumping from rocks and staying up late to stargaze. Don’t pack the day full of one thing to try after the other. Let the kids enjoy themselves and allow for enough time so that they can appreciate nature and its beauty.
Grow plants with them
Make potting plants and trees fun and educational. Allocate a time each week where your children can sit with you outside and help you in potting plants. Make sure that you also talk to them about why potting plants is an important task and why it is all of our responsibility to ensure that nature is protected. Teach them about all the benefits of nature and better yet, make sure that you also allocate a few plants or a garden patch for them to take care of on their own.