The answer is = Outdoor play.
Frequent, unstructured childhood play in natural settings has shown to be the best influence to develop life-long conservation values.
The world’s environmental problems are increasing and it is important to raise a future generation , who has positive views of nature and are willing to take action to protect it. But a lot of children today spend more time indoors and are more or less disconnected from the natural world and it is has a huge impact on their health, development and knowledge about nature. The disconnection between children and nature are one of the most pressing and overlooked crisis in our time.
Physical activities from early age is particularly relevant if we consider the growth of children’s obesity worldwide, but also prevent from other health issues, later in life. This is maybe the generation, that will have a shorter life expectation than their parents.
Natural environments and outdoor play are beneficial to children in many ways:
- children who regularly play in nature show higher motor control—including balance, than children who mostly play indoors
- develop capacities for creativity, symbolic play, problem solving and cognitive and emotional development.
- which in turn develops language, social skills, abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills
- reduce stress and promote relaxation
- childhood play in nature lays the foundation for an interest in taking care of the environment later in life
- helps children form a bond to nature
Temporary visits to nature in a diverse range of settings, from zoos to national parks, will probably not foster bonds with nature. If we want future generations to bond and fall in love with nature, outdoor play must have a high priority in children’s everyday activity, especially during the childhood years.
To give children environmental education for sustainability at early age, with hands-on experience in nature is more important than ever. Outdoor play promotes a relationship with the natural environment and provides an environmental knowledge and ecological understanding of the world. The future will need ecological literate adults who are able to recognize common plants, animals and interpret, what they see in nature. Let children be active learners, small children benefit from active hands-on discovery learning opportunities.
Helping Children to form an emotional attachment to nature may be the key to protect our planets future.
Let children play in the mud, pick flowers, climb trees, collect natural items.
Let children plant and grow vegetables and flowers. To care for a plant teaches children responsibility and respect for all living. When gardening, there is a myriad of topics and scientific concepts children will discover. What does plants eat? How do plants drink water? Why do they need the sun? Do they breathe? They will learn about the life cycles of plants, photosynthesizes and much, much more. Planting, growing and caring for plants teaches children everything from basic skills to bigger concept of life.
Let children take part in composting activities. Composting helps children to understand how the environment works, nature’s way of recycling and the life cycle. Composting activities also introduce children to the three environmental R’s recycle, reuse and reduce.
Let children children meet the tiny creatures that are critical players on this planet, as pollinators and helpers in garden and nature. Bees, butterflies ladybugs, ants, snails, slugs, beetles, sow bugs, millipedes etc. Children will discover, that even the smallest animal have an important role in our eco system.
Teach children the Four Ls about living creatures:
- Look at them
- Learn about them
- Let them go
- Leave them alone
Educate children not to leave rubbish behind and throwing things away in the environment. As adults we must help children understand the damage litter can do to wildlife and the environment. We need to be good row models and practice environmental good manners. Children don’t do as we say, they do as we do!
Shall we teach children about the destruction of the rainforest, global warming, endangered species dying off? “No” says Louise Chawla Researcher and Professor in Environmental Design “of course it is important for adults and even teenagers to become aware of such problems and issues but many environmental problems are just too abstract and complex for young children who still believe in Santa Claus.”
No-one will protect what they don’t care about and no-one will care about what they have never experienced.
Sir David Attenborough