How to raise a future environmentalist?

The answer is = Outdoor play.

Frequent, unstructured childhood play in natural settings has shown to be the best influence to develop of life-long conservation values.The world’s environmental problems are increasing and it is important to raise a future generation , who has positive views of nature and are willing to take action to protect it. But a lot of children today spend more time indoors and are more or less  disconnected  from the natural world and it is has a huge impact on their health, development and knowledge about nature. The disconnection between children and nature are one of the most pressing and overlooked crisis in our time. 

Physical activities from early age is particularly relevant if we consider the growth of children’s obesity worldwide, but also prevent heart disease and other health issues later in life. This is maybe the generation that will have a shorter life expectation, than their parents. 

Natural environments and outdoor play are beneficial to children in many ways:

  • children who regularly play in nature show higher motor control—including balance, than children who mostly play indoors
  • develop capacities for creativity, symbolic play, problem solving and cognitive and emotional development.
  • which in turn develops language, social skills, abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills
  • reduce stress and promote relaxationchildhood play in nature lays thefoundation for an interest in taking care of the environment later in life
  • helps children form a bond to nature

Helping Children to form an emotional attachment to nature may be the key to protect our planets future.

Temporary visits to nature in a diverse range of settings, from zoos to national parks, will probably not foster bonds with nature. If we want future generations to bond and fall in love with nature, outdoor play must have high priority in children’s everyday activity, especially during the childhood years.

To give children environmental education for sustainability at early age, with hands-on experience innature is more important than ever. Outdoor play promotes a relationship with the natural environment provides an environmental knowledge and ecological understanding of the world. The future will need ecological literate adults who are able to recognize common plants, animals and interpret what they see in nature. Let children be active learners, small children benefit from active hands-on discovery learning opportunities.

Let children play in the mud, pick flowers, climb trees, collect natural items.

Let children plant and grow vegetables and flowers. To care for a plant teaches children responsibility and respect for all living. When gardening there is a myriad of topics and scientific concepts children will discover. What does plants eat? How do plants drink water? Why do they need the sun? Do they breathe? They will learn about the life cycles of plants photosynthesizes and much, much more. Planting, growing and caring for plants teaches children everything, from basic skills to bigger concept of life.

Let children take part in composting activities. Composting helps children to understand how the environment works, nature’s way of recyclingand the life cycle. Composting activities also introduced children to the three environmental R’s recycle, reuse and reduce.

Let children meet the tiny creatures, that are critical players on this planet, as pollinators and helpers in nature and gardens. Bees, butterflies ladybugs, ants, snails, slugs, beetles, sow bugs, millipedes etc.  Children will discover, that even the smallest animal has an important role in our eco system.

Teach children the Four Ls about living creatures:

  • Look at them
  • Learn about them
  • Let them go
  • Leave them alone

Educate children not to leave rubbish behind and throwing things away in the environment. As adults we must help children understand the damage litter can do, to wildlife and the environment We need to be good row models and practice environmental good manners. Children don’t do as we say, they do as we do!

Shall we teach children about the destruction of the rainforest, global warming endangered species dying off ? “No” saysLouise Chawla Researcher and Professor in Environmental Design “of course it is important for adults and even teenagers to become aware of such problems and issues, but many environmental problems are just too abstract and complex for young children who still believe in Santa Claus.”

No-one will protect what they don’t care about and no-one will care about what they have never experienced.

Sir David Attenborough

*An environmentalist can be considered a supporter of the goals of the environmental movement, “a political and ethical movement that seeks to improve and protect the quality of the natural environment through changes to environmentally harmful human activity. Wikipedia

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