Whether your family’s favorite green space is a National Park or the corner lot, you probably hope your kids learn to appreciate and, ultimately, protect natural spaces. Most of us also would love for our kids (and ourselves) to feel connected to a community of people who share our values.
So, try taking the time as a family to do something and, if possible, engage some friends to help you, to celebrate your local green space. No matter how you do it or how big or small the action or the group of actors you engage, involve your kids and the experience can be transformative.
We went through these steps with our girls, trying to find ways to celebrate Prospect Park here in Brooklyn, one of the loveliest urban, green spaces on the planet. Our oldest drove a lot of the thinking, and the whole process has helped us mobilize our local Tinkergarten peeps to join in a 147th Birthday party for the park. Give the steps a try and come back to share what action you take in your neck of the woods.
Whatever you choose to try, it can be whimsical. It should be fun. If kids see the adults taking the time to honor nature and enjoying ourselves as we do it, they’ll remember it and, better yet, want to make a habit of doing it too.
In today’s world, we change jobs, homes and neighborhoods frequently. And yet, both research and common sense tell us that people who feel part of a community feel support, a sense of belonging and a sense of connection, which all correlate with stronger self esteem, social skills and relationships. Kids with these kinds of community roots are less likely to fall victim to rough social traps like bullying or peer pressure.
Today, many of us also connect to larger, more virtual communities based on common interests and mindsets. This kind of event helps kids connect to both their local community and to a wider circle of people who actively value nature—a community that we hope gets stronger in their lifetime.
If you follow research on gratitude, learning to show thanks is good for our bodies, our minds, and our relationships. The more you practice as a family, the more likely your kids will pick up the good habit.
Finally, overall visits to National Parks by Americans have dropped by more than 25 percent since 1987. Worse yet, increasing numbers of children surveyed for attitudes towards nature report an indifference or even an aversion. Such trends leave us and nature advocates wondering who is going to care about our natural spaces in generations to come? Teaching them to care about natural spaces will, hopefully, make kids likely to protect and fight for these treasures when their generation takes over the reins.