LEARNING TO LOVE NATURE: HOW CAN WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN TO RESPECT THE ENVIRONMENT
The first few years in the life of a child are crucial for their intellectual, social-emotional development and the values they acquire so it is important to stimulate them, because children learn from us. A particularly important topic, above all in recent times, is the environment, that children must be taught to respect from when they are very small. So how can we teach our children to love and respect nature in a simple and playful manner making them aware of the importance of protecting the environment in which they live.
The first thing to do is to set a good example at home. Children admire and imitate their parents. So giving your children a routine that includes green behaviour will make them see everyday activities such as recycling as a natural part of their lives rather than a chore.
To help your children develop a connection to the world surrounding them they need to spend time outdoors and in contact nature and animals. Take a walk with your children outdoors letting them enjoy the warmth of the sunshine on their skin and experience the freedom of being outdoors, for example by letting them play in the garden with a pet. You’ll be able to teach your children to love nature and you will find it easier to teach them to respect it.
This connection can also be developed with activities or games that help your kids to understand that not throwing rubbish just anywhere or turning off the tap when you are finished, are good habits. To encourage your child you can use a scoreboard of daily activities giving a star for an activity done well or a lightning bolt for an activity not done well. By introducing green behaviour such as switching off the lights or closing the water tap, throwing rubbish into the proper recycling bin, in addition to normal activities such as brushing teeth, washing hands and tidying up games, your child will see these activities as a normal and spontaneous part of everyday life. Another next step of the game might be giving your child a reward when your child puts waste into the proper recycling bin.
Don’t just order your child to separate waste, but explain how it’s done. It might not be easy at first, but if you explain things properly to your children using the right metaphors they will quickly understand. You can invent a story with characters using the colours of the bins, telling your child for example that his piece of drawing paper needs new friends so if he throws with other paper into the white bin it will have friends.
The secret is to gradually teach your kids the concepts they will use the rest of their lives. If you teach your children all this when they are very young, you are helping your children become responsible adults who respect the environment in a natural, almost instinctive manner, with very little effort.