Tuesday, June 28, 2011

101 things to do...#2: Look UP!

When was the last time you lay on the ground and looked up? There are so many wonderful things to see. It's one thing to tilt one's head back and look up, it's another thing entirely to actually lie down on your back, breathe deeply, and take it all in. The experience is worth savoring. Trust me.

L reminded me of the value of this vantage point recently by stopping suddenly during playtime outside and dropping to the ground on her back, under the swaying leaves of a maple tree:

"Oh, Mommy, you just have to come and lie down with me. It looks like the trees are laughing."

We tend to spend an awful lot of time on our feet. Second to that comes sitting down. But think of it-we're always looking at stuff that's in front of us, usually at eye-level. It is good to change that vantage point from time to time. Check things out from a different perspective.

It really doesn't matter where you do this: your front yard or the wilderness. Just do it. Lie down, all the way down. Take a deep breath. Feel your body being completely supported by the earth beneath you. And notice what you see: Are there clouds? Leaves overhead? What color is the sky? Do this on a hill, in a valley, near a lake, near a stream. Try it in a desert-try it wherever you are, at whatever time of day it happens to be. Just try it. Give yourself a few minutes to really relax and enjoy. Worried about bugs, or the tickling grass? Whatever-throw down a blanket and lie down on that. Do what you need to be comfortable.

Children need and deserve opportunities to quietly savor the natural world, to really "take it in" in as many ways as they can. In early childhood especially, they are developing an aesthetic awareness--that ability to quietly reflect and consider beauty. Provide them with plenty of opportunities to find beauty, in as many ways as you can. What better way to do this than to lie down quietly together and share the beauty of nature?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

101 things to do outside with kids!

The first day of summer was yesterday-and it inspired me to try something new with this blog. I got the idea from my friend Tiffany, who did something similar on her awesome blog, Art Food AND Motherhood. She is a fabulous, creative wonder and has been my dear friend for years. On her blog she lists 365 creative and artistic activities to do with and for children.

I'm hereby officially committing to post on this blog, 101 things to do outside with kids.

Since summer is such an "easy" time for most people to get outdoors, lots of these ideas won't come as a huge challenge to many of you, but for some of you they might. Either way, hopefully there will be some ideas and inspiration here for you to get outside with your own children (or others) and try something new.

Remember, you don't have to be doing something "productive" outside for the time to matter. In fact, for the most part, the "less" you are doing, the better the experience. But I hope to offer a few suggestions and examples of fun outdoor things to try, many of which will be free or cost very little in terms of either money, supplies, or time. I want to make it easy and fun for you. I'd love to hear your suggestions and ideas, too. What are your favorite ways to spend time outside with children?

So, without further ado, I present, #1: Wait for a rainstorm.

During breakfast this morning, as the sky rather suddenly filled with clouds, my ever-observant 3 year old said, "Looks like it's going to rain soon!"

Like most young children, mine are both fascinated by and a bit afraid of thunderstorms. All that noise, wind, and lightning can be a bit much, especially at night. Just the other night both my children woke up screaming after a particularly loud clap of thunder that threatened to crack the windows. But a rainstorm during the day, ah, now that's a different story altogether. They love the huge raindrops, and we have enjoyed many rainwalks and puddle dances together during summers past. But most of our daytime storm-savoring has happened outside during the rainstorms, rather than experiencing the energy and excitement of a storm to come.

This morning, since we had both the luxury of time, and the good fortune of knowing the storm was coming, I thought it would be fun to head outside and just experience the feeling of the storm growing closer. It's such an exciting time, when a thunderstorm in approaching, with all the wind, and the clouds, and the change in temperature. I wanted them to experience this anticipation first-hand. We headed out, but only after L and J had donned their "protective suits" (blankies!) wrapped snugly over their shoulders.

I brought out a little mint tea and we sipped, and noticed the way the leaves on all the different trees behave in the wind. Some leaves really shake and "act frantic" (L's words) and others wave only slightly, despite the strong wind. We watched the clouds fill the sky, and grow darker and darker. We felt the wind in our hair and watched it billow and pull on the kids' blankets when they held them up in the air. We listened to the windchimes going wild. We watched the grass in the neighbor's yard ripple like waves on the water as the warm wind blew across it.

We sipped our tea and we waited. The wind kept getting stronger, the temperature dropped quickly, giving all of us goosebumps, and finally, the rain came!

I'd love to hear your ideas for sharing nature with children.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

All wet

Some delightful neighborhood children were at our house playing yesterday afternoon, and since the weather was hot, I sent the children outside, where they belong. As I said, it was hot. And my kids aren't fools--they know how to cool off! In no time at all, L and J had turned on the hose and were positively rejoicing in the spray of water. They took turns making rainbows with the water spray, playing "limbo" under the stream from the hose nozzle, and spraying each other like crazy.

The neighborhood girls tentatively joined in and a game of "who can get the wettest" soon followed. Of course, within minutes all children were soaked through and through. Completely wrung-out, fell-into-a-lake wet. There was much smiling and laughter coming from the backyard. Until the neighbor kids' mom arrived.

Suffice it to say, she was not happy. Her children were drenched, and despite my offer to send them home in dry clothes, she promptly shooed them out of my back yard and they marched off down the street. No terse words were exchanged, but the sound of her voice and the look on her face when she arrived said plenty. Then, when her own daughter sprayed her, I had to stifle a giggle myself.


Now, granted, I probably should have called to check with her before letting the kids play with the hose. (Should I have?) But in my opinion, a little spontaneous water play is a perfectly harmless thing-one of the great childhood joys. Remember those days, when summer was hot, and you were hot, and you just had to cool off, so you got in the pool, or the pond, or ran through a neighbor's sprinkler, clothes and all? Planning ahead, changing into swimsuits, these things all have their time and place, but really, when it comes right down to it, half the fun is the feeling of "getting away with something" and getting wet in your clothes, isn't it? These kids were having a great time, and feeling a little mischevious, which makes it all that much better.

When was the last time YOU got your clothes wet? It's something we adults avoid at all costs-think of the pains we take to stay dry: umbrellas, raincoats, dashing from car to house or parking lot to grocery store, newspaper over our heads to protect us from the rain. What's the harm in water?

Why not take a lesson from our children and savor the feeling of spontaneity?