Articles

Want to raise empathetic kids? Try spending time in nature.

Earlier this year, I wrote about what kids should do if they found a baby bird on the ground. The idea for the story came from an experience I had with my sons last summer, when we discovered a robin’s nest in a holly bush. The fragile home, stitched together with twigs and lined with dried grass, clung to a prickly-leafed branch near the busy bus stop at the edge of our yard in Northwest Washington. We watched the parents deliver dangling worms to the babies, snapped pictures from a distance, fretted through heavy rainstorms and, when they finally grew feathers and disappeared, wondered whether the little birds would make it to adulthood.

When writing the story a year later, I interviewed David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. He shared advice for kids who encounter a baby bird. He also talked about how ordinary backyard wildlife — from birds to bunnies — provides valuable context for teaching kids to care about others. “All of these are fellow creatures who need a happy and safe habitat, even if it’s in the backyard,” he said at the time. “And . . . giving your kids the exposure to nature is just the right thing to do.”

Kevin Coyle, the NWF’s vice president of education, says: “The research tends to show that even very young kids can develop a real sense of caring about things other than themselves, like wild animals. They develop tolerance toward other things and develop a sense of empathy. That’s a good thing overall.”Read the entire article on The Washington Post