August 2023 – Check out this article by Ijeoma Nwatu that illustrates the importance of what we at the Hawaii Nature Center do:
Parents can help their kids grow, learn, and have adventures just by spending some time in nature.
The first five years are really important for a child’s development. During these years, parents and caregivers can positively impact the well-being of children for a lifetime to come by creating high-quality learning opportunities.
Benefits of nature for kids
Nature provides many lifelong benefits across physical health, mental health and academic competency. A healthy exposure to Vitamin D promotes bone health and helps minimize issues related to diabetes and heart disease. Even playing with dirt has shown to reduce anxiety and stress levels in children.
Introducing different natural environments to children can help them think beyond their immediate surroundings and build well-rounded perspectives. Nature-based learning and education improves a child’s academic performance and critical thinking.
Nature helps kids learn about their world
Introducing children to the diversity of nature—from unique animals to differing landscapes and climates—can encourage them to build an appreciation for the world around them and help them understand their place within it.
For instance, visiting a river or stream is an opportunity to not only teach children about fish habitat but to explore where their drinking water, one of the most precious resources in life, comes from.
Find green spaces near you for adventures
Green spaces also give them a chance to learn about and consider risk. According to Harvard Health, children need to also learn about going beyond their limits. Think of it as a safe form of risk taking. Naturally, it’s uncomfortable and frightening for your children to be in any perceived danger. However, climbing trees or playground structures, splashing in a stream or picking wild fruit are opportunities to experience nature in their own ways.
Create your own outdoor activities
It is never too early (or late) to create activities for children to experience nature and learn about why it’s worth protecting.
For structured fun, consider visiting a museum, arboretum, or a park that also caters to children. If you are able to plan in advance, consider online options like virtual field trips and animated videos. Look for downloadable charts, coloring pages and additional reference points.
For unstructured environments, bring an illustrative book of native plants or a map detailing rivers and other waterways. Explore your local and regional species to better understand the surrounding ecosystem.
Take the learning further by finding people who are familiar with the land, like Indigenous community members, farmers, or historians. Even in urban settings, there are opportunities to discover what’s unique, what’s indigenous, and what’s been introduced to the area.
Kindle their love for nature
Human-made disruptions are a fact of life, but the outdoors are calling. By allowing children to identify with their surroundings, we’re helping them develop their own appreciation for nature and, over time, a recognition that these places are worth conserving.
We protect what we love. Let’s kindle a love for nature as early as we can.