How to get your kids to appreciate nature

Do your children suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder? Do they spend too much time indoors? In front of the tv or their computers, or in a hectic schedule of structured activities?

Technology dominates all our lives and the children of today are suffering stress, depression, pressure, obesity and only seem to be able to socialise via text messages. Experience with nature is vital to health and development and research has shown that when children are connected to nature, they are better learners, have reduced stress and an increased attention span. When children are out in nature, they are immersed in something bigger than themselves and their brains have the chance to rejuvenate.

Children learn from experiences, so when you get out into nature, here are some ideas on how to get your children interacting and interested in the world around them (without cell phones, tablets, earpieces and music)

Tips to get our children interested in nature:

  • Take a magnifying glass to look at insects

magnifying flower

  • Watch the stars, the cloud formations, the moon rising
  • Take a sketch pad or notebook and get the kids drawing what they see
  • Have field guide books to identify trees, animal spoor, mammals and birds.

Children playing in a forest in June 2012 as part of "I Ur och S

  • Make notes on a walk, take a leaf or one flower and then get them to identify it later.
  • Be observant yourself, so that you can show them – the bugs, flowers, mountain shapes and cliffs, trees, shrubs, grasses, birds, footprints, spoor.
  • Be quiet and listen (wind, leaves, echoes, birdsong, animals)
  • Engage all the senses – touch, texture, smell, sound but do be careful about tasting stuff.
  • Teach the children not to disturb and interfere with anything in nature and how to behave when they see animals (quiet, still, etc)
  • Ask questions and let them ask questions, discuss the seasons, weather patterns.

fishing children

  • Take them fishing – catch and release
  • The best thing you can do is to be enthusiastic about nature and get back in touch yourself so that you can impart this wonder back to your children (something they are born with).

The Peace of Wild Things – by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting for their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

If you’d like to feel that freedom from stress, to unwind, relax, take the children on walks through the bush (please stay on the roads though) then the whole family can restore their souls at Royal Jozini Big 6 in Swaziland. Please email me for a quote and a suggestion as to which lodge might suit you best!

Some great guide books:-

If Trees Could Talk – Megan Emmett
Signs of the Wild – Clive Walker
Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa – Chris and Tilde Stuart
Newmans Birds of Southern Africa – Kenneth Newman
Sasol Birds of Southern Africa – Ian Sinclair

And a superb tree initiative – you can get your children growing a tree from seed, then plant it as a sapling, nurture it, have it pinned on Google Earth and watch it grow.  Great for schools, too, as well as Christmas and birthday gifts. There’s nothing quite like visiting a tree you planted 20 years ago!