Parents, caregivers, and grandparents – here are some tips from our Educators, Sarah Rodgers and Carey Truebe, on how to engage your youngsters with nature. We’ll include these from time to time in our e-news and newsletter to help you cultivate your junior naturalist!
Model curiosity. When walking with your child, look and listen for things of interest outdoors and model how to ‘investigate’ them. If you’re walking in the woods and find animal tracks, say aloud, “I wonder where these go?” You can learn a lot by seeing where tracks go, and tracking is fun! If you find feathers or fur – look around. “I wonder where this came from? Is there more nearby?” If you hear a bird call, stop and listen. Where is the bird? What kind of bird might it be? Turn over rocks to see what’s underneath. Bring a magnifying glass to look at bugs, moss, tree bark, anything, up close! Curiosity is contagious! Soon your child will be ‘wondering’ with you!
Redirect ‘What’s this?’ questions when outdoors. Resist the impulse to reveal the name of a nature object right away. Even if you know what it is, bite your tongue and keep it a secret a bit longer. Instead, enthusiastically investigate the item with your young friend. Encourage them to observe, describe, and compare. “How many legs does that thing have?!”, “Oooh, it looks slimy–did you try touching it?” “Does it look like something is inside that hole?” These are all great ways to respond to “What’s this?”, and will likely encourage further investigation and a much more memorable interaction with the object. By comparison, simply answering with “That’s a Monarch butterfly” or “That’s a pine tree” might end the conversation and leave the child with a name, but without much connection or desire to learn more. Also, if you don’t know what the item is, all the better — You can investigate the mystery together!