June Zwan, a born naturalist from Yuma, Arizona spent much of her childhood surrounded by nature. She spent much of her time exploring the world around her including the Colorado River near her house, and often looked for new ways that she could make use of nature in order to solve everyday problems. At the age of 25, she decided that she wanted to teach other children to enjoy nature in the same way that she did when growing up and began to use the Colorado River to educate youngsters. Below she provides some of her best tips on how to get children interested in nature and the environment.
Caption: June Zwan near Boulder, Colorado
1. Take Them on a Weekend Camping Trip
Weekend camping trips can be a lot of fun and provide you all with the opportunity to bond away from the temptations of iPads, games consoles and the television. If your child is reluctant to sleep in a tent for a night or two, you could also look into ‘glamping’ which offers the same kind of experience but with more creature comforts. Depending on where you travel to with your kids, you could also hike a trail or play hide and seek. “We seem to be so disconnected from nature and animals that we get into the habit of disconnecting,” says Zwan. But it doesn’t have to be so hard if you put a bit of effort in.
2. Introduce Them to Nature Photography
Most young children are creative and love nothing more than showing off their skills and receiving praise from their parents. One way to combine the two is to introduce your children to nature photography. Buy a cheap camera for them – rather than offering them your phone – and encourage them to take photos of the local wildlife. If they show a real interest and/or talent, you could always take this one step further and visit a wildlife sanctuary or a safari park to give them the opportunity to take some really unique shots. “I once knew a boy who loved to bird watch,” says Zwan. “You never know what your children may be interested in when given the chance”.
3. Introduce Them to Adventure Hiking
Persuade your kids to leave their electronics at home for a day and take them on an adventure hike. This is something Zwan loves to do in Yuma, Arizona where she lives, and she often sees children with their parents during her journeys. “One of my favorite places is the Telegraph Pass Trail,” she says. “I also love the Laguna Mountain Ridge; it’s a great place to take your dog.” If you have young children, you can always start with short hikes in the countryside, but tweens and teens will love the various landscapes they will see on the longer hikes. If you find your family really enjoy hiking, you could even book a week or more away. Colorado and Arizona are both fantastic spots.
Zwan concludes by advising parents to keep it simple. “Encourage your kids to play with nature, and play with them if you want to truly inspire them.”