Teaching kids to love nature, and providing lots of experiences in nature, whether in your own wildlife garden or by visiting local parks and nature centers is one of the best gifts you can give them.
The fact is that we will want to protect what we know, and learning about nature and wildlife from a young age will give children a wonderful foundation. And these nature-knowledgeable kids will be our future scientists, naturalists, ornithologists, entomologists, environmentalists, and maybe even a president. Wouldn’t you just love to have a president with a love of nature and a desire to protect it?
My friends and neighbors, Mary and Dean, are fabulous examples of making nature experiences a priority for their 3 children: Libby (8), Penny (6), and Emmett (3). Stay at home dad Dean has actively sought out a wide variety of nature experiences for these kids from the time they were very little.
Every day brings a new outdoor adventure: they go fishing, visit the zoo, play at Morris Arboretum, go to the aquarium, and learn to create their own fun at many local parks.
TV and small-screen time is minimal for these kids, but outdoor playtime, reading, and learning about nature are the norm.
It has been my honor and joy to participate in many of these adventures with them, and such a blessing to watch them grow up.
When Libby was 4 and Penny was 2, I took them and their mom to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge to try to see the pair of Bald Eagles who had built the first known Bald Eagle nest at this refuge. While we didn’t get to see the eagle, we had lots of fun imitating the call of the Canada Geese, running in the woods, looking for trolls under the bridges, and watching the mommy and daddy tree swallows sitting on top of their houses.
Her favorite guide was the Snakes book, and she was especially fond of the two-headed snake pictured there.
She’s curious, she loves to explore, she asks brilliant questions, and she makes me deeply happy with her enthusiasm for the wildlife around her.
Honestly, any child that takes such pleasure in looking at bugs with a magnifying glass, watching the birds (and everything else she finds) with the binoculars I gave her, and reading about birds, butterflies, insects, and other critters in the wildlife garden, is an absolute joy in my life!
When Libby was 6 and Penny 4, we accompanied them with their father Dean to the Schuykill Center for Environmental Education for Winterfest, a bitterly cold day, but with plenty of nature related- activities inside to warm us up. Libby and Penny made snowflake Christmas cards from nature-themed calendar pages.
And they got to see how big they are compared to a Red-tailed Hawk
Or a Sharp-Shinned Hawk
When Libby was 7, Penny 5, and Emmett 2, we went with them and their mom Mary to Morris Arboretum to see the Big Bugs Display, where 11 huge sculptures of bugs made from natural forest materials were installed all around the grounds of the arboretum.
I like to visit the Morris Arboretum with children because I’m very impressed with the lengths they have taken to make this arboretum a place where kids can explore the natural world around them.
We also visited the Bird’s Nest Tree Experience, a giant spider web suspended in the trees, where we got to listen to the forest through a giant megaphone, climb like a squirrel, and play in the netting. One the way we stopped to play in the fountain.
We returned to Morris Arboretum right after Christmas to enjoy the Garden Holiday Railway, where we had fun playing in the snow, watching the trains in the garden, and running around to warm ourselves up on this cold day.
Now Libby is 8, Penny is 6, and Emmett is 3. Last weekend we gave mom and dad a break and took the kids to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge to do some birding, explore the visitors center, and make up our own games and fun activities.
Libby is still interested in nature, and quite a budding naturalist.
With her permission I used her photos so that you can see the nature of this refuge through her 8 year old eyes. I think you’ll be quite impressed. I certainly am!
I am so blessed to get to share nature adventures with Libby, Penny, and Emmett and to get to watch them grow up.
Do you get to share your wildlife garden and nature with the kids in your life? What kind of nature adventures do you enjoy with them?
Carole Sevilla Brown lives and gardens for wildlife in Philadelphia, PA zone 6b. She travels around the country to speak at conferences and workshops about Ecosystem Gardening for Wildlife.
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