There are plenty of opportunities to to teach our little ones. Whether it's a sunny afternoon filled with gardening in the backyard or a day of discovery at a local park. You can find creatures of all shapes and sizes, all you have to do is take a look. I find that by talking to children about the different animals, insects, plants, we see gives them a sense of appreciation as well as build their sense of empathy and sympathy for other living things.
Here are some simple ideas you can do with your kids to get them involved and get the dialogue going about some green issues.
Go feed the Ducks/Geese at a nearby park or lake - Children love to interact with wildlife. It helps build their self confidence and esteem knowing that they too can make a difference! They can feed an animal and see it up close, children will have a chance to understand that the animals also have personalities, feelings, needs, and that they are our friends. Friends we can help protect and take care of by doing the right things. We can talk to our children about why it's important to keep our waters clean and our garbage in the appropriate places. We can also get them involved by asking questions like what they think we can do to keep our feathered friends stay happy and healthy. You can talk to them about where ducks live, where they come from, the different types of ducks around the world and native to your particular area. Take a look at "All about Ducks for Kids" here http://www.kiddyhouse.com/Farm/ducks.html or here at "Animal Corner" http://www.animalcorner.co.uk/farm/ducks/duck_about.html have fun educating your little one about the animals outside and how they rely on us just as much as we rely on them to keep our nature in harmony and balance!
Take a look under some rocks and see what wonders lurk in places that are often hidden - There are bound to be questions about what they see. Why are bugs important anyway? Perhaps you can explain the circle of life. How every insect, animal and plant serves a purpose in one way or another. That some of the smaller insects are food for bigger insects, birds, frogs etc. You can take this opportunity to talk about worms and how they help the earth, how they help us with composting! Ask them what their favorite insect is and why. Get them involved with questions and lead the way to understanding and respect for all creatures despite their size or appearance. Make learning fun and an adventure that they will happily remember. There is a wonderful online page called "Insect ID" from the department of Entomology from the University of Wisconsin Madison that will help you identify and talk about what some of the insects are called. Some further information about the insect can be found under the "extension bulletin" once you have clicked on the insects picture. http://www.entomology.wisc.edu/insectid/
Go to the Zoo and discover animals from different places - This is a wonderful opportunity to see animals that live in different habitats and climates. You can open up great conversations about what it means to be extinct you can show them pictures of animals that have become extinct and perhaps see live ones on the verge of extinction. This is the perfect time to talk to your children about what we as a society have done to endanger animals and ourselves and what we are now doing to change the future for the better! Perhaps take a look at the World Wildlife Fund's website and get some information and look at some animals in danger of extinction. Maybe as a Christmas gift you and your child could pick an animal to "adopt" and support through the site. http://www.worldwildlife.org/home.html
Plant a Butterfly garden - Did you know that there are some flowers that attract Butterflies. Take a look here for which kinds of flowers will attract certain types of Butterflies/Caterpillars http://butterflywebsite.com/butterflygardening.cfm You can talk about the Butterflies life cycle and share pictures with your little one. Take a look at this site for some fascinating information and pictures http://www.thebutterflysite.com/life-cycle.shtml It is a great way to connect with nature all without leaving your own backyard! You could discuss pollination and why it is important not only to flowers but to all living things. You could ask questions like what other insects help with pollination? Can you name a pollinating insect that provides us with something sweet to eat? Perhaps afterwards you can draw pictures and talk about your adventure together! Putting the drawing somewhere like the fridge or in a frame will bring back special memories of your time outdoors!
Build a Bird Feeder together and get a bird bath - Bird feeders are a great way to have a closer look at some birds you might not otherwise see. There are special feeds for various birds and you can even get a hummingbird feeder and watch one of these amazing little birds in action. Why not hang a bird feeder outside your child's window so they can watch the birds anytime they like up close and personal without disturbing them. You can make bird feeders from Milk Cartons http://www.allfreecrafts.com/nature/bird-feeder.shtml or you can watch this video and learn to make one from a pine cone and some lard. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzZCKlUwYuU This is also a great opportunity to talk about recycling materials and things we find in nature - you can use your imagination and reuse items for something useful! Kids love crafts and this one is sure to please your little guy/girl!
Plant a Tree - I love this idea because it combines a lot of elements and opens up a vast array of opportunities for discussion! Not only can you talk about why trees are important and the deforestation problems we are all facing but you can talk about the animals and birds that you are creating a possible home for. You can talk about the various types of trees, perhaps plant an apple or cherry tree and explore the growth of organic fruits! You can get creative and get a Christmas/Yule/Holiday "Potted" tree decorate it in Winter and then in Spring you can take it outside and plant it together as a family! This experience opens up awareness about our environment and the responsibilities and impact we can all have on our planet! Take a look at the Arbor Day Foundation for some interesting information on Trees http://www.arborday.org/trees/index.cfm You can also talk about why the trees get cut down, what trees are used for and the importance of using renewable and sustainable resources such as bamboo! Ask your child what they think we can do to avoid cutting down more trees - you can suggest things like using both sides of the paper, buying recycled toilet paper and paper towels. Perhaps you could buy recycled paper this year for his/her school supplies. The possibilities are endless all you need is a little imagination!
Take a look at some online Eco/Earth Friendly sites for kids - they're sure to love them! Learning and protecting our earth can be fun AND educational!
National Geographic Kids http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/
Habitat Heroes http://www.habitatheroes.com/
Owl Kids http://owlkids.com/
Emerald Island - Eco Game http://www.emeraldisland.com/
Organic Games http://www.organic.org/?section=kids&page=games
Children's Learning Network http://www.kidsknowit.com/
Kaboose - Crafts http://crafts.kaboose.com/holidays/earth-day/earth_day_crafts.html
Great links from Suite101 http://greenliving.suite101.com/article.cfm/green_kids_online
Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada http://www.organicagcentre.ca/Kids/kids_welcome.asp
Center for Environmental Activities http://www.greenteacher.org/php/activityList.php?type=A
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