One of the most important things to me as a parent is that I raise my kids to have an appreciation for nature and animals. I know some people will say "but what about humans?" To me that, that's a given. Most people feel some sort of compassion and appreciation for other humans, but it's when they are asked to look beyond our species and the way we live that they often have difficulty.
To try to raise kids that have compassion for animals and an appreciation for nature, I do what I can to get them around animals and out in nature. But don't think you need to always have something eleborate or special planned. You don't. Just getting them near animals or taking a nature walk can do wonders!
In this family, we take a lot of nature walks. Sometimes they are at area parks (and we have a lot of gorgeous parks here in Central Florida), and they are often at the beach, because we live about 10-15 minutes from the ocean. We always talk about what we see along the way, whether it be spider webs, squirrels, berries, birds, seashells, fish, or cannonball jellyfish (in the picture), as on our most recent walk on the beach.
In doing this they learn to observe nature and appreciate it. As we walk on the beach we also pick up trash that people have left behind and we put it in the garbage cans. We talk about why it's important to keep the Earth clean and trash picked up.
We also stop and see our "chicken friends" each week on the way to the farmers
market. These chickens are a flock that live and roam free around a biker bar. Just stopping to let them talk to the chickens is fun. The kids love seeing them up close and and it opens the door for conversation about how people eat chickens (my kids find the idea repulsive, which is the way it should be).
If you are excited about nature and animals your kids will be as well. They are watching what you find important and will end up following your lead. So even if you get them out for a simple nature walk and observe the surroundings a couple of times per month, or you stop the car next to a field of cows and let them watch and talk to them, you are opening their eyes and hearts and helping to create a compassionate kid who will care about animals and the environment.