Teaching children about nature has never been so important. Climate change, overpopulation and the impending fuel crisis threaten the ecological stability of certain regions. The next generation must learn about the importance of nature to help protect rare flora and endangered fauna, but how is this possible in today's technology-driven world? Here are five outdoor activities that are designed to teach children about nature.
Camping offers a compromise between modern existence and outdoor living. Younger children in particular will be thrilled to spend several nights under the stars. Not only is the experience exciting for kids, but it can help them appreciate the importance and beauty of nature.
One of the most common ways to experience a day out with the kids is to embark on a journey through the countryside, but some parents take this a step further by camping out in a field, park or nature reserve for several days or longer. A caravan provides most of the comforts of home, including cooking and toilet facilities, while a tent brings the natural world that bit closer.
On a camping holiday, children can explore the natural surroundings by day and listen to the sounds of nature by night. Escaping the urban sprawl will also allow them to see thousands of stars when the sun sets.
What can be a more pleasant and relaxing an experience than fishing? Sitting beside a river or stream for hours at a time provides children with the opportunity to reflect on their natural surroundings. Animals can be observed in close detail, while insects and foliage abound. Every so often, children will manage to catch a fish, which can be kept for food or released back into its environment. Fishing on the open ocean can be especially exciting and atmospheric.
Not everyone has the chance to visit Africa's world-famous nature reserves. Fortunately, many of the continent's most magnificent wild creatures can be seen in Britain. Safari parks and animal sanctuaries provide children with an opportunity to pass within metres of fierce lions, prowling tigers and roaming wildebeest. Inquisitive baboons are also a common attraction at safari parks, but parents do put their cars at risk if they are prepared to drive through the monkeys' enclosure! Seeing wild animals in the flesh can spark a child's interest in the natural world.
Children who experience nature are far more likely to understand it than those who merely read about it in books. Nature walks are an adventure for kids, many of whom might be unfamiliar with certain types of animal or plant. While one of the main purposes of a nature walk is to explore the countryside, parents can encourage their children to learn by playing 'nature bingo', which simply involves making a checklist of plants, trees, insects and animals and crossing them off the list as soon as they are observed in the wild.
Parents should also take note that nature exists on their doorsteps. Gardening offers children the chance to nurture natural life by sowing seeds, planting saplings and feeding or watering existing plants and flowers. While encouraging children to help weed the flowerbeds and cut the grass (only for older children under supervision), gardening can motivate them to learn about the cyclic process of life and death. They will also enjoy attempting to grow plants from fruit they have eaten and apples are especially useful for this.