As has been witnessed by the recent climate change strikes, our children are becoming more aware of our environment, as well as our impact upon it.
Nurturing an interest in our environment encourages children to seek out more information about environmental factors and to learn about how to protect our one and only home.
Learning about the environment
The best way for kids to learn about the world around them is to use all of their senses to experience and appreciate the natural environment. Sharing those experiences with family is a tried and true way to encourage kids to participate more. Turns out, it’s not that uncool to hang out with mum and dad after all!
Parents play a key role in nurturing their child’s interest in the environment. However, it is more advantageous for children to be empowered to reach their own conclusions about our impact on our environment through frequent contact with the natural world and development of knowledge through learning experiences and participation. This helps them to develop connections and a sense of personal and civic responsibility. (Source: Effective approaches to connect children with nature)
Beyond getting our kids to not litter, to recycle and compost, and to reduce their waste, our job as parents is to foster our children’s role in the environment as an active stakeholder – making their learning experiences relevant to their age, the area they live in, and their interests.
Creative, spontaneous and unregulated play in neighbourhood places and traditional play environments such as streets, wild places and gardens, enables children to discover, explore and develop a personal understanding of the environment around them.
Ways to improve environmental awareness
Here are some fun activities that will help to connect your child to their environment:
- Bush walks: Explore your local surroundings using walking trails and talk about the flora and fauna that you see. Not sure what something is? Take a photo and check it out online at inaturlist.nz when you get home.
- Play at the park: Take a walk to a local park and simply enjoy the outdoors.
- Have a nature scavenger hunt in your backyard: Arm the kids with a camera each and a list of things they need to find and take a photo of. Include things like ‘a yellow flower’, or ‘a spider’ for young kids, or for older ones, ‘a native tree’, or ‘a sparrow’.
- Get them into gardening: Give them a patch of the garden that is all theirs and encourage them to grow the veggies or herbs that they like to eat. Check if their is a local community garden and if so, spend some time together tending to the plants and discussing what can be made with the vegetables.
- Plant a tree: Select a native tree and plant it together either at home or ask for permission to do so at school.
- Beach clean-up: There are local groups that organise regular beach clean-ups. Take the kids along to help out with the added bonus of some time at the beach afterwards.
- Water challenge: Give the kids a 24 hour period in which they must identify as many ways as possible that their water usage around the home can be reduced. They will likely think of things like not leaving the tap on while they brush their teeth (and they will probably try “I could not shower”!) but will they think of the water needed to wash the bath towel they dumped on the floor instead of hanging up to dry, or the water needed to wash the third cup that they’ve used that day?!
- Geocaching: Billed as the world’s largest treasure hunt, geocaching is a great way to explore your local environment. Find out more here.
- Painted rocks: Similar to geocaching, the craze of painted rocks is explained here.
Written by Julie Scanlon
Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire.
Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”