Photo: How not to squelch a kid's curiosity about nature

To cultivate nature connectedness, fuel curiosity and keep plants and critters alive, we made rules.

Most children are curious explorers, so you don't need to do much to cultivate their nature connectedness — just take them outside! The challenge is more about how to get out of their way while keeping them AND the plants and critters safe.

Ick. Ew. Gross.

These are a few words adults say about nature — in front of kids. I don't think we even realize it.

Did I love finding a snail on my kitchen ceiling? Or an entire nest of baby spiders, on a stick, in my living room? Not exactly.

To cultivate nature connectedness, fuel my son's curiosity and keep plants and critters alive, we have rules:

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  1. No snails in the house.
  2. Worms can't do yoga.
  3. No slugs in the hand (the sticky trail is impossible to get off).
  4. Toilet paper can help relocate spiders.
  5. Bees are fun to watch, not touch.
  6. Ant hills are best observed from a distance.
  7. Caterpillars need to be released to morph into butterflies or moths.
  8. To avoid heartbreak, don't get too attached, e.g., ladybugs are heart-breakers — they will land and quickly fly away.
  9. Wasps and bees need space because they can sting.
  10. Leave some snails behind to work in the garden and for other kids to find.

Don't get me wrong, I will let him swat mosquitoes!

Tools you may find useful:

  • Bug bungalow or a mason jar with air holes (much better than pockets)
  • Butterfly net
  • Magnifying glass
  • Dip net (to explore streams and ponds)
  • Tips from our 30×30 Nature Challenge (to inspire your outdoor explorations any time of year!)

How have you successfully taught the kids in your life about touching, holding and exploring nature safely?

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

May 26, 2015

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1 Comment

Jun 02, 2015
10:42 AM

We’ve had snails in the house, safely ensconced in a plastic habitat that is. We’ve also had sow-bugs and slugs for short periods as I hate to say no to healthy curiousity. Garter snakes and frogs are only allowed to visit — the longest is overnight, before being carefully returned from where we found them. We research the species to learn about it and what it eats before we return it. We’ve raised local tadpoles into frogs — release them quickly once they are frogs as they need the correct food to thrive and it’s hard to keep them in a container.

We’ve even raised painted lady butterflies — courtesy of my husband who brought a few extra caterpillars home one year from his classroom butterfly kit. I wouldn’t recommend bringing in wild caterpillars as you may not be able to supply the food they need. We created a natural habitat with sticks etc in an old fish tank (top covered in mesh) instead of the small supplied containers, and learned what kind of plants they liked to eat beyond the basic paste supplied by the company. It was so fun to watch them climb up the sticks and weave their cocoon and then later hatch and release them. My husband and some of the other teachers decided to try the natural habitat in their classroom.

Fish and aquatic life are caught in nets, observed and released before the water in the bucket gets too warm. And yes,we always tell our kids to make sure you handle frogs with ‘dirty’ hands, or rinse your hands in some water first — they hate soap! And always hold them close to the ground in case they escape. We normally find tree frogs in our yard when we are mowing, so we catch them and then carefully place them in the garden where it is safe. We always release indoor spiders, despite Mom being afraid of them, because they do a good job of eating insects outside. We have a live and let live policy with wasps — non-aggressive species can have nests on the outbuildings, but not on the deck.

Observe and learn is what we do, and teach our kids how to handle, respect and care for the creatures in our environment.

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