Helping Young Children Notice Nature

Helping Young Children Notice Nature

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If you are new to noticing nature with children or would like to encourage a child to spend more time noticing nature, the following simple tips may be just the help you need…

Get outside. This might be obvious but it can be a challenge for many of us. Busy schedules, unfavorable weather, and not knowing what to do or where do go can keep us inside. But you don’t need to go far. The nature right outside your door holds many natural wonders. Notice the sights, sounds & smells around you. Look high and low. Slow down and use ALL your senses to make some observations.

Be a role model. When you are out in nature with your child, role model curiosity and enthusiasm for nature. Point out what you are noticing, from the smallest flower to the tallest tree. Wonder aloud. Ask your child what they hear, see, smell, feel and notice. Be intentional about it doing it regularly. Soon it will become habit for you and your child whenever you are outside.

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

– Rachel Carson

Start with the familiar. It may be less intimidating to start right in your own backyard or a favorite outdoor spot. Stop and look at a familiar tree or outdoor planter. Keep visiting this spot and you may start notice things that you didn’t the time before.

Follow your child’s interests. It doesn’t matter if your child is more interested in rocks or birds, would rather feel things than listen to them. Be flexible and remember that if his/her attention is engaged, the experience will be more meaningful.

Start small. You’ll be amazed what you can find by turning over a rock or log or carefully looking at one particular plant. One good activity is marking off a one-foot square patch of ground and taking the time to notice all the living things and their activities in that small area. It may be helpful to have a magnifying glass handy.

Respect differing learning styles. Not all children find it easy to sit and quietly observe. Is the child active and likes more physical activities? Let them roll in the grass, jump in a leaf pile, stack rocks, pretend to be an animal or bird that he/she saw. Is the child more of a quiet observer? Let her/him take photos or videos or draw what they see. Are tactile, fine motor activities his/her thing? Paint with pine needles, press small nature finds into clay, make a bark rubbing. Allow children to express through their preferred senses.

Take a closer look. Once something has grabbed your child’s interest, go with them to explore it further. Allow him/her some quiet time to observe the details. Get out your magnifying glass. Observe up close and from different angles. Notice sights, sounds, smells, textures, patterns, colors. Take the opportunity to help your child focus his attention a little more each time you are outside. Nature provides unlimited opportunities for discovery. With time you will see his observational skills improve and his enthusiasm for nature grow.

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Ask questions. Be a “nature detective”. Ask questions to encourage deeper observations: What do you notice about…? How does it feel/sound/smell/etc? How does it compare to…? I notice that…why do you think that is? Look for clues. Think of other things it may remind you of.

Bring nature in. Collecting the nature that excites your child is an affirmation of her/his interests. Displaying the items with some resources (field guides, books, magnifying glass, etc.) may lead to continued investigation and will keep the spark alive. note: please be sure to collect responsibly

Most of all, be patient and have fun.

I hope these tips will get you off to a good start.

For further inspiration, you may enjoy these resources:

If you would like ways that you yourself can reclaim your child-like attention and see the world anew, check out Beginner’s Guide to Noticing Nature.

Fondly,

Monique

A Beginner's Guide to Noticing Nature

Beginner’s Guide to Noticing Nature

snail-2760079_1280The child sees everything in a state of newness… Nothing more resembles what we call inspiration than the delight with which a small child absorbs form and colour.

-Charles Baudelaire

The title of this post could be interpreted in a couple of ways: One – it is directed at those who are new to paying closer attention to nature and might be seeking some guidance. Two – the “beginner” can be thought of as a child and it is from this child one can best learn how to notice nature. I write this post in the spirit of the latter as I believe children hold a special gift – a gift for truly seeing the wonder around them.

So how do children do it? And how can we reclaim our child-like attention and see the world anew? Here are ten gifts of childhood and how you can reconnect to them to help you notice nature more keenly…

  1. Be curious! Everything is new for young children and they begin their days ready to explore and experiment. When you have an open heart and an open mind, everything is interesting and worth investigating. Trying to recapture a child-like curiosity is a matter of mindset. When you are in nature, view your surroundings as if everything is new to you, as if you are seeing it for the first time. Begin to notice colors, light & shadows, shapes, textures, sounds, contrasts, etc. Move in for closer inspection and notice smaller details. The more you notice, the more you’ll want to continue noticing. As Walt Disney said, “…curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”.
  2. Know that everything holds wonder. Curiosity seems to go hand in hand with wonderment – that feeling of finding beauty or amazement in the unfamiliar, of sensing the magic of life. By ‘magic’ I mean an awareness of a force larger than ourselves that unites all life. We don’t need to understand it only simply feel it. Set logic aside and allow yourself to be amazed over the very existence of the variety of life around you.
  3. Live in the moment. Children are fully immersed in what they are doing in any given moment. They are not thinking about what they’ll do next or worrying about a to-do list. They are present and engaged with the subject at hand. While adults don’t have the luxury of not being concerned with schedules and to-dos, we can take full advantage of even the shortest moments in nature. Take some deep breaths and be mindful of sensations and your movements & emotions.
  4. Get excited about small things. Children don’t need grand adventures or unusual finds to excite them. Their curiosity and wonder allows them to marvel over the commonplace and find joy in noticing things they haven’t before. Practice being curious, noticing nature, & wondering and one day you’ll find that you also get excited about the small things. If you follow my Instastories, you’ll know I totally nerded out recently over finding wild cranberries.
  5. Believe anything is possible. Children’s imaginations are limitless, aren’t they? Fairies may be watching as you stroll through the woods; you can build a castle of sand to live in; a butterfly may come down to rest on your shoulder and whisper secrets in your ear; you might swing so high you could jump off and land on a cloud. While adults may only allow such indulgence while engaged in play with a child, we can carry a similar spirit of playfulness and openness to magical experiences. Embrace serendipity. You never know where it may lead you.
  6. Engage your senses to observe closely. Children touch, smell, listen, taste, and use their whole bodies when exploring nature. They gather information in a personal and meaningful way. When was the last time you felt a leaf, both top and under sides? Or sniffed a broken twig? Or looked at nature through a magnifying glass? Don’t be self-conscious about investigating nature more closely (refer to #9). Get personal and you might be amazed at what you notice.
  7. Follow your interests. Watch a child at play and you may notice that they flow seamlessly from one idea to another and that new materials are easily incorporated into the current activity. You may also notice that at times they completely drop one activity for another that has grabbed their attention. Follow their lead. Go out in nature from time to time with no agenda. When something has grabbed your attention, don’t think – go with it and allow yourself to be inspired.
  8. Hold no expectations. Young children do not explore nature with preconceived notions or judgement. Everything is interesting and worth investigating. They also explore without an agenda in mind. They are open to whatever experience may present itself. Try to let go of your learned attitudes and do not critique your experience. Just let the experience come and go with it.
  9. Be uninhibited. Children do not worry about what others may think of them and their actions. They are clear on what they want to do in the moment and do it. They feel free to express the full range of their emotions as they experience them. When you are in nature, allow yourself to explore whatever and however you’d like (with respect and reason, of course), abandon any pretenses you have and let your emotions wash over you. Invite others to join you and share in the uninhibited joy of noticing nature. Squish your toes in that mud! Roll across the grass! Climb a tree! I’m sure my neighbors think me a bit strange for always staring so closely at the trees in our yard but I don’t care because I discover things like these…
  10. Build on previous knowledge & experiences. Children learn something new with each repetition, gain a comfort level to probe deeper, and eventually begin to make connections. They discover relationships and notice irregularities. While you are observing nature, make “this reminds me of…” statements. Try finding a connection between seemingly unrelated objects (my kids and I love to revisit this activity from time to time).

So, what do you think? Are you ready to reconnect with your inner child and let wonder lead the way? What are you waiting for… get outside and notice nature!

P.S. If you were hoping for some practical tips to help the children in your life notice nature, check out my Helping Young Children Notice Nature post.

Fondly,

Monique

 

I made a thing!

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Hello, Nature Friends!

It has been a long time since I have been in this space. I’ve missed it. And you. Today I am clearing away the cobwebs to share some exciting news…

Some time ago I received a very sweet and encouraging message from a blog follower asking if I had all my monthly nature prompts in an easy to find collection, which I didn’t. Why had I not thought of doing that?! Well, I’ve been working on it for the past couple of months and it is now available.

The Noticing Nature: Nature Prompt Bundle contains a year’s worth of prompts to nurture your child’s natural sense of wonder & curiosity and cultivate deeper nature connections.

If you are…
Invested in helping your child fall in love with nature; you understand the importance of time spent outside; and you are looking for some creative activities to help your child get to know nature in meaningful ways, this is the perfect tool for you.

Each prompt has been carefully crafted to encourage children of all ages to notice nature, perhaps in ways that they haven’t before. They are designed in an open-ended format to spark curiosity and promote self-driven exploration and there is little to no prep needed.

Noticing Nature prompt bundle cover

You can view some sample pages here and you can find the bundle for purchase at

https://greenacorns.bigcartel.com/product/nature-prompt-bundle

(It is being offered at an introductory price until February 28th so click on over)

Thank you so much for checking it out! And for sticking with me. I’ll be seeing you again soon…

With gratitude,

Monique

Noticing Nature 2018 is beginning!

Noticing Nature 2018
 I began Noticing Nature as a private group on Facebook in January of 2017 soon after the idea popped into my mind and there are currently 310 members from all around the globe.
What is Noticing Nature? It is a family-friendly space – meant for adults and children alike – for sharing interpretations of weekly open-ended provocations and prompts. Each of us will find our own unique relationship with nature and that’s what this journey is all about.
So how does it work? Every Monday I post a thoughtfully selected, open-ended provocation in the form of a single word for you to carry with you throughout your days. With some mindfulness and openness, the connections will present themselves to you.
This year I will also be offering…
  • A monthly theme. The themes can serve as structure for the weekly provocations or as an additional spark for noticing nature throughout each month. It’s up to you!
  • Occasional prompts related to the weekly word that are more specific and actionable.
  • Occasional challenges (simple and easy to incorporate into your days).
  • And perhaps a surprise or two…
We start Monday, January 8th.
You can join us on Facebook or sign up by email at any time. I’m looking forward to sharing with you!
Fondly,
Monique

 

From my family to yours, Happy Holidays! ❤️

Wishing you all the hope, wonder and joy that the season can bring!

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a New Year full of love, happiness and prosperity.

Fondly,

Monique ❤️

Unique Gifts for Young Nature Lovers

Unique Gifts for Young Naturalists: A gift guide from Green Acorns

Every year my children spend hours compiling their holiday wish lists and every year I search for the perfect unexpected gifts that I know they will love but would never have thought of. Is it the same at your house?

Below are some gift ideas for the young nature-lover in your life – all either items we own or have tried or that I have come across in my own searches and fell in love with. I hope it helps with your gift buying or at least sparks some ideas…

Unique Gifts for Young Naturalists: A gift guide from Green Acorns

For the Adventurers

Young explorers will confidently lead the way with this classic compass.

Keep track of National Parks visits with this Explorer Map.

If your family travels a lot, Scratch Your Travels posters (world, European, Canadian and United States versions) are a fun way to record places you’ve been.

This headlamp is perfect for camping and other nighttime adventures.

Nature-inspired bandanas like these or any of these will add a fun twist to any outing.

Why not give an outdoor adventure like one of these?

Add a little whimsy to your outings with a leaf or fox backpack from Leafling.

Unique Gifts for Young Naturalists: A gift guide from Green Acorns

For the Crafty & Artsy Kids

Weave flowers, leaves, and other treasures from your nature walks into this beautiful circular weaving frame to create seasonal displays.

Choose any one of these embroidery or sewing kits. They are all so lovely!

The Stick Book: Loads of things you can make or do with a stick.

Hello Nature: Draw, Collect, Make and Grow is a creative and engaging nature activity book from Nina Chakrabarti.

Incorporate flower petals, leaves and other nature bits in hand-made paper with this lovely kit.

Unique Gifts for Young Naturalists: A gift guide by Green Acorns

For the Book-Lovers

Small Adventures Journal: A Little Field Guide for Big Discoveries in Nature. Fully illustrated—with visual reference pages, checklists, and more—the journal packs in tons of drawing and writing prompts to document discoveries made as close as the front steps.

Nature Walk Journal: Filled with illustrations of leaves, cloud formations, and animal tracks for easy reference, this journal provides an ideal place to jot down what you see, hear, smell, and notice on your walk. Use the pages for pressing wildflowers, pasting in photos, or making sketches of the scenery, flowers, or animals. Quotes about the woods, wilderness, and nature from writers and artists appear throughout.

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman: This book combines whimsical illustrations with interactive activities that encourage curiosity and inspire you to look more closely at the world all around you. A must have!

The Wildlife on the Move series, a collection of well-written, engaging stories about wildlife migration, conservation, and respectful human interaction with nature, will be loved by young children (best for ages 2-6 years).

You’ll find a collection of some of our favorite nature-based chapter books here – perfect for both family read-alouds and independent reading time. P.S. If you’re looking for more ‘all things nature’ book recommendations, check out my other bookshelves while you’re there.

Every nature lover needs a collection of field guides. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Fandex guides combine vivid photographs with facts for hand-held learning.
  • Take Along Guides are great for young children (ages 4-10).
  • Laminated Pocket Naturalist Guides are perfect for bringing on outdoor adventures.
  • We have A LOT of Audubon guides. Choose the ones the best fits the area you live in and your child’s interests.

Unique Gifts for Young Naturalists: A gift guide from Green Acorns

For the Journalers

Every nature journal should have a supply of sketchpads like these or these or these. And of course paints and some good pens too.

The Naturalist’s Notebook is a wonderful resource for sharpening observation skills, nurturing curiosity and wonder, for deepening understanding of nature’s rhythms, and for developing a phenology record to look back on in years to come. It’s a must have for any nature lover of any age.

There is something about recording observations in a special journal – it lets your child know that his observations are respected and it lends to the joy of the practice. This leather-bound journal is truly worthy of holding your child’s nature chronicles.

For the Love of Learning

The cards and posters and curriculum materials from Tanglewood Hollow will help foster a strong connection with the natural world. Be sure to check out the Bird-of-the-Month club too!

A year-long journey – the Kid’s Moon Club from Nicolette of  Wilder Child will inspire your family to connect, celebrate, play and walk together through all thirteen (yes 13!) full moons of 2018.

Unique Gifts for Young Naturalists: A gift guide from Green Acorns

Bring the Outside In

Let your little one create her own mini-world with a terrarium kit.

Any of these nature-based prints and posters will make your walls a little happier!

The nature-inspired (and educational) illustrations from Alice of Twig and Moth will look lovely in any room of your home.

Imagine Childhood has a nice selection of posters, like this Tree Leaves one, that any young naturalist would be happy to have.

It may seem odd to get children a display box or frame but if they have a favorite nature collection, they’ll appreciate having a place to display it. Even better would be to arrange the nature collection for them and present the ready-to-hang product. My son was thrilled with his framed feather collection. Don’t have a nature collection? This discovery box comes with one as well as activity ideas.

Play Outside

Build outside with these natural and eco-friendly tree blocks.

Bust boredom with this Backyard Box from the idea box kids.

Whether in field or pond, this net will help children get a close-up view of the little critters around them.

Go on a nature scavenger hunt with this lovely card game developed by Sensory Trust.

If you have some suggestions to add, please do share. I’m always on the lookout for quality gifts.

Fondly,
Monique

Nature Word of the Month – October 2017

Nature Word of the Month - October 2017

Why do I share nature-related words?  It all started when my curiosity was peaked by a friend’s post about her ‘crepuscular‘ cat.  I wasn’t familiar with that word so I looked it up. I was so intrigued that there are single words that succinctly describe a phenomenon or emotion. I set off with great motivation to learn other nature-related words. It was also a perfect fit for my children’s nature and home-schooling activities.

Most of the words I share have been used in the English language with references found in literature and science sources. It made sense to me as my hope is that we can all use them comfortably in our everyday lives when noticing and sharing our love for nature. We are, however, increasingly becoming global citizens. And we must as we have a communal responsibility to fully understand the human relationship with the earth and that we are active participants in her well-being.

Inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s book Landmarks, this month’s nature word comes from the Lithuanian language and is most appropriate for the current season in the northern hemisphere.

If you’d like to print a copy, you can do so by clicking here.

If you’d like to follow Robert and see his ‘word of the day’, click here.

Fondly,
Monique