One of the first articles I ever read in the Natural Parent Magazine, many years ago now, when my eldest child was head-sniffingly new, was written by a mother who casually mentioned the daily hike she went on with her two young children and her baby wrapped on her chest. At the time I was living in a little brick house in London and I immediately thought “Oooh! SMUG!” – I had clearly been triggered!
I moved through the jealousy and began to find little nature reserves to sit in with my baby, and eventually ended up selling that house and moving to the forest in New Zealand where I live with my two children and husband in a yurt! I could hike daily if I wanted to! We do sometimes. (I also wrap myself in a blanket and eat cocoa pops whilst watching Happy Feet with the girls.)
I have been on a wonderful journey of exploring my relationship with the earth and how I can nurture my children’s ecoliteracy alongside their other learning.
Here are five ways to help our children’s natural and instinctual love of nature flourish:
It is no good decrying the lack of outdoor play or feeling despondant about how much time children spend indoors on the ipad, if we are not prepared to fall in love with nature ourselves. It is the single most crucial way children learn, through us modelling priorities to them. I believe this so much that I recently wrote a book about families and nature, focused solely on helping parents find their place amongst nature. Take time to count stars and make garlands out of leaves and sit still and feel the grass on your legs.
We must take every chance we can to follow our children outside and enter into their kind of play with them. We don’t even need to think about learning – because play IS learning and learning IS play to children. Yesterday I spent half an hour tracking an ant trail with my two year old, Juno. And the day before it was tag in the meadow with my eldest. Ecoliteracy doesn’t always look like birdwatching or counting the rings of a tree trunk. It might just look like rolling in long grass!5 ways to help your child fall in love with nature
We are not all fortunate to live next door to a forest or beach. But we can bring nature in. Have a nature table and fill it with the season’s gathering of leaves or moss. Build a bug motel or a tiny pond in your back yard.
Our role as parents is to take our child’s curiosity and interests as a prompt to open doors to a wonderful, resourceful world! Do they love the movie Gnomeo and Juliet? Begin a small garden with them and fill it with gnomes. Are they in the sensory stage? Sit outside amongst buckets of mud and acorns!
Build time in nature into your weekly rhythm. Hold a Sunday picnic, plan playdates at the bush, start an outdoor playgroup. Liberate yourselves from walls and see how the rhythms of nature can bring balance to your children and help you become more mindful.
As you commit to taking your family on a love affair with nature you will find an ancient connection with the earth being restored!