Children are naturally curious about the world around them.
As the National Association for the Education of Young Children explains, “When children experience the links between themselves and the world around them, they begin to develop a passion for helping nature thrive.”
But as we spend lots of time inside, it can sometimes feel like we’re removed from nature and wildlife and it can be hard to reconnect.
However, there are many wonderful ways to bring the world’s wildlife to our homes. Harness this powerful connection to nature and wildlife for our children with just a little creativity and some of the following experiences.
Engage with PBS KIDS Animal-Related Media
Free educational games, videos and interactives based on the PBS KIDS series “Wild Kratts,” “Nature Cat,” and “Splash and Bubbles” will have your child learning about their favorite animals on land, air, and sea. Based on the award-winning series, “NATURE,” you can also watch short live-action wildlife “Nature Nuggets” videos for kids. Try to engage with your child as you watch together and if you can't, be sure to ask them questions about what they watched later.
Visit Zoos and Aquariums Virtually
Now you can visit zoos and aquariums around the world right from your own home! Many locations offer free virtual experiences for young learners. Here are a few that might be of interest to your animal enthusiast:
- L.A. Zoo virtual field trip: Explore this self-paced experience as you watch videos of animals at the L.A. Zoo in their homes and hear from the zookeepers themselves!
- San Diego Zoo live web cams: What are the elephants up to at the San Diego Zoo right now? Check out the zoo’s live web cams that stream footage from the animal’s habitats including the hippos, penguins, apes, polar bears, tigers, elephants, giraffes, koalas, burrowing owls, pandas and the condor. Make observations on what their homes look like. You can ask your child, “How are the animals interacting, playing, or eating? Are any missing?” Hint: The ape cam is especially fun.
- Aquarium of the Pacific: Dive over to Long Beach virtually to observe the aquarium’s live webcams of the tropical reef, the shark lagoon and the underwater penguin habitat. The aquarium also offers live virtual shows for families that can be found on their calendar of events.
- Go global! Skip the passports and visit zoos and aquariums around the world. A good place to start is visiting the tree-kangaroos at the Healesville Sanctuary in Australia.
Learn About Different Animals with an At-Home Safari
Create your own safari experience with any animal figurines, stuffed animals or even paper cut outs of your favorite animals. Maybe you can even print out or draw images of animals that are typical in your area. Coyotes, seagulls and mountain lions are great L.A. picks. You can stash the animals around the house in places that resemble the animals’ habitat and talk about why that location suits the animal. For example, a hawk can go in a house plant “nest,” a penguin can go in the freezer, while a bear would be comfortable in the shadows of a den made from stacked pillows. Ask your child, “What food can the animal eat here?” “Why can it live here but not somewhere else?” “Do you think the way it looks helps it thrive in this place but not another?” You can take turns hiding different animals and talking about them.
Support Wildlife Causes
Become wildlife advocates! Inspire your child to support a local, national or international nonprofit organization that helps wildlife. Take some time to research an organization that has interest and meaning to your family. Maybe you’re interested in helping endangered species or bringing back endemic wildlife to your area. Together, brainstorm ways you can provide support. Remind your kids that they might be little, but they can make a big impact! You might consider some of the following:
- Make an online donation. Consider creating a product — such as beaded bracelets, homemade animal crackers, or animal drawings — to sell to friends, family and neighbors, then donate the profits to the organization of your choice. Many organizations accept donations online. Explain to your children where their donation will go and how it will impact wildlife.
- Organize an animal food drive. Check with your local animal shelter or hospital to see what supplies they need. Help your child organize a drive to collect the items and drop them off at the shelter. You might consider the Los Angeles Animal Services Wish List, which includes highly needed items like linens and kitten dry food for their six branches throughout the county.
Through their imagination, the opportunity to connect virtually and explore their own neighborhood, children can still connect with wildlife in new, virtual ways.