Children are born with an intrinsic sense of awe and curiosity about nature, and Earth Day presents a unique opportunity to teach your littlest learners about the world around them. Nature is an ideal environment for children to engage in sensory experiences that support their early brain development and the benefits extend to learning in all areas, including literacy, math, science, and creative arts.
When observing a young child, you might notice her eyes light up as she watches a trail of ants marching through the crack of the sidewalk, or when she runs her hand through a pile of leaves, or sees a new bed of colorful flowers in the spring. She is exploring with all of her senses — seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, and touching.
By helping children — even infants and toddlers — appreciate the beauty and importance of the natural world, we can help them begin to recognize how important nature is to our existence and how important we as humans are to protect and maintain our natural environment. As research shows, positive experiences with nature at an early age can help children develop a more caring attitude and encourage them to practice more environmentally-friendly actions as adults. In engaging children at an early age to love the world around us, they can learn to help protect and foster the future health of our planet.
At Too Small to Fail, we are spreading the message far and wide about how critical the early years are to children’s brain and language development. We are empowering parents and caregivers across the country by equipping them with tools and information to help them talk, read and sing with their children.
The natural world provides wonderful and free opportunities for parents to talk, read, sing, and count with their children. Whether they are experiencing the beauty of a grand waterfall at a national park, or watching a simple moment of a squirrel climbing up a tree— parents and caregivers can make the most of these moments by starting a conversation with their children about what they are seeing, hearing, or feeling. In doing this, parents are building their children’s vocabularies while instilling a sense of appreciation and care for the environment. What’s more, research shows that engaging in language-rich activities with children every day from the moment they are born can help lay the foundation for them to succeed in school and beyond.
The issue of building healthy environments that allow all children and families to connect with the natural world is more important to me more than ever, particularly now as a mother of two young children. I see that from young children’s perspective, there is always something new to discover when they are interacting with plants, animals, insects, and the natural habitats around them. I now see the world through their eyes and realize what an important role we adults play in providing them with experiences that will foster their innate curiosity to engage with nature and help them learn simple ways to show care for living things. My hope is that these connections and conversations about nature — however small or simple they may be — will, over time, nurture a lifelong sense of responsibility for all living things and our natural environment.
In recognition of Earth Day, the Clinton Foundation is showing how climate change and sustainability are at the root of many pressing global issues. Our Earth Day 2015 series will feature different voices across our initiatives, to highlight the ways in which the Earth can be used as a valuable resource to advance progress within our focus areas on an individual, community, and global level.