Life

Five of Chris Packham's tips for getting children interested in nature

Chris Packham and a sculpture of a stag beetle

NATURALIST Chris Packham wants children to learn to love wildlife, but research suggests today's kids are better at identifying Pokemon characters than native wildlife. He has five tips to get children to appreciate nature:

1. Get them into insects

"They're in serious trouble in the UK – we're losing so many of our invertebrates and they're key to the food chain, so their decline is leading to other declines. We should be able to go into our gardens and parks and see some of these animals, like bees and black ants. They're extraordinary – kids should look out for them."

2. Insects aren't 'pests'

"Unfortunately, many insects are considered 'pests' – not a word I like to use myself. Hornets, for example, feed on lots of other insects, so if you've got a garden or an allotment, the more wasps or hornets you've got, the more veg you're going to produce because they eat all the caterpillars that feed on the veg. You need tolerance, to re-educate yourself, and think of the real value of creatures like ants to the environment. Leave them be."

3. Get up close to nature

"First-hand experience is important – young people need to engage with wildlife, meet it, smell it, touch it, get slimed, stung, and bitten. It's those sorts of things which fuel a curiosity and develop an affinity. There's nothing more magical than a ladybird climbing to the tip of your finger and flying away."

4. Get kids outside

"Get them out into green spaces – it doesn't have to be 'the countryside', there are lots of green spaces in our cities. We function better both physically and mentally in green spaces, and it's good for exercise."

5. Gen up

"Find out about animals, and how you can help them in your green space – what to feed hedgehogs and foxes etc. Feed them at a safe distance so they don't associate humans with food. Gen up, read stuff, and make sure you've got some information for the kids."

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