It is a disease of our age. In an age crammed with TV, computers, and electronic gadgets, children are isolated from the simple pleasures of exploring nature. As it is, academics, along with classes and extra-curricular activities, leave children with little time to play outdoors. And even if they do, there are almost no green spaces left for them to enjoy. Even parks and playgrounds are often too manicured, and do not invite curious, open-ended exploration. Children today are thus robbed of a very essential part of childhood: of connecting on a one-to-one basis with nature.
Author Richard Louv, in his book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder mentions that this sense of isolation is radically affecting our children. According to him, it is harming their physical and mental health and hampering their creativity. In fact, he has coined the phrase "Nature-Deficit Disorder" to describe this phenomenon.
Why Children Need to Connect with Nature?
- Being outdoors helps create a sense of wonder in children, which they can carry over to other aspects of their life.
- Being out in nature helps children to become more aware. Nature gives children the chance to engage all their senses of perception.
- Modern life is too regimented and deprives children
of the opportunity of exploring and learning by themselves. In this
context, the role of nature to stimulate their curiosity is even more
- According to educationists, the opportunity to explore nature helps children improve their attention span and learning capacity.
- Research has proven that exposure to green outdoor setting helps to reduce symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorders in children.
- Outdoor activity offers children the opportunity of fresh air and exercise. Both are important to help children keep physically and mentally fit.
- Being in and enjoying nature is an important part of children's development.
- Ecological degradation is an unfortunate reality today. Nurturing a bond between children and nature is important to ensure that the coming generation grows up to value nature.
What You Can Do?
There are many things that parents, guardians, and teachers can do to help children develop a love for nature.
If you love nature yourself, it is very easy to develop this love in your children. Expose them to the natural world from the time they are young. Encourage them to play in the garden. Let them pick up and observe leaves, flowers, rocks, etc. Point out and name trees, insects, birds, and animals to them.
Involve Them in Gardening
A great way to help children connect to nature is to get them to help in gardening.
This will bring them in touch with the soil and they will encounter
different kinds of insects, worms, and other intriguing creatures.
Caring for plants, and seeing them grow and develop, is a wonderful
opportunity for them to know the cycle of creation first hand. You can
also help them set up a bird or butterfly feeder in the garden.
Take Them to Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks
Make trips to the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks a regular part of their growing years. Plan
regular picnics and outings to nature spots around your city. Introduce
them to the joys of hiking. You can spend vacations visiting places like Kanha, Ranthambhore, or Corbett, where children can see wild animals in their natural environment.
Arouse their Curiosity
Encourage your children
to observe things around them. Gift them with books or CDs about nature
and wildlife. Take them along to museums or libraries. Better still,
get them membership to a nature organisation such as the Bombay Natural
History Society or the World Wildlife Fund, and encourage them to participate in the field trips and other activities organised by them.
Gift Them a Hobby
Enhance their enjoyment of nature by giving them magnifying lenses, a pair of binoculars, or a simple telescope. Encourage your children to observe things they see and record them. Teach them to take notes. Get them to make sketches of what they see. Give older children a simple camera, if they show an inclination for photography. Buy your children field guides to the common animals, birds, insects, or trees in your area; identifying plants and animals they see during their trips will help increase their knowledge and make a fun activity into a life-long passion.
Teach Them to Conserve
As they grow older, teach children to value nature. Encourage them to adopt conservation practices. More importantly, practice them yourself. Explain to children how small things like using water carefully and keeping lights switched off when they do not need them can contribute towards conserving nature.
Getting your children to cherish nature will not just help them become responsible citizens, but will even make them better custodians of our home planet, the Earth.
You may also be interested in:
- The Indiaparenting Team