Why it is important to teach your child about nature
Our connection to nature is vital to our existence on this planet. Everything around us provides for us. From the tiniest insect to the elephants in Africa, and from the moss beneath our feet to the massive expanse of the Amazon jungle, every living thing plays a role in keeping this planet, and us, alive.
And just as we are all connected to nature, nature connects humans to one another. We rely on each other to respect and care for our planet and all of its inhabitants.
Nature teaches us about life and death, as with the changing of the leaves. It also teaches us empathy and compassion, as with nursing a wounded animal to health or capturing a bug in the house and releasing it outside.
Teaching kids about the natural world around us is critical. But going about it doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
Involve the 5 senses when teaching kids about nature
Children learn best by experiencing things through their senses. So, making learning a sensorial experience is going to make a bigger impression on them than simply telling them about something.
Here is an example:
Step outside onto the back porch on a windy day and stand with your child in silence. Let them listen to the leaves rustle across the ground and the branches crackle in the wind. Have them hold out their hands and let the breeze chill their palms. Take some deep breaths and smell the air, whether it be fresh-mown grass or chimney smoke from a wood burning stove a few houses down. Look at the colors of the leaves and the shades of blue and grey in the sky. Let them taste a blade of onion grass as you walk along.
Let nature give its lessons and expand upon them with yours!
Children learn a lot about nature through simple lessons
The entire animal kingdom has lessons of empathy and compassion for our kids, not just the cute and cuddly animals and insects.
Take the fly, for example. When a fly makes its way into our homes, some people immediately reach for a flyswatter… I used to. But when I became a parent, I thought about what kind of example I was setting for my kids by killing a fly. Not a good one! And is it even necessary to kill them? Is it easier to kill them than to shoo them outside or capture and release them? No, not really.
More importantly, flies are living creatures that play an important role in nature. Did you know that flies and their larvae help break down organic material, helping to rid the landscape of waste? They are also food for birds, reptiles, and other insects.
So, those beautiful birds that land on your feeder depend on insects like flies. And those neat looking geckos that are so fun for kids to see also depend on flies to live!
What neat lessons! Compassion, empathy, and science, all learned by sparing a housefly’s life!
Are you catching on? There isn’t any need to sit down with a text book and teach. This is how young kids learn. These are the lessons that will stay with them forever.
Books and magazines can teach kids about nature
On the subject of reading, though, there are some other pretty neat ways to learn about nature. For those living in urban areas, reading about and looking at pictures is a great way to learn about the natural world!
There are plenty of books and magazines that will answer your kids’ questions about the natural world and peek their curiosity to learn more.
Ranger Rick, Zoobook, (sponsored links) and NatGeo Kids (sponsored link) are favorites in our house. My children have a few NatGeo sticker books that we bought for travel and they have been gifted (Yay!) a NatGeo Kids magazine subscription for Christmas this year. My daughter could read Ranger Rick, NatGeo, and Zoobook magazines all day long. Also, National Geographic Kids has a “Big Book of Why’s” that my 4 year old learns so much from!
Don’t limit them to just kid’s books and magazines, though! Let them browse through encyclopedias and ask questions. Let them look through your National Geographic (sponsored link) magazines! There is so much nature and culture for them to learn about. Follow their interests and answer their questions.
You don’t need to be a science teacher…the answers to their questions will be written right there! I learn right along with my kids!
Nature lessons in your home
The lessons about nature aren’t just found outside or in a book, though. Did you know that a slice of bread can open the door to multiple lessons about nature and human interconnectedness? Yep!
Next time you make a sandwiches with your child, let them feel the texture of the bread. Let them smell the yeast and feel the weight of the bread. Tell them about how grain is grown and how, over the span of thousands of years, humans have worked together to harvest and distribute grain to feed families. Tell them how families banded together to form communities. Then about how those communities built cities, which eventually formed governments and education systems.
You can go on to tell about how humans thrived from grain and began to populate different continents and develop different languages and cultures.
Or you can go a different route and talk about how each grain of wheat formed from a seed from another living plant. A lesson in life cycles! You can talk about the different parts of a wheat plant. Botony for little kids! How cool is that?!
All from a piece of bread!
You can teach your child about nature
As you can see, these lessons can be as long and in depth as you want it to be, depending on your child’s age and interest!
So, though teaching about nature might not be “second nature” to you, you don’t need to be intimidated! There are resources available to you, things you can purchase and things you already have in your home. And, of course, if it’s accessible to you, please utilize the greatest teacher of all…nature itself!
As always, I hope you enjoyed this read and feedback is always appreciated!
How do you teach your child about nature?