Friday, October 1, 2010

How to Encourage a Love of Nature in Kids

People like Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, have described American children as having a “Nature Deficit”. South Florida is teeming with opportunities that offer a wealth of fun recreational outdoor activities. There are 23 State Parks in Southeast Florida and 24 County Parks in Broward County alone, offering inexpensive, often free exposure to the abundant and unique Florida flora and fauna. The most important and effective way to encourage a healthy relationship with nature is to make sure that children spend a few hours out enjoying Florida’s fabulous ecosystem.

Parks like Broward County Park Fern Forrest Nature Center in Margate, Florida are hidden gems with programs for all ages. Free admission to the park includes several hiking trails, among them a low boardwalk through tropical hardwood hammock, and cypress-maple swamp. It is an ideal place to spot birds, armadillo and even turtles. The boardwalk is a great place for small children who may have difficulty navigating uneven trails. Giving young children an activity to complete on the walk, like counting how many birds or animals they see will help encourage them to pay attention to all the natural wonders that surround this little oasis. Parks like Fern Forest offer guided tours, toddler programs, night walks and special events like Board Games in the Park on Sunday afternoons. Some of these programs have nominal fees that range between three to five dollars, and most are free.

State Parks like Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale offer playgrounds, hiking and biking trails, jogging trails, paddle boats, canoes, opportunities to see Florida wildlife and easy access to the beach and ocean. State Parks are the perfect way to spend a few hours on a Saturday. Many State Parks like Jonathan Dickenson State Park in Palm Beach County and Bahia Honda State Park in Big Pine Key offer camping sites. These parks are a local chance to step out of the city without leaving town. It is a chance for the family to take an inexpensive weekend getaway. Camping together will create a bond between family members and create memories that will last a life time. State Parks also offer volunteer programs and Junior Ranger Programs with developmentally appropriate activities for children.

South Florida’s State and County Parks offer outdoor recreation that make it easy to become immersed in this unique natural environment. By spending time in nature kids and their families will create a bond not only with each other but with the nature that surrounds them.

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