Nature has often been a source of wonder and expression, including both spiritual and psychological expression, for children. Interacting with the natural environment around them allows children to also practice their creativity and imagination in independent ways. The multifaceted composition of nature provides a platform for children to explore and challenge their own inhibitions and boundaries. How high can I climb? How fast can I run? What can I create from what is available? I recall as a child, often using the natural world as a place to live out fairytales and fantasies, while also befriending nature and its species as inhabitants of my imaginary worlds. Nature is integral to a child’s healthy development and personal expression, and this connection allows them to grow up and be more conscious individuals with regards to our own negative impact on the environment.
The drastic ramifications of our highly capitalistic and commercial lives on our environment have become clearer than ever. The consequences of this reality are detrimental to not only our physical health, but our psychological one as well, and especially on our children’s psychological well-being. Climate change can put children at risk of developing mental illnesses such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), depression, anxiety, phobias, sleep disorders, attachment disorders, and substance abuse. Such disorders may also lead to challenges with emotion regulation, cognition, learning, behaviour, language development, and academic performance. The recent influx of information on climate change, especially in school curriculums, has garnered high levels of concern from children. They have become more aware of the urgency of this crisis and have therefore developed anxieties in regards to it. At this point in time, interactions with nature are not only crucial to the healthy development of a child, but environmental engagement has become a meaningful way to alleviate their stresses and instill a sense of control over the situation. We must remember to not only educate our children about climate change, but mesmerize them with the wonders of the natural world that are present in so many scientific and religious books. And while we do so, they will grow to be more engaged with and conscious of our Earth.
As a platform that aims to integrate values and moral based education into children’s lives, AYA Animations highlights the importance of environmental consciousness in its edutainment, just as is illustrated in Episode 4: “Waste Not”. The episode demonstrates not only an important lesson about ecological issues and the value of sustainability, but how children’s own care for the environment may equip them with the tools to cultivate and tend to our Earth.