How to begin studying nature?

Spending time outdoors, climbing trees, playing with rocks, watching insects – all this makes a child notice the nature around them


Autor: Igor Nael
DIRECT BIRDWATCHING. Some braver bird species sometimes allow people to observe them from very close by. By: Igor Nael


Getting to know nature begins with noticing and giving thought to the surroundings. Therefore, no one is ever too young or too old to discover for themselves the endless wonders of nature and the uniqueness of every moment.


How do I make my children interested in nature and teach them not to be afraid of it?


Saying that many habits begin at home is not just a saying, because parents can do quite a lot to shape the way their children feel about nature. Among indoor activities that help the child feel a connection to animals and nature, playing with animal toys should be highlighted (as an alternative to all the dolls, robots, and cars). Whether these toys, representing different animal species, are small or large – if a child keeps playing and you give them time, long and meaningful games may be born with the help of the animals. Many parents teach their children from an early age what a sheep or a dog sounds like. This is also a part of teaching a developing human being to notice nature – not to mention books about nature and animals. The books you read to your children or gift them should, first and foremost, be age-appropriate, allowing the children to find something to wonder about, think about, or try for themselves.


Being out in fresh air is healthy! Coming into contact with nature takes place both on the way to school and at a summer home. Whenever possible, a child should ‘forget themselves outside’, whether alone or with friends. In a diverse environment, children are able to find activities for themselves, and so much of nature can be discovered out of boredom. And after all, it is fun: climbing a tree, turning over rocks, catching some insects – all this and much more makes a child notice that other living creatures beside people live near their home. Meetings with different types of living organisms are often exciting and memorable. More than a few future nature researchers have admitted that as children, they played with snails, rocks, or insects. Certainly, compared to their indoor-dwelling peers, children who play outdoors are better able to perceive, for example, the length of the day and its variability throughout the year or how to find entertainment from natural resources.


Taking photos is a great way to get to know nature, not to mention a favoured activity among children. In addition to nature observation skills, nature photography also develops the perception of the artistic whole and colours, the child’s sensitivity to the surroundings, accuracy, and the ability to concentrate. A successful photo gives the child an experience of success and drives them to seek new challenges. And perhaps they will be interested in what species they caught on the photo? You do not have to have the biggest and most complicated camera to take an impressive photo – a good smartphone and thought-out shooting techniques are enough.


Today, many children attend several hobby groups in a week. One of those could be a nature or science hobby group! The work done in hobby groups significantly reduces the burden of a parent to explain to their child why the sky is blue or why mosquitoes suck blood. Soon after achieving a good contact with their nature hobby group teacher, you will notice that the children will instead start teaching you and learn environmentally conscious and nature-friendly principles incredibly quickly.


Shaping your child starts with setting a personal example, but, naturally, every child is different. If you like nature and go for a walk in the park, the forest, or by the sea as often as possible, maybe even hiking, then there is a chance that your child will pick these things up from you. It is also educational and soothing for a child to go berry and mushroom picking, hiking, and on guided tours. The main thing is to give the child time to adjust to the silence of nature, uncomfortable purity, and the fact that although the forest may seem still and empty of animals, vivid life goes on there all of the time. The more a child spends time in nature, the more they can make exciting discoveries for themselves there. Every discovery paves a way to new surprises.


Are you interested in taking a more scientific approach to studying nature?


But also afraid that in rainy weather, you will not be able to tell a spruce from a birch? No matter. Start learning from the beginning: visit botanical and zoological gardens, nature museums, nature houses, visitor centres of national parks, and nature centres. Try to take part in exciting environmental trainings, nature-themed evenings, and nature trips taking place all across Estonia. Information on environmental education – study materials, study programmes, and an interactive map with environmental education centres located in Estonia – can be found on the environmental education website.


The State Forest Management Centre also offers interesting study programmes for different age groups at its visitor centres. The State Forest Management Centre has also created an Estonian-wide network of hiking and nature trails; read more about its opportunities at  The Estonian Museum of Natural History  organises various popular exhibitions and organises trips, workshops, nature evenings, and other family events.


You are sure to find that some plant or animal groups interest you more than others. Bookstores sell various guidebooks and field guides, and you can also find a lot of information about nature on the Internet. You can find booklets and worksheets offering basic knowledge, for example, on the website of the University of Tartu Natural History Museum – see here and here. Soon, you will be smart enough to become an amateur scientist (why not together with your child) – find species, identify them, and record your observations in some database for nature lovers (such as the nature observations database).  Read more about Estonian-language nature-themed smart applications, which are intended for both identifying species and registering your observations, here. Rohemeeter  (Greenmeter), developed by the researchers at the University of Tartu, will help you find out whether the landscape around your home or vacation spot is rich in species and how you can contribute to the preservation of biodiversity.



                                                                                                                                                              Text: Anna-Grete Rebane 

                                                                                                                                                                   Editor: Kaisa Viira