DUTCHESS COUNTY, N.Y. -- Do you worry that your kids spend too much time indoors, endlessly captivated by electronic devices? In these digital times, two year-olds are more comfortable playing with your cell phone than playing in a pile of leaves. How will they learn to care about the environment if they never go outdoors?
While you are waiting for the more enticing weather of spring, start the process of getting your kids out of the electronic rut and into nature.
Convince Yourself First
Not sure if there really is a problem about connecting children with nature? Read the seminal book by Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Louv, a noted child advocacy expert, explains how the nature-deficient disorder, so common in today’s children, is linked to the rise in childhood obesity, attention deficit disorder and depression. He offers 100 actions you can take to change this.
Give a Book to Inspire
Surprise your kids or grandkids this holiday season with a retro gift – a book! Of the many wonderful children’s books about nature, the titles by Melissa Stewart are beautifully written and illustrated. Stewart, an award-winning writer and former scientist, focuses on books for elementary school kids. Her compelling books include: A Place for Birds, A Place of Butterflies, How do Plants Grow, How do Bees Make Honey, and many others. Under the Snow explores the seldom seen creatures that are active during the winter and many that hibernate.
Bring Nature into the Classroom
Some environmental organizations offer nature training even in the cold winter months. One such group is Teatown Lake Reservation. A nature preserve and education center in Ossining, Teatown can send educators into your children’s classroom for a very reasonable fee. They offer “Meet the Animals” designed for Pre-K to grade 5. “Birds of Prey” and “Hudson Valley Wildlife” are programs suitable for grades 3 to 5.
Take a Brisk Walk or Maybe a Hike
Many outdoor resources are available in the winter. Head over to the Greenburgh Nature Center in Scarsdale with the kids for a guided walk through the forest on the weekend. Trot out to Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Pleasantville and strap on some snowshoes or cross-country skis and watch the wildlife around Swan Lake. Take a winter hike with the kids at spectacular Croton Gorge Waterfall in Cortlandt. Many outdoor winter adventures are just a Google search away.
For warm-season inspirations, visit the National Wildlife Federation website : “Connecting Kids and Nature” for some great ideas.
Kim Eierman, a resident of Bronxville, is an environmental horticulturist and Founder of EcoBeneficial When she is not speaking, writing, or consulting about ecological landscapes, she teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, The Native Plant Center and Rutgers Home Gardeners School.
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