“The nature of childhood has changed. There’s not much nature in it.”
National Wildlife Federation, Whole Child: Developing Mind, Body, and Spirit through Outdoor Play (2010)
What a true statement, and as parents, it’s important for us to get our kids out into nature, enjoying and appreciating the beauty and the importance of wildlife. Here, we’re going to show you how to have a wildlife adventure with your kids, whether you’re in Africa, America, Australia or the UK, there’s always a wildlife adventure to be had.
Why get your kids into wildlife?
As David Mizejwesky, a naturalist and spokesperson for the National Wildlife Federation says, “You only protect what you love and you only love what you know.” So, for this reason alone, kids need to get outdoors and appreciate wildlife, so that they can understand the importance of protecting it, and how each and every animal, plant, bug or fish, has a big impact on our environment. But over and above that, kids need to experience adventures that get them away from screens and into the outdoors.
How to have a wildlife adventure
No matter where you are, there will always be wildlife around, whether you explore your backyard, go a local park or forest, head to a National Park or even go on an adventure holiday to spot wildlife. The trick here is to get the kids psyched up to enjoy this peaceful adventure. Doesn’t really sound like peaceful and adventures go together does it? But in this instance, they do. Your kids need to learn the art of patience, persistence and to enjoy their surroundings and what they see, but of course there are ways and means to make it exciting for them and here we’re going to show you how. First thing, cameras or video cameras are a must, as your kids can keep a photo diary or even make their own wildlife movie – David Attenborough style! How cool would that be?
Wildlife in your backyard
You’ll be amazed at what you can find in your backyard, from birds and insects to larger mammals or even crustaceans, depending on where you live; so harness what you have right in front of you and get your kids exploring. If you want to attract a bit of wildlife to your backyard, you can put up a bird bath, which will bring the feathered friends flocking or even build a pond together. For other types of wildlife you can create a mound, and you’ll be surprised at what makes that its home. Get those photography and videography skills honed and arm the kids with that camera or video camera. They’ll need to learn the art of patience and a bit of silence wouldn’t go amiss either… hurtling outside screaming at the top of your lungs is sure to scare all the wildlife away in your neighbourhood, never mind your backyard! Explore your backyard during the day and get the kids to take pictures of what they find. You can get a book or check on the internet what wildlife you’re likely to spot in your area. The kids can keep a wildlife journal and mark off or print out pictures of everything they’ve come across. Once they’ve done this, they can do a bit of research to find out more about the interesting creatures they’ve found. But by night, your backyard will change, so head outdoors when it’s dark with torches, and quietly explore what other creatures you find at that time of the day. Photographs here might be a bit difficult as you could scare the animals, so just explore, quietly.
Right, backyard wildlife adventure ticked off the list, let’s move on to the next!
Local forests or parks
You’re bound to find awesome local forests and parks around you, so head out for the day, once again, armed with cameras and video cameras, water, snacks and get some hiking boots on. Binoculars would be a good idea too. Before heading out, take a look at what wildlife has been spotted in the area, so you know what to keep an eye out for. The same principles apply here; silence is golden and patience is important. You can explore streams, rivers, forests and the amount of wildlife will boggle the mind. Take a wildlife journal with you, and again get the kids to mark off what they see and research afterwards to get them to appreciate the importance of each and every animal in our ecosystem. Remember to leave forests and parks just the way you left them for happy and healthy wildlife.
Update that wildlife journal when you get home with pictures or keep the video footage safely stored.
If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach, this has a plethora of interesting and cool things to spot. Fish, whales, dolphins, anemones, crabs, starfish, jelly fish and so much more. Try and head to a beach that has some cool rock pools, as you’ll really be able to spot quite a lot in here. Hopefully you’ll be able to catch a glimpse of some of the larger species like whales or dolphins, so have those cameras and video cameras ready. Yes, you know what’s coming next – update the journal when you get home and keep it alive with notes, drawings and pictures. Obviously, if your child is more into a capturing video, this will be their evidence, but it’s still a good idea to keep the journal as a keepsake.
National Parks are a must for spotting wildlife and there are so many awesome ones to explore. Again, get the kids interested in where you’re going to go and prepare them for what wonders they’re about to see. Do your research and choose a place that you think is really going to pique the kid’s interests. You can explore a National Park close to you or plan an overseas wildlife expedition. Here, we give you the top National Parks in the world to explore and discover wildlife in all its beauty. It’s incredibly important to remember that you’re on their turf and you really need to respect that!
Here are the top 5 National Parks across the world to visit with your kids! Be prepared for a wildlife adventure of epic proportions.
Come here to see the migration of over 1 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras, 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle and a variety of other animals move across the Serengeti.
The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest intact volcanic caldera. It’s 16km wide and has a rim of over 600m – this is truly a sight to see. It is often called the eighth wonder of the world. Animals flock by the hundreds and you can see about 20,000 large animals in a day including elephants, hippos, giraffes and lions.
Yellowstone’s huge expanse creeps from the northwest corner of Wyoming into the edges of Idaho and Montana, USA.
There is heaps to see here when it comes to wildlife, including bighorn sheep, bison, elk, moose, mountain goats, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bears, Canada lynx, coyotes, grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolverines and wolves. Quite a mixture there! This is an awesome wildlife spotting adventure. You’ll also come across mountains, canyons, geysers and waterfalls.
Skukuza, South Africa
The animal life here is astounding and it’s known for the ‘Big 5’, which includes lions, leopards, buffalos, hippos and elephants. But that’s not all – there is way more stuff to see like African wild dogs, cheetahs, hyenas, crocodiles, jackals, servals, impalas, kudus, springboks and many more. We could name every animal, but we’ll just say this… there is a serious amount of wildlife here.
Not only is it stunning, but there is plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities here which include the Sierra Nevada red fox, mule deer, black bear, bobcat, grey fox, mountain king snake, Gilbert’s skink, white-headed woodpecker, spotted owl, loads of bat species, rubber boa, western fence lizard and the alligator lizard, amongst others. You won’t be disappointed in what you’ll see here, there’s plenty to snap at!
If you want to see wildlife galore, then this is the place for you. You’ll see zebras, springboks, Oryx, elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, black faced impalas, crocodiles, jackals, warthogs, honey badgers, kudus, gemsboks, elands and lots more. This is a true wildlife adventure of note!
Wherever you go, enjoy your awesome wildlife adventure with your family!