How To Get Kids Interested In The Natural World With PBS Kids ‘Wild Kratts’

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What can you do to kickstart your kid’s love of science? Lock them in their room with only a bookshelf of Britanicas? Restrict their iPad use to periodic table games? Chris Kratt, one half of PBS Kids’ wildly popular Wild Kratts says the answer lies in giving them opportunities to think for themselves. Before he spent years psyching kids up about everything from the science of spider silk to the biology of giant squids alongside his brother Martin he spent aimless time outdoors with only their imaginations — and a bunch of critters.

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It’s what helped inspire Wild Kratts, and  this natural curiosity and the freedom to explore, is exactly what Chris thinks more parents should harness. In honor of the new Wild Kratts series “Creatures of the Deep Sea”, (available for streaming on the PBS Kids app), Chris offered some tips for harnessing your kids’ inner explorer. Or at least inner backyard-er. Same thing.

Make ‘Em Work For It

As children, Chris and Martin spent summers on a small slice of land their parents owned in Vermont. They didn’t stay indoors; instead, the family lived out of a pop-up trailer and camped in fields. Away from the real world, the brothers had to work hard and rely on their imaginations for fun. “We’d have to go down to a well and drop a bucket to get water every day and bring it up to the camp in a wagon,” Chris says. “There was nothing to do but go out and have our own adventures.” And so they took their first steps on the creature trail.

Your House Is An Ocean Of Fun

Your kid’s obsession with the cardboard box, not the race track that came in it, could jump start their love of science. Because while they’re imagining pirate ship or Apollo lander-adventures, they’re likely applying cold hard facts. Chris illustrates this point with a story of a mother who walked into her laundry room: “Her 2 kids were sitting in a laundry basket with brooms in their hands they were using as oars. She said ‘what are you guys doing?’ and they said they were in the Great Barrier Reef, ‘See those socks over there? Those are nudibranchs’” In other words? Your mess is their mind-builder. And relax: nudibranchs are mollusks.

Falcons Are More Than High Fliers

Kids might not have an innate love of science, but almost all harbor one for animals. And whether you’re trying to explain Newton’s Law or the fundamentals of electricity, Chris says there’s an animal that can help.

Take the Peregrine Falcon. Chris says the bird of prey can serve as a sly physics lesson because of how they harness the force of gravity during a swoop (“they basically drop like a stone out of the sky. And they accelerate the same way an apple or rock would fall from the tree.”). Or that an eel can offer to an impromptu lesson on conduction (“When the electric eel completes the circuit — and there always has to be a circuit for electricity to flow — it shocks its prey or it uses shock as a defense.”). In other words, with a little bit of quick thinking, everything your kids are passionate about can serve as an avenue to explore other areas they might not enjoy. Now try to think of ways to make pizza eating a lesson in applied physics.

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Big Cities Are For The Birds, Too

It’s always important to find interesting lessons within your day-to-day life. Those of you who live in big cities might walk by pigeons and curse them for being filthy rats with wings (because: duh). But even they have something to teach. “Even an animal like a pigeon, can be very interesting and have fascinating behaviors,” says Chris. “For example pigeon mothers produce a milk-like substance in their throats and then they sort of regurgitate it for their chicks to drink. I don’t know of another bird that does that.” Bet you’ll think twice before calling them rats with wings. Now they’re vomiting rats with wings.

Play The Role Of The Student

No, this doesn’t mean you dress up like Angus Young. But one of best ways to know if a kid has actually learned something is if they can explain it back to someone. And that someone is you. “Kids like learning and really love absorbing this information and constantly tell us proudly how they teach their parents about animals,” says Chris. “It makes them feel empowered when they can teach their parents or other adults something they didn’t know before.” Like when your buddy learned that Thomas Jane and Aaron Eckhart were two different people and needed to tell everyone.

Boredom Unleashes Badassery

Boredom gets a bad rap. And, according to Chris and it’s one of the tools parents should wield more often. “Boredom is good,” he says, as it forces kids to flex their creative muscles and find interesting ways to stay engaged. “It’s important for all of us to have a little time where you’re not rushing from one thing to the next and you can breathe and think a little.” That sound you hear is the collective nodding of parents everywhere.

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