Most kids love to be outdoors. A two-year-old jumping onto a pile of leaves in the park is probably not aware of it, but nature is one huge outdoor learning classroom.
Children enjoy touching, wondering and caring for leaves, shells, seeds, flowers, and insects. And with this enjoyment, comes heaps of unstructured learning.
Nature awakens enthusiasm by engaging a child\’s curiousity. Interacting with nature often requires a child to be silent or still. Watching beetles or butterflies can require patience and focus.Nature engages energy and emotions
If kids feel a sense of connectedness, the natural environment can engage their energy and emotions. Children have opportunities to reflect, be calm, attentive, inspired, or experience feelings of belonging, understanding and sharing.
The time spent outdoors can also influence a child\’s emotional, physical, cognitive, aesthetic and spiritual development.
Interacting with nature also helps to develop a child\’s self-esteem, self-confidence and concept of self. Time spent outdoors can teach children the importance of caring for, and having pride in the immediate environment. They have a chance to appreciate how beautiful the world is and this appreciation can help to underpin their developing sense of responsibility and respect for the global environment.
Preschoolers and the environment
For many under-fives, developing an appreciation of the environment may be as simple as playing in the park, or planting seeds and watching them grow. Everyday activities provide endless opportunities for parents and carers to model and talk about caring for the world.
Primary aged children
Primary school aged kids are often well aware of the environmental issues affecting and threatening our planet. They may be keen to be involved in activities that help to protect and clean up the environment.
Global environmental issues can often be presented in the media in ways that are designed to shock or jolt people into acknowledging what is actually happening to the world. It\’s important that any potentially negative or alarmist news is filtered and explained to children.
Watching TV documentaries and reading newspaper articles with your kids, gives you the chance to interpret news and guide your child\’s thinking at a level that\’s appropriate to their development.
- Get involved as a family in Clean Up Australia Day or a local volunteer action group.
- Equip the family with gloves and garbage bags and spend an hour cleaning up one of your local walking paths or nature reserves.
- Introduce your child to appropriate environmental websites for kids.
- Brainstorm ideas as a family for reducing household waste or ways to conserve other resources such as water and power.v
- Encourage a compost heap in your home or community garden.
- Brush up on the names and habitats of birds, insects or any other wildlife that may live in your neighbourhood.
- Donate money as a family to a wildlife or conservation fund.
- Listen to your child\’s concerns and questions, and provide access to as much factual information as possible.
- Encourage your kids to verbalise their feelings–what the world means to them, if they\’re worried, fearful, or anxious about natural events.
- Go bushwalking, cycling, camping together.
- Take your children grocery shopping and talk about products on shelves or greener ways of doing things.
- Spend a day at the library checking out nature books of interest. An appropriate resource for this age group is True Green Kids: 100 things you can do to help the planet: Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin (Allen & Unwin).
The environment A-Z
As a family have fun with the environment A-Z and see how many variations your kids can come up with:
A adopt a park or an animal
B build a nesting box
C clean up the neighbourhood
D draw pictures of endangered species
E empty vegie scraps container into compost bin
F find a quiet place to sit
G grow vegetables
H hug a tree
I invite friends to a picnic in the park
J join a birdwatching club
K keep a scrapbook on ways to be green
L learn about lizards
M make music from natural materials
N notice what time the sun rises and sets
O observe the stars at night
P pack a lunch and go for a hike
Q quokkas make for interesting reading
R reduce, reuse, recycle
S sense a forest with your eyes closed
T talk to ants
U update a shell collection
V visit a special place
W walk, watch, wonder
X x-ray vision: check out dinosaur skeletons
Y yank up some noxious weeds
Z zebras: spot the difference in their stripes.