How can we get children to become environmentally conscious? On World Nature Conservation Day, here are five fun activities you and your child can do to help preserve Nature
By Sahana Charan
Isn’t it fun to sometimes let time go by while we just admire the beauty of Nature and the bountiful we get from it? Most of us take our natural surroundings and the resources that we get from it for granted. That is why there is widespread damage to the environment in the form of reduced green cover, drought, global warming, unexpected floods and so on.
Here is the reality --
Encouraging children to spend more time outdoors and sensitising them on the importance of preserving Nature can have surprising benefits -- for them as well as the whole conservation effort. Here are some activities you can engage with your children to help conserve Nature --
Compost your waste -- Environmentalists will tell you that conservation efforts should first start at home. When we involve ourselves and our children in small things that can help the environment, the effort can make a huge difference.
Composting is one activity you can do at home along with your children, which will give them valuable lessons on environment protection. To begin with start segregating the waste in your household so that the kitchen/wet waste is not mixed with other waste.
Take an earthen pot which has holes on its sides and a lid. Add soil, fruit and vegetable peel, leaf litter and mix everything together with a little water. You could also use coco peat to hasten the process of composting. Cover this with a lid and stir the mixture every 4-5 days. The organic compost will be ready in about a month. You can use this to plant saplings and grow a beautiful garden.
Make a bird feeder -- Making a bird feeder out of a milk carton is a fairly easy activity that even smaller children can help with and is a fun thing to do. Once it is done, you can hang it on a tree near your garden or just outside your balcony -- the children will be amazed at the numbers of birds it will attract. Here is how you can make a milk carton bird feeder --
First ask your child to cut out a semicircle shaped hole in the front of the carton and open it up. Ask her to paint the outside of the carton with bright colours so that it looks attractive. Then make two holes on either side of the top of the carton and attach a strong rope to it so that you can hang it on a tree branch or the grill just outside your balcony. Fill the carton with grains from the opened side and watch the birds coming. You can attach a wooden spoon or rod just below the feeder hole, so that the birds will have a place to land when they come to feed.
Take a census of garden bugs -- Some children have this intrinsic quality of observing the hidden treasures of nature through their sharp eyes, which we adults are rarely able to pay attention to. So this particular activity will be a source of great interest to your child, be it a preschooler or a slightly older one. Little creatures like insects and worms, and all kinds of bugs, beetles and creepy crawlies hold great fascination for children and doing a garden insect/bugs census is an innovative way of getting them connected to their environment. All they have to do is go to the backyard or the garden and observe the insects. There are few things the child will need -- a magnifying glass, a paintbrush and a small glass jar or paper cup with tiny holes.
This is how you do it -- Look for an insect, carefully pick it up with your fingers or a paintbrush and trap them inside the paper or a jar. Identify the bug, count if you have found many, record the name of the insect and the number you have found. Children can get help from their parents in identifying the creepy crawlies. Once you have finished, leave them back in the soil.
Make a film on conservation -- The audio-visual medium has become a powerful tool in recent times and it serves as a great accessory for propagating strong messages about biodiversity and conservation efforts. Social media is a persuasive way of getting this message across. Making a short film on a mobile phone about a small environmental or a garbage problem in the neighbourhood is a good conservation effort.
This might technically involve getting out of the house to shoot the video, so it would be appropriate for children above 10 years to take up such an activity. Or the child could shoot the depleting tree cover in the area from the terrace or balcony and make a small video by adding some interesting features like giving commentary in the background and so on. A good example of this is a video which I had witnessed some children in a particular Iocality making, to talk about the lack of open space there.
Make eco-friendly planters - We have a lot of things lying around in our house and garden, which can be recycled and put to good use, with a little bit of creative thinking. Many times children themselves come up with great ideas to use material in the home to make something interesting. One such eco-friendly activity is to make plant holders out of coconut shells and broken, old tyres.
When it comes to your child’s creativity, the sky may be the limit as she can paint it, decorate it or make it look fancy in the way it is displayed. All you need is slightly big dried coconut shell cut neatly in half and one half of a broken tyre. She can use water proof or acrylic paint and colour them brightly. Once the paint has dried, fill them with soil and put in seeds or plant saplings of your choice. You can attach strings or ropes to the planters and hang them on hooks in the balcony.
Nature conservation efforts need to start from the home. When we teach our children to interact sensitively with the environment, we indirectly help the community at large.
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