Once kids learned about their natural world through hands on experiences. Now much of their learning about nature comes from TV or computer images. Parents can play a major role in teaching children to appreciate the smallest creatures on our earth.
On a recent walk with a group of five year olds I was astounded by their collective fear of tiny living creatures. It had been raining the night before and a number of insects and other tiny creatures were evident as the morning sun dried the school grounds out. Thinking it was a wonderful opportunity for a bit of learning, I was surprised at the attitudes many of these kids had toward such tiny, harmless creatures such as worms and spiders.
As we walked the fitness rack around the perimeter of the playing field we came across numerous worms wriggling and squiggling or just simply drying out. Loud shrieks came from several of the children, declaring them to be yucky worms and wanting to run past them or stamp on them as the worms lay harmless on the ground. This led to a conversation about spiders, with several declaring spider webs were scary things and so were spiders.
I couldn’t help wonder where these attitudes had come from and how such young children had developed such negative attitudes about these tiny living creatures. Rather than want to find out more about nature they seemed intent on either removing themselves from it or wiping it out. When I explained they had nothing to fear, that worms and spiders were tiny helpless creatures compared to the size of the kids themselves, they looked at me as if I was talking a foreign language. The logic of size seemed unimportant. If something was small and wriggly it seemed a threat to these kids lives.
Children grow up and live in a technological world. Much of kids learning about nature once came about from hands on experience. Now they can view close up, enlarged images of insects and other small creatures, either on TV or on their computer screens. Is this why these attitudes of fear in small children have developed?
Parents need to help their kids appreciate the wonder of the natural world. Technological learning is a wonderful things, but so are hands on experiences. If parents don’t teach their children to wonder about nature and appreciate its beauty, kids can grow up with a distorted view.
If you are a parent, when was the last time you walked through the grass on a wet day? Even a few minutes each week exploring the natural world together can be a powerful shared experience for parents and children. Stop and point out the beauty of a spider web to your children. If possible encourage them to watch the activity of the spider and admire the skill involved in the making of the web. Watch a caterpillar spin its chrysalis, or marvel at the emergence of the butterfly some time later. Wonder about the movement of a worm and how it moves without any legs. Real life experiences can be powerful when teaching children about the miracles and beauty of nature. By all means follow up these experiences by encouraging children to use books and technology to learn more.
Do we really want children to grow up believing all small creatures are scary or harmful and should be wiped out? Parents can enhance relationships with their kids by making time to appreciate the natural world around them, encouraging children to wonder a little more about why something is the way it is. Don’t leave such an important part of a child’s learning to books and technology. Parents, make it your responsibility to help your kids appreciate nature.
Published in: Family