Standing at edge of a forest, looking over a tree-lined horizon and a fading blue sky, it’s easy to find the inspiration in nature. A peaceful lake. A mossy stone. A prancing deer. All awe-inspiring, tugging at our hearts. It is up to us to exist harmoniously with the earth, to protect our surrounding environment, and we are more inclined to protect what we love. And by using that natural beauty, we quickly fall in love with nature.
This bonding often begins for us as children. Driven by an innate sense of wonder and exploration, we go gallivanting in to the woods to find something that we have never seen before. Nostalgia brings memories of family camping trips and weekend getaways—where the sunset was brighter, the food was tastier, and adventure was never far away. As children, our imagination flourished in the wilderness, and we have fostered that into adulthood through conservation, safe outdoor practices, and education.
Inspired by NatureKidsBC, we’ve decided to compile some ways that you can help children fall in love with nature so that we can continue the cycle of respect, conservation, and education.
Falling in Love with Nature
A child’s imagination is one of their most impressive traits. With the ability to make something out of virtually nothing, there are no limits to expanding that potential. It is important to make time to create adventure and instill that sense of wonderment. And you don’t have to travel far—even simple backyard journeys can have a huge impact on their long-term cognition and respect for the natural world.
But if you’re looking to go a little further than your backyard, we recommend, of course, that you visit one of Idaho’s many state parks! There are always adventures to be had—hike, bike, swim, fish…
Turn Adventures into Lessons
Turn these outings into an outdoor classroom. Point out birds, animals, and bugs. Transfer your childlike sense of wonder into their sense of wonder. You don’t have to be a scientist to teach children about nature. It’s never too early to start the learning process. Even toddlers can grasp the concepts of not littering and being gentle with animals.
If you are looking for more ideas for education, visit the Learning Section of our website to see some of the programs that help foster this sense of love, respect, and understanding of nature.
The Junior Ranger Program
More than 20 of the 30 Idaho State Parks participate in the Junior Ranger Program. Designed for children in the 6-12 age range, the program helps kids learn about nature and the State Park while simultaneously having a great time in nature. It consists of a workbook that has fun, engaging activities like outdoor sketching, hiking trips, and park-specific activities. The park pages vary, like Bruneau Sand Dunes lists the upcoming full moons, while Lucky Peak has a water-oriented wordsearch. Visit a park, grab a booklet, and start earning your Park Stamps with each visit.
Experience Idaho Backpacks
An extension of the Junior Ranger Program, the Experience Idaho Backpacks are a highly interactive way to learn about nature. Stuffed with over 25 different pieces (like binoculars, a sketchpad, and animal-track identifiers), and completely free to rent! Simply check out a backpack with a Park Manager or Ranger and bring it with you on your adventures. Practice your rope-tying skills, check out bugs closeup with our magnifying containers, or play with the aquatic net—it is a great way to get the whole family on the path of awareness and education.
IDPR has so many other great programs. Check out the website for more information.
Quick ideas for your own backyard adventures:
- Becoming scientists and researchers—you need to find and identify as many species of bugs (animals, flowers, etc.) that you can and gather all of the data.
- Bird observers—teach patience and learn about birds while looking for the various birds that fly near your yard/neighborhood
- Acting as a bug or animal—what would it be like if you were a caterpillar? Or an ant? Maybe a butterfly…
- Litter collection—explain the dangers of litter and how it’s up to you and your child to save the planet!
Connecting with nature is so important, for children and adults alike. At Idaho State Parks, we are making it our goal to ensure there is always something awesome to see, something new to learn, and something to create a lasting impact.