My 2-year old grandson notices everything around him when he goes for a walk—the green truck, the yellow flowers, his shadow, a bird, what’s behind and in front of him. I am much more aware of our surroundings because I know he will ask about something he sees. He learns that roses are beautiful but he needs to be careful touching them because of the prickly thorns. He knows that some things he can touch, but when he goes to the Cosumnes River Preserve he leaves everything as he found it.
Teaching children to observe nature with its beauty, mystery, and dangers is a great way to teach them how to feel safe in the world while protecting their boundaries and the boundaries of others.
Activities such as “Red Ribbon Week” to teach children to say no to drugs raises their awareness of the problem, but we also need to teach them how to live healthy and happy while understanding what to look for in their environment.
Getting regular exercise outdoors while observing nature, recognizing what should be in their surroundings, and talking to an adult about what they see will train them to talk to that adult when something seems wrong or out of the ordinary--like someone they don’t know approaching them. They know not to touch mushrooms and berries without asking what they are, they know not to approach a dog they don’t know without asking if it is ok, they will learn to not talk to people they don’t know without asking.
As you bond with your children and grandchildren through walking in nature, they will trust you and talk to you about their hurts and stings whether physical or emotional. Connect with your children through nature and teach them the “danger” yell but to not use it for play. Explain that drugs can be used for medicine when a doctor prescribes it, but it is harmful when a friend or relative gives it to them without their parent’s permission. Keep as few medications as possible in your cabinet and use sunshine and healthy food to feel good about yourself and others.
Enjoy observing nature while teaching health and safety to your children.