As the weather warms up and school winds down, there is no better time for kids to spend time exploring the outdoors and avoid “summer brain drain.” From the nearby playground to your backyard at home, nurturing your children’s interest in nature will encourage their curiosity for animals and the environment around them. This is also a great opportunity to teach kids how their daily actions affect wildlife.
Animals and humans share the same basic needs: fresh air, clean water, food, and a safe place to call home. Unfortunately, our environment is plagued by a number of issues ranging from natural disasters to oil spills and everyday pollution, all of which can harm your favorite animals and their habitats. While watching human-animal interactions on cartoons and television shows is entertaining, it is best for a child to have a realistic understanding that interfering with animals’ natural lifestyles could put their survival at risk. Knowing how to interact with (or sometimes avoid) wildlife can help your children not only protect themselves, but also protect animals.
There are many great programs to help children appreciate and better understand wildlife. I have been working with the Dawn Junior Wildlife campaign which aims to help educate 2 million children about wildlife through lesson plans and activities. Below are some easy activities to try with your kids – make it a game and challenge them to see how many they can do this summer!
1) Wildlife at Your Window Sill
A songbird or hummingbird feeder is the perfect way to bring the natural world to your home. There are several feeders available at your local home and garden store; however, creating one using household items can be a terrific afternoon craft project and educational alternative. For easy step-by-step instructions, check out the free bird feeder Wildlife Weekend activity available at Facebook.com/DawnSavesWildlife. Once the bird feeder is set up, use online guides to identify the appropriate bird food to keep birds healthy and coming back for more. Set the bird feeder high enough to keep away from pets or garden critters, and ask kids to observe what birds fly by for a snack!
2) Butterfly Garden
Butterflies are some of the most diverse and beautiful creatures living among us. With the help of your local garden store, plant a variety of flowering plants that will attract butterflies in your neighborhood. Your garden can be as small or large as you’d like! Once the flowers bloom, let kids take photos of the butterflies that stop by your garden or observe them with a pair of binoculars.
3) Where the Wild Things Are
There’s no better place to introduce your children to the wonder of wildlife than at a local wildlife preserve, aquarium or zoo. Zoos are the perfect place for a day of safe, fun recreation and education. They can get up close and personal with a variety of species they will not find in their backyards and have access to animal experts who can share fun facts on all of their animals.
4) Join a Wildlife Clean-Up Crew
Your family can instantly make a difference by joining a local clean up crew to beautify your neighborhood, local beach or community park. It can be as easy as picking up debris, specifically looking for items that may harm animals, such as plastic soda rings and metal containers of any type. Ask local parks departments or volunteer organizations for safe, family-friendly ways kids can get involved while adhering to guidelines and precautions.
For more fun wildlife activities to do with your kids this summer, check out free, downloadable Junior Wildlife Champions’ activities at Facebook.com/DawnSavesWildlife. They even include an official certificate of achievement to award your own Junior Wildlife Champion!