Tuesday, May 29, 2012

101 things...#12 Start a collection

I love collecting stuff from nature. I'm a huge believer in "authentic experiences"--those real-life, hands-on moments where children can actually get their hands dirty-they can feel, smell, hear and otherwise experience things that will deepen their connection to the natural world. Both of my children have "treasure boxes" full of goodies and other delights they pick up outside. The thought of adding to a collection can transform any time outside, any place, into an opportunity for a treasure hunt.
I firmly believe that while protection of the natural world is important, we must also encourage children to connect deeply with objects they treasure. This might be rocks (as it is for my son, who's treasure box is so heavy we practically need a crane to lift it!) it might be flowers that children may press and dry. It might be acorns, or leaves, or feathers....the list goes on. The point is to find small, everyday objects that are special in some way to the child. I know many educators who love to take crayons and paper out to the woods to do rubbings of boulders or tree bark. Of course teachers and parents of older children who are inspired to write and draw can keep nature journals...more on that in another post. These pen-and-paper suggestions are wonderful, but I really want to encourage folks to keep it simple: you don't need to carry any equipment other than maybe a shirt pocket for getting these things home (this is also a great way to manage the size and weight of your treasures!) Here are some ideas that various children have shared with me over the years, of things they like to collect: Twigs shaped like letters, gray things (or pink, or blue things), sea glass, skipping stones, sparkly things, heart-shaped things,things that look like eyes, Stuff from our campout...
What collections do you have? How could you organize your nature treasures into a collection? What collection would you like to have? Talking and thinking about collections is a great opportunity to practice the skills of classifying and organizing, too!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

101 things to do outside with kids #11: get a hammock

For Mother's Day the children gave me a hammock. I swear, there is nothing quite like lying down under a canopy of green leaves and swaying in a hammock. Why am I just now learning to appreciate this? The kids love to climb in and tip out of the hammock, turning it into quite the plaything, indeed. But they are also learning to appreciate the relaxing and comforting feeling of just being there, under the trees. Together we are learning the fine art of taking it easy. Today when I looked outside, J, who is now almost 5, was lying flat on his back in the hammock, just contemplating the patterns of leaves against the sky. Lovely. One of these days I hope we can enjoy an afternoon nap in the sun. Even if you live in an urban area, or a wide-open space with no trees, you can still get a stand for your hammock. Trust me, it's worth it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

101 things to do outside with children #10: get dirty!

We've been enjoying a great deal of mud around here. The spring rains have come as promised, and right on schedule. The grass is up, the trees are leafing out, and there is mud-glorious mud-everywhere to be found. (Including, I admit, on every surface inside my home). Mud is a wonderful play medium! It feels great, can be mixed to any texture, and it appeals to many senses: touch, sight, smell, hearing, and even, if you're not careful, taste. We have a mud hole in our back yard specifically for rainy days. The neighborhood children flock to our yard, and everyone uses toy trucks, pieces of scrap wood, branches and leaves to create bridges, ferry boats, and structures along the edges of the mud puddles. Or they dig trenches and rivers of muddy water flow. Or they dig and dig, then stick their toes in deep, feeling them disappear into the squishy ooze.