I love exploring nature with my sons, but I know it is not everyone’s cup of tea. When you have children, sometimes you need to forget your own wants, leave your comfort zone and go all outdoorsy. I’m not saying you have to pack up and go camping. There are infintite chances to explore nature with your children. I won’t accept excuses like “We live in an apartment with no balcony” or “There are no forests or beaches near us”. You just need to open your eyes to what is around you can you can discover so much. You can even leave your heels on or have a coffee as you do it.
The main idea here is to suggest to your children that they act as nature investigators and keep an eye out for natural materials with certain qualities. You give them a topic as a starting point. Here are some tips to get even the most nature-averse parents and children among you started.
1. Investigating Texture
A good place to begin is with textures. There is so much to discover.
Rough: bark, dried soil, rock, shells of nuts…
Prickly: chestnut shells, kiwis, rose stems, brambles,…
Smooth: leaves, peppers, apples, petals…
Brittle: dry leaves in Autumn, dry twigs, …
Depending on the age of your children, you may get asked questions like “But why is a kiwi prickly?”. Ask the children for their opinions and follow up later at home by looking up the answers. Obviously, if you know the answer to the questions, you can tell the children, but it can be so interesting to hear their views.
2. Investigating Shapes
Shapes work well really well too, even with very small children. And I’m not just talking circles and squares here. You’ll be surprised the fantastic shapes that can be found in the simplest of places. For example, if you slice an apple or pear in half horizontally you often find a star shape. A walnut, carefully cracked can result in a heart shape.
We recently spent 15 minutes in the front garden observing snails that had climbed up the garden wall. The patterns on their shells and the different shapes and sizes of shells had us all enthralled.
3. Investigating Sound and Smell
When I think of sounds in nature I generally think of animal noises, the rustling of leaves or wind blowing. But there are so many subtle sounds to dicover. Set your little nature investigators the task of finding sounds and see what they come up with. Seed pods are really interesting, like little rattles. They can often be found on the roadside on weeds. Banging sticks or stones together, knocking on hollow wood, crumbling dry leaves in your hand all make sounds.
Scents are great too, but it can be tricky for children to put words to scents. I use plants with a stong scent like sage or lavender for sensory play with my baby and he loves it.
With sounds and scents there is plenty of scope for discussion. Ask the children about the differnce in sound of hard and soft materials or what the scents remind them of. The best thing is that there are no wrong answers and your children’s imaginations can have a field day coming up with conclusions and suggestions.