‘Passing on a Love of Nature to our Kids’ by Carol Meyer (published in the National Catholic Reporter) is a great article about helping our children to appreciate and enjoy nature. It points out that kids usually do enjoy nature. It’s us parents that are ‘gradually stifling it out of them’. Instead of trying to get kids away from nature, we should be modelling a love of it ourselves. One of the four reasons given for why we should encourage an appreciation of enjoyment of nature in our children is that we want them to know God through nature. Also, when kids learn to love nature at an early age, they will do more to protect it.
It’s funny to read this now because my son got a new tent for his birthday (last week). He’s been desperate to set it up on the backyard, but there’s always been some reason why he can’t. After reading this article, I’m wondering whether I should just say, ‘Yes, set it up now’ and forget about all the reasons I’ve given him that maybe aren’t that important after all.
Here are some extracts from the article:
A recent article in
Today reported that the average American child spends 53 hours a week with electronic media. This alarming statistic means children aren’t getting anywhere near a comparable time outside. But we can be intentional about changing this for the children we influence. I encourage you to make this effort for several reasons: 1) Children need nature to be balanced and whole and we want what is good for them 2) If children know and love nature, they will be more zealous in protecting it 3) Kids have a natural affinity for nature and it brings out their joy and wonder and 4) We want them to know God revealed in creation. USA
It’s a bit ironic that this article is about us passing on a love of nature to children. It seems to me that they are the ones who naturally love it, and we’re the ones gradually stifling it out of them. They can spend hours on the beach examining shells, while we’re the ones who’ve lost that patience and awe. We hurry them on and shuttle them from one activity to another, hardly giving them time to be creative in nature.
Sometimes we parents are so protective and worried about accidents, getting dirty, germs, or predators that we think we are doing our kids a favor by constantly keeping them inside. My siblings and I had some mishaps now and then, but it was a small price to pay for the countless hours of joy in nature. We grew strong, resilient, self-reliant and confident as a result. And if safety is truly a concern where you live, there’s always the back yard, public parks, and outdoor activities that include your participation and watchful eye.
And remember that kids will come to know and love God more by sensory, hands-on experiences of God’s creation than all the theory in the world.