How can you encourage feelings of gratitude for nature in children? The best way is to give kids a direct experience of nature’s beauty, awe, or power. And the good news is that nature experiences don’t require a trip to the wilderness. Simply being outside is the first step.
Dawn Suzette’s blog Mudpuddles to Meteors suggests simple and easy ways to get kids outside during the month of November. Sign up for her annual Fall Outside email to get an outside nature activity for each day of the month. That’s 30 activities! For example: Eat a meal outside—Have everyone fill their plates in the kitchen and head outside. Want seconds? Head back in to the stovetop and grab a spoonful! Making a one-pot wonder (a meal you can make in one pot or dish) makes getting outside so easy because you only need is a bowl and a spoon. If it all still seems overwhelming, start out with a snack. Once you’re outside, let nature provide the magic.
If children are reluctant get outside, let nature picture books provide the impetus.
For example, read A Moon of My Own—a story about a girl who travels the world (if only in her dreams) discovering natural wonders with her companion the Moon. After noticing the phases on each page, go outside and look up at the moon. Then keep a “Moon Phase Journal” for an entire month.
With minimal text and evocative images, The Dandelion Seed entices children to explore the dandelions encouragement, “The world is more beautiful than you can imagine. You’ll see. You’ll see.” This books is a great lead-in to playing a game of “Nature I Spy” in the backyard or schoolyard.
The sweet (pun intended) story of If You Love Honey leads children through a meadow of plants and animals that part of the natural cycle that results is delicious honey. It sets the stage for finding something to appreciate in nature with the concluding words, “And you know who to thank for that!” An outdoor follow-up activity might be a game of “Nature I Spy,” as kids pair up to find objects in nature for each letter of the alphabet.
Adults telling kids to appreciate nature doesn’t work. But animals become excellent teachers in Granny’s Clan. After learning about the life of orcas, and reading about ways people honor them, children’s hearts and minds naturally open up to the idea of saying “thank you.” This season you can create your own “celebration” for the wild animals (squirrels, birds, fish, frogs, etc.) in your area.
Wishing you and yours many opportunities to say thank you to nature this Thanksgiving!