The Wonders of Nature by Karen Deerwester, ED.S.

May 6th, 2011 | Posted in Mind+Body+Soul by


-a note for all Mommies

In a world of paved parking lots and rubberized playground surfaces, young children are growing up deprived of a personal connection to nature. More children are climbing on indoor jungle gyms than on giant old trees. The climbing remains the same but have you ever tried to hug a jungle gym? The magic is lost. Children need nature.

They need to run in wide open spaces and take comfort in cozy leafy nooks. They need to tell their secrets to slow moving snails and count bucketfuls of shells. Nature is exactly the right size for little growing people, from entire worlds hidden under rocks to grand skies that invite flights of imagination.

Weekly strolls through a Cypress preserve mean more to your child than a once-a-year-visit to Butterfly World, unless of course your child comes home to discover his own backyard butterflies and caterpillars. Memories are made when your child hears, sees, smells, and touches very specific pieces of nature. Autumn leaves are beautiful but autumn is real when you hear the leaves crunch as you walk, slip on wet leaves after a cold rain, rake leaves on a windy day, and bury your brother under a pile of leaves.

Here are a few ideas of how young children experience the wonders of nature in South Florida neighborhoods. As you read these, try to imagine what pleases your child and captures her curiosity. Awaken your senses to the opportunities that are right in front of you every day.

Bugs and Butterflies

Oh, to live in the land of lizards! Outdoors is a paradise of bugs and small crawly creatures. Adults may need to get control of their squeamishness but the young naturalists are drawn to the dirt eaters and the slime trailers of the tropics. Pull out the magnifying glasses and study the underbellies of leg wiggling buggies. Study the ant hills (yes, watch out for the fire ants). Catch a few lizards. And put out a snack of cucumbers and lettuce for the snails.

Flowers and Trees

Flowers and trees are so easy to take for granted. How many kinds of trees are in your neighborhood? How old are they? When was the last time you laid down under your favorite tree to watch the wind blow through the branches? Give your child a special basket to start a nature collection. Plant a tree and watch it grow, slow ‘n sure. Give your child his own garden space. Pay attention to this lush blooming place that surrounds you.

Moon and Stars

Children believe in the magic of the night sky. Men in moons and stars waiting to grant each wish. Use the night sky to bring calm to the end of a busy day. Chart the night sky. Your child can make an original connect-the-dots drawing of what he sees. Or, have your child draw the moon each night on a daily calendar. Your child will learn to patiently anticipate the next full moon.

 Sun and Shadows

You’d never miss a rainbow but how often do you ignore a shadow? Tall shadows walking in your child footsteps. Does everything have a shadow? Can you trick a shadow or is it only a shadow who tricks you? A sunny day and there’s end to the games your child can invent with shadows. Catch it. Draw it. Make a group shadow. Shadow watching will fine tune your child’s attention to details and give immediate answers to hypothesizing little scientists.

Sand and Ocean

Best of all, if your child’s backyard is the Ocean with seaweed and jellyfish included. Oceans rock and roar. They are fierce and they are gentle. What attracts your child on a day at the beach? The splashing waves, the salty air, building in the sand, or watching her feet sink deeper and deeper in the tide? Notice how different the ocean is at dusk than at dawn, in January than in May. Once again, your child discovers that nature is always changing.

It’s all there for the taking. The beauty, the tranquility, a place to be curious, a place to feel at home. Time in nature will give your child a home in a truly amazing world.

Karen Deerwester is the owner of Family Time Coaching & Consulting, writing and lecturing on parenting and early childhood topics since 1984. Karen is also the Mommy & Me director at The Ruth and Edward Taubman Early Childhood Center at B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton.

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