Supporting a Child’s Wonder of Nature

Raising Children: Love, Limits & Lessons

Do we keep it in a jar or let it go – Then Get to The Lupa Zoo

Instead of letting your child just keep a creature in a jar or demanding that they let it go right away, use it as a wonderful opportunity to examine the world around your child and help them begin to construct their opinions and feelings about nature. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

A parent wrote to me about an incident in which her preschool daughters caught a lizard in the backyard and her husband told them they could keep it in a jar. She told them it was nature and they had to let it go. The girls threw a tantrum and a meltdown ensued. Mom wanted to know who was right; she or her husband.

Aside from the fact that they were not setting a good example for the children of working as a team in supporting each other, they were also too focused on the lizard as an object. Instead, they could have used the capture of this lizard as an opportunity to teach the girls a little bit about our respect for nature, our partnership with the world around us, and an appreciation for different forms of life.

Instead of letting your child just keep a creature in a jar or demanding that they let it go right away, use it as a wonderful opportunity to examine the world around your child and help them begin to construct their opinions and feelings about nature. With summer now here, there is so much to show and teach your children about this incredible world in which we live. Match it with the powerful wonder going on in your child’s mind and you’ll allow them to get away from the computer, the television, and the DVDs long enough to learn more. You might actually have some incredible together-time moments that will build your relationship with your child.

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

To the mom asking this question, I suggest she allow them to keep it temporarily and then let it go. While holding it in a glass jar to be examined, take some digital pictures of it and allow the children to decide which ones are their favorites to keep. I had a brush with nature last year when a raccoon showed up at my backdoor one evening. I ran into this overly friendly little guy while bringing cat food out to feed a lonely stray cat and he didn’t seem to want to leave. I grabbed my digital camera and snapped a few pictures that became keepsakes to share with my grandchildren over and over.

Take the kids to the local library and research just exactly what it is they temporarily captured. Teach them how to learn about what it eats and the most favorable conditions for its habitat. Allow the children to decide where they’ll let the little creature go and allow them to participate in the release as much as possible. Once the little creature is released it doesn’t mean he’s gone and the experience is over, but instead, the creativity can now begin. Go back to those digital photos you saved and pull them into an art or photo computer program to modify. You can blow them up, print them out, or modify them with special effects to create some wonderful art projects. There are special programs for children that will allow for importing photos so the kids can color them or decorate them. If you don’t have software that will allow you to do that, pull the pictures up on the screen and allow your children to draw and color their own free-hand versions of pictures of the creature to name and share with family.

Having an incident like this might spark an interest in nature with your children. I suggest you check out the Lupa Zoo in Ludlow, MA. They have popular exhibits for kids and a family farm where children can get close up to different animals. I know that Henry and Joan Lupa would love to see your family over at 545 West Street. You can call them at 413-589-9883 or visit their Web site at


Bill Corbett

Bill is the author of the award-winning parenting book series, Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids (in English and in Spanish) and the executive producer and host of the public access television show Creating Cooperative Kids. He is a Western Mass native and grew up in the Northampton area. As a member of the American Psychological Association and the North American Society for Adlerian Psychology, Bill provides parent coaching and keynote presentations to parent and professional audiences across the country. He sits on the board of the Network Against Domestic Abuse, the Resource Advisory Committee for Attachment Parenting International, and the management team of the Springfield Parent Academy. Bill’s practical experience comes as a father of 3 grown children, a grandfather of two, and a stepdad to three, and resides in the area with his loving wife Elizabeth and teen step daughter Olivia.  You can learn more about Bill and his work at

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