Kids and Nature, Enliven Your Life

Sharing nature with children is a wonderful way to get them excited about the wonders of wildlife, but is also one of the biggest blessings you can have in your own life.

My friend Karyl at Native Plant Wildlife Gardening describes it this way:

Today I watched a neighbor’s kids. We made toad houses and planted sunflowers and it was a treat for me. My garden does not look like much – it is too young yet but to see a habitat garden through the eyes of a child makes it amazing. There is a lot of life going on in my backyard, I’m just too used to it. Everything was WOOOOOOWWWW! to them. You know what, it is pretty WOW.

Yesterday I had a very important date–with my 4 year old neighbor Libby and her 2 year old sister Penny (and their mom, too).

They knew that I had seen the Eagles who for the first time ever, are nesting at John Heinz NWR, which is located in the shadow of the Philadelphia Airport. Their Pappy had also seen these Eagles, and they wanted very much to see them, too.

I packed up a pair of Bushnell 8 x 25 binoculars (perfect size for Libby’s little hands), an 8 x 25 monocular for Penny, and my spare binoculars for Mom and off we went on our grand adventure.

I was hoping that some Great Blue Herons would be wading near the bridge because large birds that stand relatively still are excellent for young children. We scoped out the bridge, but… Herons.

But Libby and Penny were unconcerned. We heard a big fish splash in the water, and it was so much fun to keep saying “SPLASH!”

We found a life size carving of a Bald Eagle and we spread our arms out to try to reach the tips of its wings, but we couldn’t because Eagles have verrrry biiig wings.

We made wishes on Dandelion seed heads, and got so silly laughing at the seeds flying everywhere.

We went down the “secret passageways” in the woods and amused ourselves by stomping across the little bridge to scare away the trolls.

It made us very happy to see the Mommy and Daddy Tree Swallows sitting together on top of their houses.

We giggled every time the Canada Geese said “honkhonkhonkhonkhonk” and we practiced saying that, too.

And we got to run, REALLY fast along the pathways.

We never did see the Eagle, but we sure did have fun!

How do you share nature with the kids in your life?

Guest blogger bio: My friend Carole Brown is a great writer, educator and photographer. Her site, Ecosystem Gardening is dedicated to teaching you to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources, and create welcoming wildlife habitat in your garden so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other wildlife. You can follow Carole on Twitter @CB4Wildlife.

Sharing the Wonders of Nature with Children in Your Ecosystem Garden

Last week I gave my four year old neighbor a small hand-held magnifying glass which was an immediate hit with her. We walked around the garden looking at EVERYTHING.

We found empty locust shells, butterfly chrysali, bees, and all manner of other bugs and every find spurred a flood of questions:

“Why did it lose its shell?”

“How does the butterfly get out of that chrysalis?”

“What do bees eat?”

These kinds of questions engage your children in the wonders of nature, and your Ecosystem Garden is a great place to spark their curiosity.

The best part about teaching children about nature and wildlife in your garden is that it’s right outside your door. When children learn to respect and care about the wildlife that is so close to home, they can learn that we can do good things to help them, but sometimes the things that we do are not helpful to wildlife and can really hurt them.

It’s a very sad fact that most children know more about lions and elephants in Africa, or polar bears in the Arctic than they do about the wildlife in their own backyards.

But we can help to change this by bringing children into our gardens, as Michelle Clay has done by designing her Ecosystem Garden with her son Gabe in mind.

Do you share your wildlife garden with the children in your life? Please tell us all about it by leaving a comment.

Guest blogger bio: My friend Carole Brown is a great writer, educator and photographer. Her site, Ecosystem Gardening is dedicated to teaching you to garden sustainably, conserve natural resources, and create welcoming wildlife habitat in your garden so that you will attract more birds, butterflies, pollinators, and other wildlife. You can follow Carole on Twitter @CB4Wildlife.

10 Tricks to Get Kids Outdoors

June 18th, 2010 Purple Martin Nest Check
Creative Commons License photo credit: OakleyOriginals

Much has been written about the reasons kids need to get outdoors to play, to get involved in nature, and away from the couch and big, bad, evils of TV and video screens. But what actually gets kids playing outdoors? Do kids need to go to nature camp, or plant an elaborate garden to be nature kids? Or is there something simpler for getting kids outside in nature, running, walking, climbing, learning and exploring?

Here are 10 tricks which got me playing outdoors when I was a kid, and maybe even still do. Shhhh… don’t tell. I’m a nature kid at heart.

#10 – Let’s Eat Outside

I simply can’t resist a picnic, even if it’s just a hunk of unsliced bread and a bottle of water. Mmmm… it just tastes better outside. Grab some food, ask me to come, I’m there!

#9 – There’s Treasure There

What could be more fun than finding something? I don’t care if it’s a new flower in bloom, a worm on the sidewalk, a sparkly rock, or a yellow or red, fall leaf. Let’s go find it!

#8 – Let’s Chuck It

Carrying and throwing suitably weighty items seems like fun to me. Invite me to toss rocks into a pond and watch the ripples, chuck logs around, or throw leaves in a stream/creek and watch them float away. Snowballs and a tree target are good too. My arm is ready!

#7 – Cooking in the Dirt

I have my matches and I’m ready to strike. As an adult I prefer a campfire to a mud pie, barbecue to leaf stew, but all were good when I was a kid. Nothing beats real, live flames. Show me how to build a campfire which starts first time, or let me mess around and learn for myself (with you nearby). We could build a rocket stove. Fire is so primitive, satisfying, and even safe (if proper precautions are taken). I have the matchbox here!

#6 – Something to Climb On

Here’s your shoes, let’s climb that rock. How do I get up there? How do I balance? I don’t want smooth plastic or metal. Give me something from nature, with nooks and crannies, texture, lichen even. I love rock walls, stream banks, tree trunks, grassy hills. I’m behind you.

#5 – I’ll Hide Behind

Critters like shelter, wood piles, bushy shrubs, giant prairie grasses, secret places. I do to. Hide and Seek is a favorite game. Clearings between shrubs make a den, or hide-out – much nicer than a custom-built playhouse. You might hear me, but I won’t see you.

#4 – See Water Sparkle

Sunshine and water are a winning combination. A watering can, a hose, a bucket, a bowl, an old basin or pan, cups, ladles, feet, hands, creeks, rivers, lakes, seas, oceans, boats, floats, fountains, waterfalls, I touch and watch them all.

#3 – Watch that Critter

What kind of critter is that? What does he eat? Where does he live? How fast can he climb, walk, crawl or run?

#2 – You Can’t Catch Me

Maybe I can run like the wind through that park, field or prairie, fly a kite, watch a bird soaring, find shapes in the clouds and wish I could touch them.

#1 – I Want to Be With You

Open the door and go outside. I want to be with you – I’ll follow. Who’s that special person I want to be with? Or am I the person others want to be with? Give me a choice – chores or outdoors. Suddenly I found my shoes!

What gets you outdoors? Do you potter in your garden, walk to school, watch the birds, hike, swim, forage, take care of the chickens, rake the leaves, or sit out on the deck for lunch?

What got you outdoors when you were a kid?

10 Tricks to Get Kids Outdoors is by Alison Kerr and originally appeared at Loving Nature’s Garden.

Guest Blogger Bio: Alison Kerr is a writer who is passionate about the Earth, nature, gardening, good food, and her family. You can read Alison’s work on Loving Nature’s Garden and follow her on Twitter @AlisonKerr.

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