Earth is the only planet with chocolates and children! That is because it is blessed with life- insects, trees, birds, animals and especially humans. Humans are searching for life forms on other planets and in this search have forgotten to take care of what we already have- Planet Earth, a living breathing planet that has water and air and food.
But many people have woken up to face the reality about the kind of world we want to leave for our children and grandchildren and have initiated a day on which we can remember and acknowledge the importance of this wonderful planet and strive to treasure and save it. The world now marks Earth Day to make the human race realize the importance of the Mother Earth. Earth Day is celebrated every year on the 22nd of April. In 1970, a senator from Wisconsin, USA, Gaylord Nelson first conceived of this day.
More than just remembering or acknowledging the wonder of Planet Earth on this special day it is important we teach our kids and ourselves to ‘belong’ to this planet. And to do that we have to fall in love with Planet Earth, because when we love something, we bond with it, treasure it and it belongs to us. And we never have to be told to take care of something that belongs to us!
Its time to fall in love with Planet Earth and belong to it. Its time to help our children experience its wonders, instead of always putting the responsibility of saving it on them. How can our children save something that they have not experienced or understood the importance of?
Its time to take our kids on walks…not in malls all the time but once in a while in a park, on the beach and places where they can breathe pure unadulterated oxygen! Try a nighttime walk, help your child hear the sounds during a day-time walk and a night-time walk. Take a magnifying glass along for your walk in the park and see how your little explorer loves to look at leaves and insects with the magnifying glass. Next time try taking tinted magnifying glasses (available easily in all toy stores) and see how your child will giggle and wonder at how green leaves look red or the blue sky looks green.
Sleep on the grass and look at the clouds passing by and play a game of finding object shapes in the clouds. At night look at the sky and try to look for star clusters. All these activities will help children fall in love with nature and help them understand that birds and insects and animals and trees are an integral part of our environment. They will not look at insects as ‘eek’ something to scream about or dirt and mud as ‘yucky’, they will be able to feel different textures in nature and this stimulation is extremely healthy for their emotional development and brain development. After all the 5 senses are the main route to stimulating our brain synapses.
When our children stop going outdoors they are left out of the nourishment that nature can provide for their emotional development. Nature Deficit Disorder, is a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, he refers to a growing trend around the world wherein children are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems.
Technology is something that children have already fallen in love with, and that is why you will notice how fiercely they protect their tech gadgets and tech use time. Because they have a bond with it, it belongs to them. Let us use technology to help them experience and fall in love with nature and when they do, ensure that they get real life nature experiences too.
I have given below a list of apps that you can use to help your child fall in love with Planet Earth (these are from igamemom.com and this site has a fantastic collection of apps). Have a fun Earth Day.
· Lorax- this app recounts a favourite Dr Seuss story by the same name in which Lorax tries to save Truffula forest from the hands of a factory owner. The story serves as an ecological warning and is suitable for age 3 to 6 years
· Earth Primer- an interactive science book, in this app kids can create volcanoes and sculpt mountains.
· WWF Together- this all is from the World Wildlife Fund and has origami instructions for each animal introduced. (free)
· The Yuckies- a series of two FREE books teaching kids about environment. The stories use muck, goop and mischief to teach kids why it is important and how to keep our environment clean. The series is designed for 5-8 year olds.
· Toca Nature- (is my personal favourite as it helps kids and adults understand the impact of ecological changes) this is an open-ended app for kids of all ages. Kids can make changes in the natural environment and watch how other elements change correspondingly. For example, by adding trees, kids will be able to see the animal distribution changes over time, water circulation changes too.
· WilderQuest - is a free app by National Parks and Wildlife. Through the lenses of the device, kids experience the virtual reality of the wild nature, watching animals moving close by, be so near to the plants that they will feel they can smell them and touch them. It is great way to experience the nature when you cannot go out.
· Ranger Rick Jr. Appventures: Lions- from National Wildlife Federation (NWF), it is the first of the series of Ranger Rick Jr. Appventures. Kids follow Ricky Raccoon to visit Lars the Lion and experience a lion’s life in the jungle. With built-in games being integral part of the story, it is a great learning app for kids age 4 to 7.
· Audubon Birds- it is an encyclopedia on birds from Audubon Institute, who has been working on ecosystems, with focus on birds and other wildlife, for decades. There are many nice features in the app. The best is the search function. You can search a bird by color, shape, name, location, song pattern, etc. A great app to keep handy when being in the park.