— A developmental perspective leads to insights about how to celebrate Earth Day with children, in ways that may lead to deeper connections and activities as they grow older.

EarthFromAboveInspired by my recent research and talks on “parenting and nature” and being more attentive to the presence and urgency of parent-child communications given my wife Chelsea’s condition and her work with children and breast cancer, I began thinking about ways to celebrate Earth Day with my daughter Eva, age 6. I came upon the idea of giving her a gift for Earth Day, wrapped, as a surprise, in hopes that this gift giving would become a family tradition.

Anyone familiar with small children will know that surprises make a singular impression. In the long run, I would prefer her to think about Earth Day as a day to go out and help to restore some piece of the local landscape. But, it does make sense to begin using a developmental lens.

Children are egocentric in a normal and healthy way, lacking the abstract thinking ability that will come in adolescence. The world children know is local and concerns them and their families. For now, this day is a gift to her. Later on, we can think about giving back.

Her gift? I chose to give her a book, a large coffee table book Earth From Above by aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Technically, I am re-gifting her this book. I used to have it, open to an enticing page, displayed on a glass coffee table in my psychology office. Lately, I have not had a place to show it. So, it is been gathering dust, forgotten, high on a bookshelf. I thought this would be a perfect, impressive gift, heavy for a six-year-old at 10 pounds, and certainly the biggest book that she will own. And we can look at it before we go to bed and think about the earth and places near and far that we can visit someday.

And yes there will be an inscription: To Eva, Happy Earth Day, Love Daddy and Mama 2014.


Published by Thomas Doherty

Psychologist Thomas Doherty's work on environmental sustainability and health has been featured in publications like the New York Times and in talks worldwide. Thomas consults with individuals and organizations through his business Sustainable Self. He was the founding Director of the Ecopsychology Certificate Program at Lewis & Clark Graduate School and Founding Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed academic journal Ecopsychology. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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