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Re-discover nature by seeing it through a child's eyes

As she skips down the sidewalk after a rain, your youngster nearly steps on a slinky, pink earthworm. Bending down to investigate, she asks, "Where are his ears?"

Your first reaction may be one of disgust, "Don't touch that!" Or you might feel embarrassed about being unable to answer her question.

But you're pleased at her inquisitiveness and want to encourage her desire to learn.

The way you deal with your child's explorations will shape her feelings about the natural world. Your reactions can tell her that nature is something to fear and avoid, or that it's a source of endless interest and excitement.

Foster Curiosity: What can you do to foster a child's innate curiosity about nature? How can you rediscover your own sense of wonder and share it?

Look: In this instance, you might say, "I don't know if earthworms have ears - let's have a look." Bend down together and spend some time observing in silence.

Your child's original question might go unanswered, but she might notice that one end of the worm's body is more pointed than the other and there's a thick "belt" around its middle.

Touch: If your child wants to pick up the worm, encourage her to be gentle and ask, "What does it feel like when he crawls on your hand?"

Instead of leaving the worm on the sidewalk, suggest that she find a safe place for it in a nearby lawn or garden.

Pretend: Later, at home, you can encourage your child to wiggle across the floor like a worm, or make some earthworms in play dough.

Read: If you are still wondering whether or not earthworms have ears, you may want to visit your local library together to find a book that will help you both with answers.

Web posted on Wednesday, April 5, 2006

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