NOTICING NATURE: Nature Prompts – October 2017

Noticing Nature: Nature Prompts for Children and Their Families - October 2017

“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.”
–  Nathaniel Hawthorne

This quote expresses how I feel about fall and this month in particular. It lays between the blur of September – full of transitions – and the delightful, although busy, holiday season. It is quieter, cozier, slower and full of colorful fall beauty. I hope the prompts for this month help you slow down and notice some of the splendor of the season.

Track the changing temperature

The temperature can shift quite drastically this month. From day to day and even hour to hour. Today in Maine the temperature reached near 70°F in the afternoon and is supposed to dip to the low 40s tonight. That’s a big change! Use our weather log to track the temperature and weather throughout the month and see what a difference a day can make.

Life of a log

Even after it’s life, trees continue to be a crucial element in the ecosystem. They help lessen erosion and provide shelter, food and nutrients. Examine a fallen log and you’ll see that it’s full of life. Search for signs of animal activity and fungal growth. What did you observe? Why do you think they were in, under or around the log? What role do these things play in the cycle of life?

*Note: While observing fallen logs, please be very gentle and careful. This is a living habitat.

These are some of our favorite books to accompany the exploration of fallen logs…

Go on a bark scavenger hunt

The outer bark serves the same function for all trees but there is a lot of diversity in how it looks.  So many different patterns and textures and colors to notice!  Your young naturalist will gain a greater appreciation for trees with this scavenger hunt.

bark scavenger hunt

You can take this activity further by adding some sensory elements.

  • Ask your child to feel the difference of the barks.  Do they feel rough or smooth?  Are they thick or thin?  Take some bark rubbings too.  They will aid in remembering the experience and serve as prompts for reflection and further discussion.
  • Try smelling the bark. Go ahead, don’t be shy. The bark of some trees have very distinct odors. Sandalwood, red cedar, yellow birch and ponderosa pines are some.

Notice the night sky

This month is the perfect time to get outside after dark and observe the night sky. It’s getting dark before bedtime, still warm enough to not have to bundle up too much, and the skies tend to be clear.

While time spent together simply gazing at the night sky is a wonderful thing, you can make it engaging and educational by doing a little prep work. I like this short video for generating some ideas: Stargazing with Kids.noticing the night sky

Here are some other resources you may want to have at the ready…

Happy October. Have fun exploring and noticing nature!

Fondly,
Monique

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Delightful Nature Crafts & Activities for Valentine’s Day

Delightful Nature Crafts & Activities for Valentine's Day

OBSERVE

Look for hearts in nature: You might be surprised where you may see naturally occurring heart shapes – a patch of lichen, a rock, a hollow in a tree.  Keep a lookout for them whenever you are out.  You never know where nature hearts will reveal themselves.

PLAN

Creating a Bird-Feeding Haven | Green Acorns

Show your nature love by creating a wild-life friendly habitat.  These are great projects for your own yard or a local school/community garden:

MAKE

Leave some nature love notes: Linda shares a simple Valentine activity that encourages children to get out and notice nature.  They will be connecting with the nature around them as they create lovely heart land art.

Bring it inside: Make some nature hearts to hang around the house.

Pine cone fairies:  Spread the love with these adorable fairies.  There are nice examples and tutorials here and here.

Cupid’s arrows: These arrows could also be made with leaves instead of feathers and bits of bark for the tips.  Get creative with whatever natural materials are on hand.

Do

DIY heart bird feeder

February is National Bird-Feeding month.  Show your fondness for your feathered friends by making some hanging bird treats and learning more about common backyard birds.  This is a wonderful resource.

The Great Backyard Bird Count begins February 17th.  Consider participating in this citizen science activity and help researchers “learn more about how birds are doing and how to protect them and the environment we share”.

I hope some of these nature Valentine’s ideas spark your interest and that you’ll enjoy trying some of them out.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Fondly,
Monique

NOTICING NATURE: Nature Prompts – December 2016

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - December 2016

December can be an extra busy month and making the time to appreciate nature’s gifts, large or small, can be just what we need to create some space and enjoy some mindful moments connecting with our children.  I hope these nature prompts will help…

Noticing Evergreens

Conifer trees aren’t the only plant that is an evergreen.  There are many shrubs and smaller plants that keep their green leaves throughout the winter.  Wintergreen is a common one here in Maine.  How many different evergreens can you spot this month?

Finding Frost

While snow crystals form in the clouds, frost crystals form on solid surfaces near the ground when it cools past the dew point.  Like snow, frost is made up of tiny ice crystals and comes in a variety of structures.

When the conditions are right, bundle up and go in search of frost.  How many different examples of frost can you find throughout the month?

Seasonal Senses

A change in season is signified by so much more than rising or dropping temperatures or the sights of the transforming nature.  Each season can have its own smells, sounds, tastes, textures and more.   I love how quiet it is during a snow and how the fallen leaves feel extra crunchy underfoot.  My family and I also enjoy noticing the patterns and textures in frost and ice.  How about you?  What special sensations mean winter to you?

As we approach the next solstice, mindfully engage your senses while you are out in nature.  Pay close attention to what you notice.  Give some thought to what you experience.  Perhaps make a list of descriptive words or write a few notes on a calendar to record your observations.

Did you know?

Brain research confirms that combining the use of one’s various senses leads to more connections made within the brain.   The result is a more thorough, meaningful experience that can be recalled more easily and with more detail.

Noticing Nature Nature Prompts - December 2016

Practice Stillness

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

– Mother Teresa
What is stillness?  It is basically the act of doing nothing.  It’s quieting your mind and sitting in silence.  It’s making space to connect to your essential self, to God, to nature.  It’s cultivating an inner calm and serenity.  It’s simply being.

 

In our modern, over-scheduled, media-driven world, stillness and silence are more crucial than ever for our  well-being.  Even young children need this.  For most of us, life is noisy and we are constantly processing information.  This causes fatigue, stress and tension.

 

This month, I’m requesting that you and your child follow nature’s example.  Let go of what is not serving you, send your roots deeper so that you may find connection and strength, and be still.  Try it for at least five minutes a day.  Sit in silence.  To get the most benefits, take it outside.  Dress appropriately and sit in silence with nature.

Download and print your nature prompts here.

I am also including another weather tracker this month.  I heard from so many of you that you enjoyed the simple log (found in November’s prompts) and would like to continue the routine.  You can get a December copy here and a blank version for use any time here.

Wishing you and your family a joyous, wonder-filled holiday season!

Fondly,
Monique

Nature by the Numbers – Nature Journal Prompts for Children: November 2015a wonder-filled week!

Nature by the Numbers - Nature Journal Prompts for Children: November 2015

This past weekend, my three children and I attended a family nature journaling/writing  workshop led by Andrea of the lovely blog, Remains of the Day.  We got reacquainted with blind contour drawing, which we haven’t done in a while.  Here’s a sampling of ours from that day:

blind contour drawing collage

We also learned some new drawing exercises and about creating a sensory map.  We were prompted to be mindful of our surroundings and awaken our senses as we moved to a different location.  As we walked, we created a map on which we recorded the relative location of what we saw, heard, smelled, etc.  It was a challenge and we all had to remind ourselves that it wasn’t about drawing just what we were seeing but to be aware of what our other senses were noticing.  My youngest daughter and I made a map together and recorded observations like the call of a nearby bird, the direction of a cool breeze, and the sound of leaves crunching as we walked on them.

If you are new to this activity, I would suggest trying it from a stationary location like your sit spot, especially for young children.  Like on a sound map, place an “X” on your sensory map to mark your location.

sensory map

We have also been participating in Dawn’s “Fall Outside” and one of the recent daily activities was a color hunt.  In the northeast the landscape has become quite brown and it seems like there is not much color to be found.  But it’s amazing what color variety can be found when you are tuned in to it.  Maybe you’ll notice a vibrant yellow fungus or a bright red berry or the blue of the sky reflecting off a leaf.

To help remind us that there is an abundance of color in nature we added some color swatches to a page in our nature journals and when we are outside, we’ll keep a look-out for those colors.  The object we found and where we saw it will be recorded next to the coordinating color swatch.  This is also a great activity to do with various shades of one color.  Challenge yourself to notice and record the many versions of a color.

color hunt

I hope you and your child will enjoy the prompts offered this month as much as my children and I are enjoying them.

If you’d like a copy to paste in your child’s journal, click the image below to download a printable version.

Nature by the Numbers - Nature Journal Prompts for Children: November 2015Have a wonder-filled week!

Fondly,
Monique

With all the wonder of a child

the wonder of a childOn any given day a smile is brought to my face when I witness my children’s excitement over what they discovered out in nature that day.  I love how observant they are.  I love that they recognize natural rhythms.  I love that they want to experience more and learn more and share their stories with their dad and me.  I love that I can share my own appreciation for nature with them.

But the moment captured in the photo above reminded me that I have so much more to be grateful for.  This is my daughter happily running down the trail toward our destination just moments before…

the wonder of a childThis was one of those smile moments – when she arrived and paused to take it all in.  We have visited this pond many times before yet she still marveled at the sight of it.

I am grateful that she has this sense of awe and wonder.  What I am most grateful for, however, is that I get to experience nature through their eyes, not just my own.  They each have their own perspectives and ideas and each notice things that maybe the others hadn’t.  They each have their own connections and emotions.  They are each discovering their unique relationship with nature and where their place in it is.  And I get to not only watch them have their experiences but become transported into them as they share with me.

I am so appreciative to behold the wonders of nature through my children’s eyes.  It is a gift that I cherish!

Have a wonder-filled week!
Fondly,
Monique

Macro Merryment

Macro Merryment

My children and I just love heading outdoors with camera in hand on the lookout for interesting, often overlooked, details of the nature we pass by everyday.  By exploring things more closely, whether it’s with a magnifying glass, the macro feature on a camera, or a microscope, intricacies not seen with the naked eyes are revealed and brought to life.  So much can be learned about the subject matter and interest in further exploration sparked.  It can be like discovering a whole new world!

Here are some macro shots from our week…

lichen detailrain drop on blade of grasslate summer pollinatorvine spiralchestnut casing

What did you discover about your world this week?

Fondly, Monique

Nature By the Numbers | September 2014

Nature By the Numbers | September 2014

Can you feel in the air?  Here in Maine the days are still wonderfully warm but cozy slippers and light-weight fleecies are a must for early morning and evening.  The sunny colors of the last blooms have just about gone by and are being replaced by seed pods and changing leaves.

tansyornamental grasslilly seed podfall maple leaf

Whether it’s the cooler mornings of fall or warmer breezes of spring that you notice, the equinox is approaching and the change of season has begun.

This months ‘Nature By the Numbers’ journaling prompts are all about encouraging your child to notice the changes that are occurring and sparking excitement for what’s to come.  Just click the link below to download a copy that your child can  paste in to her nature journal.

nature journaling prompts Sept 2014

Nature By the Numbers | September 2014

Have a wonder-filled week and happy nature journaling!

– Monique