In Richard Louv’s influential book Last Child in the Woods he argues that children today have a deficiency in exposure to nature leading to obesity, attention deficit disorder and depression. This has struck a chord, leading to many media articles and a Victorian Government report Good Play Space Guide and contributed to the formation and growth of forest kindergartens, Children and Nature Network, and the Audubon Society.
Many of the resources are British or North American rather than Australian so I thought I would look at some resources to encourage Australian children to enjoy nature.
There are some amazingly beautiful books for children on Australian wildlife on the market. From early childhood picture books like “The Bushwalk” by Sandra Kendall to the beautifully photographed Steve Parish books. These books are a valuable addition to the home or school library. However the most likely Australian animals and plants that will be seen by children are insects, roadside and park plants, garden birds and small lizards. Of course it is possible to see echidnas and platypus in the bush but these are rare and special occasions. So I would make the case for investing in books like Peter Macinnis’ Australian Backyard Naturalist and Densey Clyne’s books because they focus on the sorts of animals found in backyards and schoolyards.
Beautiful posters in the child’s bedroom, on the toilet door or in the kitchen inspire and encourage everyone to learn the names of what they see around them. High quality Australian posters are available from Gould League, National Parks and Wildlife and Australian Geographic.
Free Nature Apps
Sydney Wildlife A field guide to the wildlife that can be found in and around Sydney, Australia. The guide includes most birds, many fish, many mammals, a number of reptiles, and a number of invertebrates.
Aust. Bird Guide is a general field guide to Australian Birds.
For the Victorians there is Biodiversity of the Western Volcanic Plains Flora and Fauna with the flora and fauna of the Western Volcanic Plains, and the Museum of Victoria’s Field Guide to Victorian Fauna.
The MyEnvironment app is from the Australian Government, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Find the Australian environmental places and species that make up your neighbourhood or area of interest. MyEnvironment uses the GPS in your phone or iPad to show assets around you. See the heritage places, wetlands, protected species, protected areas, weeds and invasive species near you.
The Climatewatch app helps you identify local flora and fauna but you can also record the seasonal behaviour you see in plants and animals, and help scientists understand how Australia’s environment is responding to climate change.
If you like frogs the Australian Museum Frog Field Guide and Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority both have great field guides to Australian frogs including photos, maps and calls.
Australian Government Department of Environment
NSW Environmental Education Centres
Birds in Backyards
Australian Museum fact sheets
But finally just get out there. Find your local reserve, national park, or creek and enjoy yourself discovering things with your child.