In many Native American tribes, an important rite of passage for boys on the brink of manhood was the “vision quest.” The boy would travel into the wilderness by himself and would spend his time fasting and seeking the vision that would reveal to him the purpose of his life. When he returned to the tribe, he was a man.
Of course, there are many cultures both historically and modernly whose appreciation for nature moves beyond just materialistic consumption. There is something about spending time in nature that invigorates our spirit. The “call of the wild” is built into the very fabric of our humanity. An appreciation of nature is innate but it is important for us as parents to help cultivate that appreciation in the hearts of our children. Here are three tips for teaching your kids to appreciate and respect nature.
Spend time in nature and noticing nature. This can be as simple as excitedly pointing out the robin that heralds the return of spring or as in-depth as going on weekend camping trips. If children learn to see the beauty of sunsets and flowers and the stars in the sky, they’ll naturally want to conserve natural resources and they’ll be motivated to recycle instead of littering. And don’t underestimate the importance of children playing and having fun in natural environments like the woods.
Have your children work alongside you in caring for nature. Whether it’s watering the houseplants or weeding in the backyard or chopping wood for the fireplace, find ways to have your kids engage with nature. Taking care of the family pet is also a valuable way to teach responsibility in interacting with nature.
Talk about the importance of nature. Read books like Jack London’s The Call of the Wild with your kids and watch movies like The Secret Garden. The more frequently nature is referenced in conversation and daily life, the more likely the value of nature will be imprinted on the minds and hearts of your children.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” ― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Part four of a four part series on nature.
Part 1 – The Tonic of Wildness
Part 2 – The Hunt for Wild Asparagus
Part 3 – Water, Water, Everywhere
Part 4 – The Call of the Wild: Teaching Kids to Love Nature