There is a lot of pressure on parents to raise respectful, competent, and successful children, and the rampant opinions about how to do so are in no short supply. While we don’t want to add yet another chapter to the growing how-to guide for being the perfect parent, we do strongly believe that teaching children how to respect nature is a great starting point for giving them the tools to respect themselves and those around them. Having positive interactions with outdoor environments is an important component of healthy childhood development, and in the technological whirlwind of our times, it’s a component that is increasingly being overlooked. If you’re hoping to cultivate a sense of respect for the natural world within your child, but you’re just not sure how to best approach the topic, here are some insights to help you out.
Young children are little sponges that eagerly absorb information and retain it remarkably well. Because of this, the first few years of your child’s life are a crucial window of time for teaching them about outdoor environments. And the more you delay, the harder it will be to instill a respectful attitude towards nature. By engaging your child with outdoor activities while they are young, you are effectively ingraining in them a sense of understanding about nature, and in turn, an appreciation for it.
Ongoing and persistent experiences with nature are much more effective than an infrequent yet complete submersion into the natural world. In other words, going on routine walks with your child through your local nature preserve will have much more of an impact on them than say, a single, cross-country trip to the Redwoods. Gradual and consistent exposure teaches children that nature is something we live alongside everyday, whereas a singular expedition teaches them that nature is a tourist attraction that can be appreciated selectively.
Set an Example
We’ve all heard the age-old aphorism, monkey see monkey do, and this saying is especially true for young children and their parents. For this reason, leading by example is one of the best ways to teach your child about how to respect nature. If they see you getting excited about spending time outside, they will too. If they see you making an effort to protect the environment, they will too. This doesn’t mean you have to know all of the scientific answers to their questions. You just have to display your own sense of wonder and respect for nature. Your child will observe and learn from you, even if you never intentionally teach them anything at all.
Let your child’s natural curiosity lead the way! You don’t need to have a daily agenda or a lesson plan in mind, just work off of what your child is spontaneously drawn to. They will be much more interested in topics that are self-initiated rather than ones that are pre-prepared for them. Be a facilitator rather than an educator, meaning don’t just teach your child about the outdoors, let them experience it. Give them the tools to fuel their own instinctive curiosities about nature, and then step back and watch them develop a sense of respect for it all by themselves.
Activities to Foster a Respect for Nature
There are so many possibilities for educational fun in an outdoor setting. To give you some ideas for where to get started, check out these awesome activities below:
- Go camping/RVing
- Hang up bird feeders
- Plant a garden
- Build a treehouse
- Compost and recycle
- Do an outdoor scavenger hunt
- Collect rocks
- Go stargazing
- Try geocaching
- Craft a sandcastle
- Make mud pies
- Walk hiking trails
- Watch a sunset
- Go for a bike ride
- Visit a wildlife refuge
You don’t have to be the perfect parent to successfully teach your children how to respect nature. Just start when they’re young, stay consistent, and set an example. Then just step back and let them do the rest!
Do you have any other tips or insights for teaching children how to respect nature? Let us know by leaving a comment!