Yesterday, Kathleen blogged about a mother’s need to get outside. Spring is rolling in here and Totally Broke Tuesday is also about nature. Hopefully, it’s getting sunny and warm where you are, too! Enjoy this post about how to engage with nature for little to no money and read through to the end for details about a book giveaway!
One of the things that you can do with nearly any age and on a limited budget is take a nature walk. If you have a printer and paper, or twenty-five cents to print something at the library, you can print the one we used on our walk today. If you don’t have a library to use or a printer, just make a list on the back of an envelope or receipt! You don’t need fancy paper or notebooks to get outside and look around.
Getting outside and walking can stimulate brain activity and creativity, as well as engaging the physical benefits of stretching and moving. Hiking or walking on uneven terrain promotes development of balance and coordination without expensive therapy equipment.
One of the great things about heading outside specifically for a nature walk is that it makes the area around you immediately more interesting. You don’t have to travel far or even get in the car. If you have a small yard, maybe you’ll have more of a nature crawl! If you live in the city, don’t discount the wonder of city plants and weeds. If it’s growing or moving, take time to look at it! An old landscape or path or environment has the potential to feel new and exciting.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my own childhood experiences in nature and the fact that they don’t automatically transmute to my children. Is there anything you consider a staple of your childhood that you haven’t exposed your kids to? There are dozens of little things, little pieces of knowledge, little experiences, that I don’t think to mention or describe. Today for us, it was finding onion grass growing wild by the Rail Trail we walked on near our home.
“Look, guys, onion grass. It smells like onions.”
“Ew,” chorused my kids, who don’t share my love of cooked onions.
But a second later, the questions started: “What is onion grass? Is it onion? Can you eat it? Do you cook it?”
“You chew on it,” I told them. “It tastes like onion. I used to chew it until my stomach hurt. I didn’t want my stomach to hurt, but I loved the taste of onion grass.”
“You chew it,” T said dubiously, looking at the piece in his hand. “Do you eat it? Why?”
They all came home with pieces of onion grass in their backpacks.
Don’t neglect to share experience. If you’ve never experienced nature in this way, then experience it for the first time with your kids. In The Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Botsford Comstock, the author writes,
“In nature-study any teacher can with honor say, ‘I do not know’; for perhaps the question asked is as yet unanswered by the great scientists. But she should not let her lack of knowledge be a wet blanket thrown over her pupils’ interest. She should say frankly, ‘I do not know; let us see if we cannot together find out this mysterious thing. Maybe no one knows it as yet, and I wonder if you will discover it before I do.'”
Preschoolers love the thrill of searching for something. Even if they drag their feet at first, encourage them to keep looking and find what you can. Take water bottles or cups of water with you and stay hydrated and keep hunting. I didn’t think we’d find acorns or spider webs today along the trail, and we found both!
Print or write down some things to hunt for if your kids are little. Even my two-year-old was excited to search for clouds and sticks and leaves. Hunting for those things made every leaf and stick suddenly exciting and worthy of attention.
If you have older kids or a limited area in which to hunt or walk, introduce another kind of challenge. Find five, or ten, or twenty, plants or bugs or bridges or rocks you don’t know the names of and look them up online. Take pictures and check field guides at the library. Maybe the sidewalk is overgrown with weird, viney weeds– have you ever stooped to look at them? To study the tiny ants that use that weed for shade? The veins in the weed’s stalk? What is that weed called? What is the tree it’s creeping alongside?
If you are parenting a child with attachment issues, being out in the bigness of nature examining the small and large life around him is a wonderful thing for body and mind. Even if he forgets by next Tuesday what the name of the plant he looked up was, the natural world is becoming less foreign to him. The effort is good for his brain and his body and it’s shaping a connection to a healthy place to destress or unwind. If you have little or big kids and a limited budget, this is an education that gives your kids confidence and a sense of place in their world.
Outside, we meet both challenge (a hot day, the bigness of the world) and solace (the care of God’s creation and His care for us in it). And it doesn’t have to be expensive or far from home!
Finally, today, we’re doing a giveaway of Kathleen Guire’s book Positive Adoption.
To enter to win a copy, all you need to do is comment on this blog post with your name and email address (you don’t need to leave it in the comment, just be sure to provide it in the comment author info) and answer the question: What is your favorite memory of being outside? Is it taking walks by yourself? Running through a sprinkler when you were five? Cookouts before a football game?
A winner’s name will be randomly drawn old-school from a hat or bag at 3pm Tuesday (today!). The winner will be mentioned in a comment and contacted via email for shipping details.
That’s all! Now go outside!