How can we teach children that they can be good stewards of the Earth? From the earliest age, they marvel at creation and as parents it’s important to foster this wonder and curiosity. Here are some practical ways that you can help instill an appreciation of nature and the outdoors in your family.
Sowing and Reaping
Planting trees, flowers and vegetables is an ideal family activity that gets everyone together for a useful purpose. Children love to help pick out plant varieties and can help with pretty much every stage of the process. My favorite jobs to assign to toddlers are spreading mulch, digging little holes and watering (with a small can not the hose!).
If you have a cat or a dog or a bird or pretty much any other critter in the yard, your children’s natural curiosity will draw them out. People often suggest using pets to teach responsibility, but don’t overlook the fact that they provide plenty of pleasure.
Take Activities Outside
There are so many things that children typically do indoors that can actually be transferred outdoors when weather permits. Here are a few ideas:
- Work puzzles or build with blocks on the patio or deck
- Complete reading assignments in a lawn chair, hammock or up in a tree
- Draw on the sidewalk with chalk
- Take electronic toys outside
- Take tub toys outside and play at a water table or other large container filled with water
- Do play dough outside (no sweeping!)
- Clean up trash along the roadside (instead of cleaning up toys inside)
Lots of time outdoors means durable shoes and clothes that will be up to the task. Buy your gear from companies that care about nature; check them out and learn more about their ethos.
Invest in the Big Three
Those would be bikes, games and swings. Given a good, sturdy bike, your children will log hundreds of hours outdoors. If daddy and mama have bikes, too, then the more the merrier!
As soon as your children are toddling around, go ahead and invest in a simple backyard swingset or sand pit. And as they grow, outdoor games provide hours of enjoyment and competitive play. Our family favorites are bocci, ladderball and Wiffle ball. If it’s not too windy in your locale, a badminton set is inexpensive and very easy to set up.
You have to eat three times a day, so why not take it outdoors every once in a while? It could be in your backyard or at a local park. Make it more fun by inviting friends or family to come along. After lunch, encourage your children to wander around and take in the birds, the trees, the rocks and flowers. Bring home something interesting that they find and use it for a nature study.
Speaking of studying, if you keep plenty of nonfiction books around the house for your children to discover, it will foster a love of learning and a curiosity about the natural world.
Contrary to popular belief, books don’t always have to be “age appropriate.” Parents are usually surprised to see young children poring over encyclopedias or “reading” their parent’s nature books. The most popular books by far at my house are reference titles with plenty of high quality photographs. It matters little whether your child can read or not; just getting interested in a good book is an important first step, and will grow into a lifelong love of reading and learning.
Always Clean Up
Teach your children to put away their outdoor toys before coming inside. Throw trash away and don’t leave any drinks or food behind. There’s a double lesson here. Cleaning up makes your home and yard look nice. And it’s a good reminder that we are all responsible for being good caretakers of creation.
When I consider the Heavens
the works of Your hands
The moon and the stars which You have ordained
What is man that you are mindful of him?
You have made him have dominion over the works of Your hands
You have put all things under his feet. – from Psalm 8