There are so many great reasons to explore wildlife with kids. As well as educating children about the behaviour and biology of wild animals, it’s an easy way to encourage them to have love and compassion for other creatures.
In addition, many studies have shown that every aspect of the health and wellness of a child improves with exposure to the natural world. And of course, kids love to get hands-on with nature and wildlife, so it’s easy to see why wildlife activities for kids are so popular.
Great ways to explore wildlife with kids
Ready to explore nature and wildlife with the kids? Here are five great ways to introduce children to the wonderful world of wildlife, and how they can respect and take care of it.
Take them on a wildlife holiday
When planning your next holiday, consider skipping the amusement parks and beaches and heading to a family-oriented wildlife destination instead. Choose a place that offers enough opportunities to learn the dangers that animals face in the wild, and that also allows children to learn how humans can help conserve and protect their habitat.
The Sepilok Nature Reserve in Borneo is a prime example. The sanctuary is covered with dense forests and is rich in wildlife. In fact, it’s one of the few places where you can find orangutans, elephants, and rhinos in one area. Here children can get a chance to play with baby apes, or go on a special adventure with their parents to view exotic species like the Sunda flying lemurs and gliding frogs. You can book wildlife experiences like this on sites such as Naturetrek.
You can even take the kids on a truly adventurous wildlife safari. Countries like South Africa, Kenya and India offer plenty of amazing safari options.
Visit an animal welfare centre
Our children are going to be the future ambassadors for animal conservation, so it’s important to teach them about their wellbeing. The best way to start is by taking the kids to an animal welfare centre for mistreated or abandoned animals. This will help children to understand why animals are important to mankind, and learn about caring for them in a loving and humane manner.
A trip to an animal welfare centre is also a simple way to give children access to wildlife that they may not otherwise come into contact with.
Use books and screens to explore wildlife with kids
It’s never too soon to explore wildlife with kids. Start with simple things like pointing out animals in movies or TV shows, or when you’re out and about. Tell them the names of the animals, and explain what makes them so unique. This could be the sounds the animal makes, where it comes from, or what it eats.
Once your child is a little older, you can increase their knowledge about the world of wild animals through books. Fiction and non-fiction both work well here. An ultimate classic like Black Beauty, for example, will show them how to appreciate and love horses, and by association, other animals. A non-fiction nature play activity book is also a great way to help kids learn about and care for wildlife.
The internet is a useful resource too. Sites like National Geographic Kids are bursting with documentaries on wild animals which are sure to keep the kids mesmerised.
Take the kids on a nature walk
As well as using books and visuals to teach kids about wildlife, you should definitely try to experience nature from up close. A nature walk is a simple, low-cost and accessible way to do this, and it’s a great way to burn off some energy and instil a sense of calm too.
You could visit a local park or nature reserve, hike up a hill, or stroll along a lake or river. Ask your children to bring along a book and use it to identify the animals they see, or download a free printable nature scavenger hunt.
During the walk, encourage children to look out for wildlife. In my experience, nature always stimulates kids to ask lots of questions, so be prepared to do some thinking yourself! You might need to look some things up when you get home too.
Once the walk has ended, it’s nice if everyone reflects on what they saw and liked the most. This is a good prompt to get kids using their language skills, and also a fun way to find inspiration for your next wildlife adventure.
Hands-on activities and discussions
Wildlife-themed activities are a great hands-on way to explore wildlife with kids. Here are a few fun ideas.
- Study animal tracks. Show kids pictures of different animal tracks, and talk about the animal that made them. Or head outside and see what tracks you can find. You could take spotter cards with you, or take a photo of the tracks and look them up when you get home. A snowy day is a great time to do this as it makes it easier to spot and follow tracks, but a muddy field works well too!
- Encourage children to garden for wildlife. Discuss what animals and insects visit your garden, and why. This is a great opportunity to talk about how our gardens provide a source of food for wildlife, and also to explore the concept of pollination. You might like to extend this activity by making homemade bird feeders, or installing a bird bath.
- When you’re out with the kids at night, ask them to listen carefully for sounds of wild animals. This could be a chirping grasshopper, a hooting owl, or a hedgehog shuffling in the undergrowth. Note down the names of the different animals you hear, and have a go at spotting them by torchlight.
- Have fun with storytelling. One of the simplest ways to captivate children about wildlife is to tell stories. Add in an outdoor setting and a campfire, and things get really exciting! You could make up a wildlife story about the animals where you live, read their favourite animal book, play wildlife-themed games, or sing some favourite songs about animals.
By helping children engage with wildlife, we can give them the opportunity to develop their understanding of and empathy with nature. As well as being a fun family activity, it’s a brilliant way to make sure that future generations do their bit to take care of our planet’s amazing wildlife.
What’s your favourite way to explore wildlife with kids?