Everyone seems to be talking about the planet these days! There is a level of awareness and concern that we have never seen before. However, no one seems to be talking to the generation that will be the most impacted by the state of the planet: our kids. There is a clear need to bring our kids into the conversation for conservation. The conversation needs to be introduced by the most influential people in the lives of kids: their parents.
As Earth Day approaches on April 22, it is a great time to reconsider the way we think about our planet and how we want to pass it along to our children's generation who will be inheriting it. Instead of being overwhelmed with facts and fears, doom and gloom, I would like to propose a much simpler approach that showcases the beauty and inspiration that can be found in what have always been very fun and positive subjects: nature and wildlife. The approach is simple: Let kids be kids. This may be counterintuitive to the path often taken by conservation-focused groups, activists, and members of the scientific community, but it is key in inviting and engaging kids to participate in the discussion.
According to a nationwide poll from The Nature Conservancy, "There is a growing disparity between the time kids spend indoors wired to technology and the time they spend outside enjoying nature. The vast majority of today's kids uses a computer, watch TV, or play video games on a daily basis, but only about 10 percent say they are spending time outdoors every day." Common risks faced by kids not spending time outdoors range from obesity and a lack of communication skills to the inability to appreciate and understand how nature works. This sounds rather obvious if you are a parent who spent more time outdoors when you were young, climbing trees and getting dirty by using all your senses in nature.
We have to all agree that to save the planet and its species, we have to first inspire the generation that will inherit the planet. To inspire them, we have to develop in them a love for the planet. After all, you cannot protect something you do not love, and you only love what you understand. There are many things you can do to help your kids explore and discover nature and the outdoors.
Here are five easy things you can do with your kids to connect them to nature:
Identify the closest nature experience to where you live.
It may be your backyard, the street or cul-de-sac where you live, or a park. Spend time with your kids there as often as you can. Kids who are accompanied are more likely to venture out than by themselves.
Tie outdoor adventures to stories.
Kids love stories and will be inspired to explore what they read or hear about. Plan activities around stories, like a trip to the local zoo or aquarium, a hike, or a visit to a park or nature reserve to have your own adventures.
Gamify the experience. Kids love games and questions.
Whether indoors or outdoors, turn every experience into a game or quiz! Discuss facts about amazing ecosystems and species, the symbiotic relationships that exist in nature, and other fun trivia. 4 Gift nature-related toys and gadgets. Get your kids simple discovery tools like a compass, magnifying lens, etc., and create activities that revolve around using them.
Take advantage of the natural resources available in your area.
Take your kids canoeing, kayaking, or hiking. These are great weekend activities that allow for quality family time. Kids (and parents too!) need a daily dose of nature in their life. With a little bit of effort and lot of intent, you can make that happen. Take the first steps in doing your part for the planet and inspiring your kids to understand how nature works. Happy Earth Day!