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Teaching Kids to Love Nature

In an age of growing disconnection between people and nature, many parents find it challenging to instill in their children a sense of appreciation for all that the earth has to offer. In many cases, nature is remote and not easily accessible, while electronics and media are immediately available, and many busy parents understandably go the easier route. But there are numerous benefits to helping your child appreciate the wonders of the great outdoors, and it is even

worth the extra time and effort. Even if you cannot make it an everyday thing, exposing your children to nature regularly will have great short- and long-term benefits.

Why raise nature lovers?
When it comes to raising children who appreciate nature, there are too many benefits to name, so here are just a few of the most important and obvious ones:

•    Being outdoors means exercise: It is a very simple formula. When your child is indoors, he or she is likely to be engaged in sedentary activities. Outdoors, one is much more likely to walk, run, and play, activities which of course contribute to good health.
•    Nature is educational: Even if you do not make a conscious effort to teach your child things about the outdoors, he or she will inevitably learn things simply by being out there and seeing new things. It is all about broadening your child’s horizons.
•    Family bonding: Time spent together in nature is much more nurturing to your family connection than being indoors engaged in isolated activities. When you are on a hike, for instance, you might not talk continuously the whole way, but it will be quality together time that allows you and your family to stay connected and get to know each other in new ways.
•    It is good for the world: With the looming threats of global climate change and resource depletion, our children may grow up to face greater natural challenges than any preceding generation, and those who are well-versed in all nature has to offer are better equipped to face these challenges knowing what is at stake. By instilling in your child a sense of appreciation for nature, you are doing a favor for future generations.

Bridging the gap
Many children are more than willing to get outdoors and engage in new activities, but it is not always as easy as we might wish. If you are not sure how to make it happen, here are some of the most valuable tips.

•    Make it a routine: During seasons of pleasant weather, go on an extensive daylong nature outing with the whole family at least once a month, and do less ambitious outdoor activities even more often.
•    Be satisfied with small outings: When things are hectic in the household, you do not have to add to the stress and the chaos by planning some long, involved nature outing that takes everyone away from their responsibilities for extensive periods. Do not be afraid to settle for a trip to the local park if that is what it takes to get your family outdoors. Try to be ambitious, but do not beat yourself up if life makes it hard.
•    Be an expert: Make sure that you yourself are well-versed not just in the many benefits of nature, but also in the specific activities that are available in your area. Know what national and state parks and forests are in your area, know your city parks, and be aware of all the hiking options that are nearby.
•    Involve others: When it comes to outdoor fun, the more is usually the merrier. Make it known that your children are permitted to bring along friends on your nature trips, and if you live near relatives, make extended-family outings regularly.

By Marc Courtiol

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