There are many books that encourage children to take a deeper interest in the natural world around them. I was delighted to receive a particularly wonderful one through the post recently: ‘A Friend to Nature: Activities and Inspiration to Connect with the Wild World‘ by Laura Knowles and Rebecca Gibbon.
A Friend to Nature is a beautifully illustrated compendium of ideas and activities for connecting with nature, all centred around the theme of friendship. Near the start of the book, children are invited to take ‘The Friendship Pledge’ by committing to listen, care, share, respect and stand up for nature.
Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of friendship and is packed full of short, easy and fun activities, such as taking a bark rubbing, hunting for mini-beasts or cloud-spotting, as well as more extensive projects, such as building a nest box, making a mini pond and sowing a wildflower meadow.
The book also includes ideas on how to care for wildlife and wild places, whether that’s through litter-picking, recycling, fundraising or campaigning for change. The closing chapter focuses on what nature will give children in return if they take the time to get to know and protect her, as after all, friendship flows both ways.
Along with practical ideas, A Friend to Nature is interspersed with inspirational poems, quotations and scientific information. There’s a beautiful annotated drawing of the parts of a flower, an illustration of the lifecycle of a butterfly and a guide to telling a frog from a toad. I was pleased to see the inclusion of the Countryside Code, something which I believe should be taught in schools, as well as profiles of real-life young nature heroes.
There are some genuinely unusual ideas here. I particularly love the sound of taking children on a ‘story walk’ on which they make up a story about the wild things they encounter along the way. I also love the way that the book empowers children to think of ways in which they can change the way their families live to help the planet, whether that’s asking to try out more meat-free meals or leaving the dandelions to grow on the lawn.
Humankind has not been a good friend to nature over the last one hundred years or so. In fact, we’ve destroyed nearly half of the wildlife on Earth. Meanwhile, over the last few decades, children have become increasingly disconnected from nature. This spells more trouble for wildlife, as David Attenborough said: “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”. This little book makes a good first step towards healing the rift.