We at the Agency of Natural Resources believe that the most important way to teach young children about our state’s natural environment is to allow them to experience, explore, and enjoy nature. We want all children to develop an understanding about the importance of conservation and the part we all can play in conserving our natural resources. But, we don’t want to fill youngsters with guilt for wasting a piece of paper or buying a toy with excess packaging. We’d rather see young children becoming naturalists, not activists.

As your children become older, begin explaining to them the impacts we humans have on our natural resources, and how all of us can consume fewer resources and reuse or recycle materials.

Consider these one dozen ways you can help your child or children become more aware and appreciative of Vermont’s natural resources:

  1. Take your children regularly on outings into the woods and on the water. Hiking, boating, fishing, hunting, canoeing, and picnicking are all great ways to develop a love of the outdoors in children. Pace the outing to the age of the child, and stop while everyone is still having fun. With young children, turn it into a treasure hunt: see what's living under the rotten logs; turn over rocks in the streams; sweep a net through a field or pond edge. Treat found creatures with gentleness and return them to their home. Don’t bring wild creatures home, as most wildlife species do poorly in captivity.
  2. Celebrate with your children special events, such as Green Up Day, Arbor Day, and Earth Day.
  3. Help start or support environmental education programs in your children's schools. There are many ideas and materials out there, often they just need someone with time to help make them happen in a classroom.
  4. Grow a garden — even a small container garden if yard space is limited.
  5. Allow part of your lawn to go wild and see what grows, and plant some bushes and trees to attract birds.
  6. Have field guides in your home, so children will develop an interest in identifying wildflowers, birds, reptiles, and other species.
  7. When you’re out for a walk, bring along a small bag and a pair of gloves so you can pick up litter as you are out and about.
  8. Without giving speeches, be a good role model. Turn off lights in empty rooms and recycle paper, glass, plastic, and metal; never burn trash or litter. Children learn from you every day.
  9. Watch nature specials on TV with your kids.
  10. As your children get older, discuss with them conservation changes you can make in your own family. For instance, talk with them about buying energy-efficient bulbs, driving less, and shopping for items with recycled materials or less packaging.
  11. Read articles together about various natural resource issues, both good news and bad news. Join older children in reading great literature about natural resources, such as Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac.
  12. Educate yourself about environmental trends so you can discuss these issues knowledgeably with your children. Learn more about topics such as global warming, the safety of your local drinking water supply, threatened and endangered species in Vermont and around the world, the effects of pesticides on wildlife, and habitat loss.