There is much talk about children being obsessed with technology and not connected to nature, but for parents there’s not a whole lot of information about how to combat this. How do you instil a passion for the environment without being preachy and turning them off? As a passionate conservationist and a Mum to a three year old girl, Ava, this is something that I find myself worrying about.

Ava creating some works of bush art using paint, gumnuts, leaves and clay.

Ava creating some works of bush art using paint, gumnuts, leaves and clay.

Danielle Crawford Daughter Soil

Ava aged three helping out with a trailer load of soil for the veggie garden.

Growing up with Bribie Island National Park as my backyard and playground I developed a genuine passion for fauna and flora early on, so it was just a natural progression that environmental science would become my field of study, hobby, career and way of life.

Now I’m faced with the challenge of fostering a curiosity and love for the environment in my admittedly head-strong ‘three-nager’. Just like brushing her teeth and toilet training, I knew that I needed to make it fun in order to have any hope of success. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here is a list of some of my successes and failures, in no particular order.

Weeding. Admittedly this idea was probably doomed from the start. I was initially bombarded with questions such as “Mummy, why are you pulling the pretty flowers out?” I seized this as a learning opportunity to explain what weeds are, but just as I started to consider the activity a success, she ripped out a recently planted Leptospermum that was just beginning to flower before declaring she wanted to play something else.

Children from Bud to Bloom Daycare donating items

Children from Bud to Bloom Daycare donating items to Susanne Galbraith from Bribie Island and District Wildlife Rescue in December 2015.

Bush Art. This is one of my favourites. We collect gumnuts, seed pods and leaves and use them in craft projects. We have made everything from native animals using air dry clay, to Christmas ornaments and fridge magnets. You’ve just got to watch that the dogs don’t chew up these special treasures while the glue is drying.

Fauna Cameras. When daycare arrangements fell through one day, I had no choice but to bring my little side- kick along to work. I explained that we were setting up cameras to take pictures of animals. Although she was a little disappointed that the second we set them up the animals didn’t start parading in front of the camera, she talked about it for days afterwards. She now loves when we flick through the photos together, spotting and naming the different animals.

Sustainability. I’ve heard horror stories of children not knowing that an orange comes from a tree, so encouraging an understanding of how food is produced is pretty important to me. We’ve created a productive space at home with fruit, veggies, herbs and chickens and one of her favourite things to do is to tend to the garden and collect the eggs. On the down- side, our adventures in worm-farming resulted in a few sleepless nights from worm nightmares!

Kids absorb knowledge and passion through osmosis

Beautiful Bats. I feel that there is a lack of appreciation and understanding of flying foxes in our society today. Quite often I pick up Ava from daycare at dusk and we can see the bats flying out from their nearby roost. Every afternoon I would talk a little bit about the bats, about what they eat, how they are important for the forest, how beautiful they are and we’d see how many we could count. Then one day she floored me by saying, “Mummy look – beautiful bats! They help the forest to grow don’t they Mummy? And they like to eat the stuff in flowers. We love bats, don’t we Mummy?” Proud Mummy moment right there.

flying foxes at a dusk fly-out.

“We love bats, don’t we Mummy?” The author and her daughter admiring flying foxes at a dusk fly-out.

Camping, Bushwalks and Beach Trips. Well this is a no-brainer – she loves all these activities. One of the things we like to do on bushwalks and beach walks is to spot native animals (although her shouting, “Animals, where are you?” at the top of her lungs is a little counter- productive, I appreciate the enthusiasm). Spotlighting at night is also a winner; I actually managed to keep five pre- schoolers entertained for a good couple of hours with this one. Camping with little ones can be tricky, but it’s well worth the effort. Just don’t lose your toddler down the composting toilet!

Collecting for a Wildlife Charity. I can’t take credit for this idea, but it’s a beauty! Ava’s daycare class has been collecting for the local wildlife rescue group including towels, newspapers, money and bowls. They were delighted to donate their collection to the group at the end of the year. The kids also love pretending to be wildlife carers and vets with their native animal soft toys. Some of the most reassuring advice I received has been that kids absorb knowledge and passion through osmosis. That is, if you are doing the things in nature that you love and are passionate about, then your kids will take on that same enthusiasm and appreciation by default. So with that in mind, I’ll keep doing the stuff I love in the bush with my little sidekick and hopefully it will all fall into place.

Article by Danielle Crawford Land for Wildlife Officer Sunshine Coast Council

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