Dad of Divas' Reviews: How connected are our kids to nature?

Friday, April 6, 2012

How connected are our kids to nature?

Trips to the zoo, collecting autumn leaves, reading Ranger Rick – sound like memories from your childhood? If you’re like me, then yes, they do.

But here’s a question: do they sound like a part of your kids’ lives today?

It’s an interesting question we parents should all ask ourselves.

On that note, Disney tells us it’s convening a number of top experts on the issue this week in Orlando as part of its Disney Kids and Nature Celebration (the event also includes a day-long youth summit and the screening of its upcoming movie “Chimpanzee”), and we got some insight on the discussion. Former Ranger Rick subscribers, listen up:

According to Richard Louv, a Disney partner and author of the bestselling books Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, every child needs nature. Not exactly a groundbreaking revelation – but certainly one that poses challenges when you look at your weekly calendar (where’d the white space go?).

Here’s some advice we can take away from his philosophy and the bigger discussion in Orlando:

1. Get nostalgic. Take a moment to talk to a grandparent – or even a peer – about his or her favorite nature memories from childhood – was it skipping stones? A favorite picture book about elephants? Drawing horses? Climbing trees? These simple memories might be enough to remind you just how easy it can be to make nature part of your own parenting style.

2. Think manageable. Connecting kids with nature doesn’t require a family trip to Yellowstone (phew). What it really takes is getting your kids curious about animals, wildlife and the outdoors – the world beyond their house and school. What do baby turtles eat? Why do leaves change colors? How do fish breath underwater? What kind of insect is that in your backyard? Hikes, museums, books and videos can all help spark that fascination.

3. Teach early lessons. Intuitively, we know kids need to learn about and appreciate nature. But what are the real benefits? For one, it’s a sensory explosion for their young minds. Reading about how birds build nests, watching a baby elephant play, touching a sheep’s coat, smelling a rose or digging a carrot out of the soil -- all of this stimulates curiosity in young minds.

More important, however, is that it instills a love of nature. And if our kids love nature – won’t they be more likely to protect it?

Food for thought! Now I’m off to take the kids to the zoo…

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