Raising Tiny Naturalists

The woods have always been my happy place, but since Hadley was born I realized how little I actually know about them. I can hike for miles without being able to identify the plants and animals I’m sharing space with. And it hit me: how can I expect to raise Hadley to fully appreciate the environment if I know so little about it? So I’ve teamed up with wildlife biologist Jessie (@peach.and.maple on Instagram), to create a short guide for raising tiny naturalists!

No-one will protect what they don’t care about and no-one will care about what they have never experienced.

Sir David Attenborough

Q: What would you recommend to someone who is just starting to learn about the woods they’re hiking in?

A: Start by noticing plants or animals you see most often and try to learn those first. Once you’re able to see patterns in identification characteristics, it gets easier to build off of your knowledge. To keep kids engaged, bring binoculars if you have them! Little ones who can use them love to inspect landscapes and animals more closely.

Q: Are there any apps that you would recommend that make wildlife and plant identification easy?

A: While all wildlife ID apps can make mistakes, here are two to get started.

  • Seek (by iNaturalist) is perhaps the best for kids! It has an automatic ID feature and occasional “challenges” to find different group of species to unlock badges
  • Merlin is an app that identifies birds based on photos and bird sounds.

Q: Do you have any additional tips for parents and caregivers looking to raise tiny naturalists?

A: Be honest when you don’t know something! That makes it fun for kids to try and figure it out themselves if they are old enough to be able to (or use the apps if they can)! Nature journals are something we do with older kids: it’s a place where they can draw or write observations, or really just use them however they want. If you’re interested in learning about Leave No Trace principles – crucial in many wildlife settings to exploring nature sustainably – you can check out the movement here. Lastly, just get outside! 

Thank you so much for these great ideas, Jessie!

Before we end, this TED Talk by Emma Marris is a great watch for anyone interested in accessing “nature”, regardless of where they live. As Marris discusses, and Jessie alludes to above, many wildlife areas are carefully managed and it’s important to *leave no trace*. Marris discusses how wildlife can be found everywhere, from a backyard, to an abandoned lot in the city, and that type of “nature” can be just as much fun for children as they can play in it, get dirty, and interact with it.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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