In a recent post, I wrote about how I am trying to instill a love of reading in my children. I also want my children to have love and respect for nature and the world around them.
Growing up in Wisconsin, I spent a lot of my time outside. I could be found riding my bike around the neighborhood, building forts out of snow, helping my parents in the garden, playing with one of our many pets or lying in the grass and reading a book. My memories are full of camping trips with my family, the time my brother woke me up in the middle of the night so I could see the northern lights from our backyard (one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen) and the numerous caterpillars I held in my hands. When I was deciding whether or not to move out to the east coast, it was my proximity to the ocean that convinced me to stay. The first time I saw the ocean, I was ten years old. The second time I saw the ocean was the day I stood on the beach and decided I would not move back to my birth state.
So here are a few things my husband and I have been doing to instill a love of nature in our children.
Last summer, we enrolled B and his younger brother N in a nature walk class through the parks department. One reason we picked this class was because it was one of the few classes I could take both children to. In addition, B did not like the soccer class we had enrolled him in the year before, and since I wanted to get him doing something active outside, I thought he might find a nature walk more interesting. I had no idea we would have so much fun!
Our first hike was in Freehold at Turkey Swamp. Our guide, Miss Elaine is a hiking and nature expert and has a wonderful way of explaining things so that children understand. For example, when she spots a fallen tree, she knows children may feel sad about what happened to the tree. So she reminds the children that nature has another purpose for the tree, and now it will become mulch for the forest floor.
Some of our walks have taken us to the beach in the Atlantic Highlands, smelling the roses at Deep Cut Gardens and studying moss on the path at the Manasquan Reservoir. We’re enjoying another spring and summer’s worth of walks this year, too! In addition, my husband frequently takes one or both of our children out for walks around the neighborhood. They’ve named these “coo walks” (see another recent post “Coo Words” for this reference), and my husband has found this a great way to spend alone time with each of our children.
Our property is wooded, so unfortunately we cannot grow our own vegetable garden. Instead, we purchased strawberry plants and grew them in a pot on our deck. My children enjoyed watering the plants and watching them grow. Just last week, we began picking the ripe strawberries. We only yielded a handful, but the boys did develop an appreciation of where fruits really come from!
Recently, a friend posted a link on Facebook to a live video feed of a red-tailed hawk nest in New York City. I first went to the site in April and saw the mother hawk, named Violet by viewers, sitting on three eggs. About a month later, one of the eggs hatched and the eyass (a baby red-tailed hawk), later named Pip by viewers, was born (the other eggs never hatched; experts stated they were probably never fertilized).
My children and I check the site on a daily basis and have watched Pip grow rapidly. This has been an amazing experience for all of us, as it is one thing to see a picture of a nest and try to explain to children how birds hatch from eggs, but it is quite another thing to watch the egg hatch and the bird grow. We’ve seen Pip eat mice brought by his father Bobby and stretch his wings for the first time. We’ve watched his white fuzz change to feathers. He’s scheduled to fly out of the nest sometime later this month and I hope we get to see it!
Do you want your children to have an appreciation of nature? What are some of the things you do with your children?
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog by Elizabethsboys, a New Jersey mom.
Photo credit of the Red-Tailed Hawk in NYC given to PBS .