New Zealand is a country that inspires families to be outdoors, enjoying the bounty of nature around us. Even in today’s society we have very different childhoods to those ten or even twenty years ago.
Television has hundreds of children shows, a lot of TVs now access the internet, putting YouTube or Netflix within easy reach of a child needing stimulation. Even as far back as 2013 Apple noticed how much of a growing sector the kids section of the app store was; so they built a dedicated store for children.
Richard Louv called this condition ‘nature deficit disorder’. His books, ‘The Last Child in the Woods’ outlines the importance nature has on developing skills and abilities that digital education cannot deliver.
Learning in nature is important, not simply for the multitude of health benefits but also because children stand a better chance of learning about nature through experiencing it. Learning why trees are important, the role various creatures play or the ecosystem of all living things helps children want to protect it.
Going out into the woods or creating a bug hotel is a great start in teaching kids about insects but deep sea creatures may be a struggle! Grabbing some jumbo ocean animals can help children learn about creatures they may never see.
For children, and Early Childhood Centres that are located in a heavily urban area even getting the kids to explore in the woods, or feel the sand in their toes can be a struggle.
This doesn’t exclude them from learning about nature.
Sets such as the Natural Exploration Starter Pack give such a wide variety of natural resources for children to interact with.
River pebbles, polished stones and shells give children a tactile lesson in textures, contours, sounds (hold the shell against their ear to let them hear the ocean, no matter how far from the sea they are).
How children learn about nature is really important too.
For example, most children learn through their parents. If a parent screams at the sight of a spider then the child is more likely to develop a fear than if they’d been able to see spiders as fascinating creatures.
Getting children playing with bug toys can help them see insects in a different light. They can also be easily taught the important role these creatures play in New Zealand’s ecosystem, and supporting our native birds.