It’s Conservation Week/Te Wiki Tiaki Ao Tūroa in New Zealand, and what better time to start introducing conservation and nature to your Little.

Conservation Week is all about encouraging people to get involved in nature and to help take care of it for our children.

The simple act of taking your baby outside to look at different plants in the garden introduces them to nature and is surprisingly satisfying for them.

For older children, collecting fallen leaves, or watching ants marching in a line, can be the most interesting thing, and letting them explore outside can mark the beginning of a lifelong love of conservation and the natural world.

So, what can you do with your little one to introduce them to conservation and nature?

Rubbish collecting – Visit your beach, park or local bush to pick up rubbish, you can even walk around your local neighbourhood picking up rubbish. Talking to your child about the importance of placing used items in the recycling and showing them the different items that need to go to landfill.

It is sometimes best with this activity to have the child be the “rubbish spotter”, so that the rubbish can be identified as safe to be picked up by little hands (glass and cans can be sharp and some rubbish can harbour bad bacteria).

Park treasure hunts – Not your usual treasure however, because the treasure is finding bugs and beetles and insects in trees.

See how many you can find, lift rocks carefully and talk about how important bugs are to the environment, how worms benefit the soil helping to decompose natural material.

Be careful to handle bugs carefully and use leaves or sticks to place the bugs on, as worms for example don’t like to be handled too much.

Plant a tree or some flowers – You can plant a tree or some flowers in your backyard to support birds or pollinating insects and other wildlife. Babies and small children are fascinated with what happens in the garden. Just having them pick out a simple flower pot, herb or even planting some seeds can be very satisfying and can give them a connection to nature they may not have previously had.

Give your compost bin a name – One way you can teach your Little about composting is to give your compost bin a name, and to talk about all the things they like to eat. We call our compost bin Myrtle, and say things like “Myrtle likes banana skins and orange peels, but she doesn’t like the stickers on them” or “Myrtle likes to eat cardboard tubes, but she doesn’t like to eat chippie packets.” This can introduce the complex process of composting in a fun and easy to understand way.

We are so lucky in New Zealand to have so much nature at our doorstep, but we must strive to keep it from harm. Teaching our children to have a connection with it will help them to care for it because we are helping them to  have a personal, and special, relationship with nature.

You can learn more about what DOC run programs and activities are available in your area here: DOC Conservation Week Programmes.