I remember reading “Koko’s kitten” as a child and being absolutely amazed! A gorilla communicating with people! For those who don’t know Koko is a 38 year-old lowland gorilla who learned to speak American Sign Language when she was just a baby. Her teacher, Dr. Penny Patterson, began working with Koko as a Ph.D. project at Stanford. Koko now knows over 1000 signs and understand over 2000 spoken English words. Koko doesn’t just mimic, she understands. Dr. Penny Patterson gives an example in this 1980s early documentary of Koko when she says that after teaching Koko the sign for ring, Koko called it a “finger bracelet”.

Koko isn’t one of a kind, she’s just been given the oppurtunity to show us what animals are capable of. Alex the parrot is another great example. He possessed more than 100 vocal labels for different objects, actions, colors and could identify certain objects by their particular material. He could count object sets up to the total number six. Take a look at how Alex answers questions on shape, color and numbers.

You’re probably thinking to yourself what does this have to do with parenting. Well, teaching our children about nature is an important part of how they grow up and view the world. It’s really sad when young children only know that zebras, lions and monkeys live in the Zoo!  Get your child to learn that there’s more to insects than crushing them 🙂 This can sometimes be especially hard for city dwellers but there’s still a lot you can do to get your child in touch with nature, and not just the one in your backyard.

  • Take nature walks or explore your backyard 

    Talk about everything you see, leaves, plants, insects and birds. Take along an insect box or jar and bring back some snails or bugs to get a closer look at. Watch your 3 year old be fascinated as the snail comes out of it’s shell and be prepared to answer a whole lot of questions!

  • Go to the Zoo or petting farm

    Check out pictures of animals before you go. Talk about where they originally came from, their environment or what they eat.
  • Bring an animal home

    Having a pet teaches your child how to care for another creature as well as foster a sense of responsibility. It’s also a great learning experience! If you’re not ready for a cat or a dog, try a chameleon, parrot or hamster.
  • Read

    Books are always a great way to introduce your child to new things. Point to the pictures while you read, ask your child what she thinks is happening and why or let her draw her own paintings of the animals. The Hungry Caterpillar, From Head to Toe, Tarra & Bella and Koko’s Kitten are just a few ideas to start out with.
  • Watch documentaries    

    Yes, I’m saying watch some T.V. it can be educational. Most of us will never get a chance to go to Africa, the Amazon or Australia to see all these different environments and the animals that live there.  This can sometimes be the only way for children to see the animals in their natural habitat. 

Koko has a new kitten now that she just got this month. 🙂


More Resources


Picture from Funny Pictures

4 thoughts on “Getting in Touch with Nature

  1. Very important topic, yet we were brought up thinking about differently. I really like the part where you said there is more to insects that crushing them…we many times push children to like and dislike some kinds of animals ignoring completely the great benefit from appreciating all nature around them. We teach them to hate ants but very rarely show them how much we can learn from ants and value their presence.

    1. You’re right! We’re drawn to cute and cuddly looking animals but sometimes tend to forget about the rest.
      We are growing further apart from nature which is really sad because there’s so much for us to learn from it. Many species that we know very little about are disappearing and we’ll never get the chance to find out more about them. At the same time they are still discovering new plants and animals for example in the Amazon, which is fascinating!
      Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Thank you for your well written and thoughtful post about exposing kids to the natural world. I also remember reading and enjoying Koko’s Kitten as a child.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Beth! 🙂 I personally feel it’s important to be environmentally conscious and we can teach children that at an early age by allowing them to enjoy nature.

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