Climate and Environmental Literacy
The benefits of environmental education for toddlers
March 10, 2021
Research shows that early childhood education is essential to a child’s future success. Specifically, environmental education beginning during early childhood has a number of benefits on a child’s development and future.
Environmental education is a bit different than English or history education. This is because people, and children, interact with nature and the environment differently than they would interact with a book. Children engage with the environment through physical interactions, from observing insects pollinating plants to playing in a freshwater creek, as opposed to in-classroom experiences.
It’s important to engage with children regularly in unique and varying ways for environmental education to both reinforce the idea of civic engagement for character development and provide a vast array of opportunities to connect with nature.
Positive interactions with nature and the environment teach children about their place in the world, and how they can protect it throughout their lifetimes. Environmental education of youth ensures that we have enough scientists, advocates, entrepreneurs and everyday citizens of the future who value the natural wonders of our world.
Looking for some creative ways to start engaging with your little ones about the environment and civic engagement this Earth Day? Here are some fun and safe ideas to start with!
- As children are starting to learn color identification, take them outside and have them identify different plants and animals of all colors of the rainbow. Easily identifiable examples are grass and leaves for the color green as well as birds that are red, orange and yellow.
- Over the course of a year, take note of how the landscapes change during the various seasons. For example, during the winter you may note that the air becomes cold, snow is on the ground, trees lose their leaves and less animals and insects are visible. Compare these observations to the spring, when foliage grows back, it becomes warmer and more sunny and more animals are out again.
- Using the nature around you is an easy way to teach young children about sounds and onomatopoeia. Listening to the sounds of bird calls, buzzing insects and rushing water in nearby creeks and streams are but three ideas.
- Many children have an innate ability to find a patch of dirt or mud, and find endless joy by simply playing in it. Take this opportunity and modify it in a simple way to educate young ones about the wonders of soil and all of the organisms that reside within it. Four popsicle sticks and some string are all you need to create a small ‘science site’ to observe living insects, plants and other organisms, while still having fun.
- There are a number of ways to educate about various life cycle stages of living things, including insects and amphibians. In a classroom setting you can purchase a small set of materials that can be easily reused year after year, including a tank and food to observe the life cycles of ladybugs, butterflies and frogs. Young ones can safely observe the progression of these organisms, assist in the feeding of them, learn about their place within the food web and partake in their release to the wild.
- Learning to engage with nature in a safe way while also being able to feel nature is important in kids’ journeys. By collecting fallen leaves from the ground, young ones can learn about the different types of trees that are native to their region, as well as learn about protecting nature by doing their best to leave it undisturbed. If the leaves haven’t fallen yet in your area, using coloring pages is another great way to engage children with colors and plant knowledge.
Sign up for our Climate Literacy campaign to advocate for compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component and register your school as an Earth Day School to gain access to new environmental education resources, stories and opportunities!