One of the recurring questions parents of young children and toddlers face is: “what are we going to do this weekend?” Those little bodies have a lot of energy to release, so combining the physical aspect of going out with educational activity could be the right formula.
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Because children are inherently intrigued by animals, there might not be too much persuasion work needed to shut off the screens, leave the toys behind, and go out. Here are a few ideas for some quality family time activities promoting wildlife education:
how much wildlife you can find in your vicinity highly depends on where you live. If your home is in a rural area, you may be able to see a wide range of flora and fauna right outside your doorstep. If you’re a city-dweller, it might be that you’ll have to drive out of town. Either way, wild animals are all around us, even if you live in concrete jungles like Los Angeles or Tokyo. Taking your children to observe wild animals can be exciting and also teach them a lot. For one, there’s the thrill of spotting an animal in its natural habitat, going about its life nonchalantly. As it might take time, the kids learn a lesson about patience and that our ecosystem has its own rhythm, which doesn’t always fit our high-paced everyday lives. It’s also important for strengthening children’s understanding of respect towards the animals, giving them the space and quiet they need to feel undisturbed. To do this effectively, research is required regarding which animals you might want to see, where and when they are active, and any other traits you should know about before getting close.
Zoos, with a context
zoos remain a controversial issue among animal lovers. They were born in sin centuries ago by abducting wild animals from their habitat and placing them in confinement for human entertainment. Nowadays, however, things are not black and white. Zoos are here to stay, and with more and more species on the brink of extinction, they play a huge role in conservation through breeding and reintroduction programs.
Credit: The San Diego Zoo
Some institutes lead the way in funding research and education and facilitate some of the most professional medical care for wildlife. For many, zoos and aquariums are the only opportunity to see a large variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish. Putting things in the right context can turn a visit to the zoo into a valuable educational activity, rather than just sheer entertainment. You can take the time to explain what zoos are and the importance of preserving animals in their natural habitats. Take your time and read the information about the animals next to each enclave.
Most importantly, try and research the zoos you are visiting. While some zoos are notable for providing the best facilities, nutrition, and care for their captive animals, many others fall short with small, concrete cages, contaminated water, not enough shade, and malnutrition. Do your best to remain conscious of who you’re supporting and what you expose your children to.
Wildlife sanctuaries and rescue facilities offer you the best of all worlds. You get to see wild animals from close in a rehabilitating environment rather than a confining one, you support the cause by paying an entrance fee or placing a donation, and the children draw inspiration from the commitment and devotion of the staff and volunteers.
Credit: Florida Fox Rescue
Sanctuaries and their abundance also vary from place to place, but they exist in many parts of the world, urban and rural alike. Quick online research is likely to provide at least a few results.
This could be a complementary activity to the one above. For example, after visiting a sea turtle sanctuary and learning that ocean litter is one of the main causes of injuries, you can take the little ones for a fun day on the beach, take a few bags with you, and with some clean-up, and leave it nicer than it was when you arrived. This has the potential to teach children about the accountability of their actions, the use of degradable materials, recycling, and more. In addition, different sanctuaries offer on-site volunteer opportunities, including cleaning the facilities, and bathing or feeding the animals.