Have you ever walked through a wooded area, enchanted by the sound of the wind through the trees? Listened to the birds speak with each other or watched the different shades of green dancing in the sunlight? Being in nature is a joyful experience that touches our senses in the most fundamental way. I know that I feel a little happier after taking a hike on a wooded trail. I’ve been exploring all the trails that are in and around Hamilton, which I will feature in future blog posts.

How do we incorporate nature into our child’s learning process?

Children tend to instinctual gravitate to the natural world. We see it while we’re outside in the playground in their hunt for sticks and stones to make imaginary soup, when they run over with a wriggly worm gently pinched in their tiny fingers, and in their pin cone and flower collections lovingly cradled in the crook of a shirt. In it’s most simplest forms, just letting them play outside is an important part of childhood and many times they will lead the way to interesting learning opportunities. The role we can play in nurturing a love of nature and developing skills is by giving children the chance to explore and create with the natural world.

It’s never just a stone

One of the fun and fantastic parts of being outside is collecting all the little treasures that the world gives us. Let them go on a hunt for stones, sticks, leaves, pine cones and more. This collection can then be transformed into different patterns and designs. Make sure you take lots of photographs of their masterpieces which you can later use to encourage conversation. If you are working on encouraging writing, taking these photos and creating a scrapbook where your child can write about what they made is a great way of connecting their writing to something they have a connection with.

Listening to Natures Song

I like to take my kids out for walks on the various nature trails available to us. I’m often met with lots of complaining at first, but more often than not they eventually become interested by something along the way and we end up having some interesting conversations. One thing I try to do with them is point out the sounds I’m hearing. The wind in the trees, a bird chirping, the crunching of our feet, the sound of little animal moving through the trees. It’s a very easy way to connect to nature and gives them moments to pause and listen to their surroundings. Recently we’ve been hearing the cicadas which they are very curious about. This is a great place to start some inquiry with them. What is a cicada? Why are they so loud? Why do we hear them in the summer? So much learning in that one observation. This is also true of many of the other sounds we hear: What is the wind? Why do birds sing? What animals life in the forest? All these avenues and pathways to learning just from a walk on a trail or an afternoon in the backyard. Magical!

I don’t have a lot of knowledge of plants and flowers, but it’s one of the more visual elements that I love about being outside. I’ve been pointing out Queen Anne’s Lace to my kids every time we come across it. Honestly, I think I’m more nostalgic about it than anything else, I always think of that story that it’s named that because Queen Anne pricked her finger sewing and that’s why there’s the little red flower in the centre. If you’re looking for an activity to do that incorporates observation and imagination, bring a pad of paper and some pastels or crayons with you. If the mood strikes, let your child sit down and draw and colour. They might be inspired by what is around them, or they may want to use something they’ve found along the way in their artwork or they might draw something completely unrelated. That’s all perfectly fine! It’s the opportunity to create in a different environment and be inspired in a new way that counts.

Giving to Nature

One activity you can do at home is creating a bird feeder and watching the birds come and visit. You can find bird feeders in stores or you can make your own. If you’re interested in making your own you can purchase a plan from our sister company; Little Parts – Educational Play Kits. Just send us an email at info@messyplaystudio.com and ask about special ordering plans for building projects. There’s lots of room to talk about what animals eat and how it’s similar/different from what we eat. You’re child might also enjoy documenting through drawings the birds they see at their feeder (or perhaps the squirrels that decide the food is for them).

Recommendations

We recently came across a fantastic educator who’s focus is the natural world, open air play and art. From her website;

Marghanita Hughes is an educator, artist, author and illustrator, deeply committed to reuniting children with the natural world through art. She is the founder of “Educating the Heart with Nature Art,” an international nature art program which provides solutions for educators, parents, and organizations wishing to reconnect children with nature and encourage them to explore and celebrate their creativity. Marghanita’s art projects focus on the interconnectedness we have with one another and all living things, and can be integrated into any curriculum. She has also written and illustrated many children’s picture books and is a member of Artstarts.

We highly recommend taking a look at her website and all she offers; www.marghanita.com

If you’re local to Hamilton, Ontario we highly recommend connecting with Stephanie Kozak at Mother Earth’s Learning Village if you’re looking for a holistic and child-led approach to education that embraces nature and imagination.

From the website;

To create diverse alternative education and a holistic community, where our unique qualities make us amazing. Where our Free Spirited way of learning and expressing ourselves is authentic and true.  Where our connection to Mother Earth and each other create harmonious views.

To learn more about this unique and engaging school visit them online at https://motherearthslearningvillage.ca/

Follow our blog at messyplaystudio.com as we explore a variety of sensory, art and educational topics and discussions the first Monday of every month. To donate anytime reach out at info@messyplaystudio.com (e-transfers accepted at this email address). If you have a topic you’d like us to write about you can also email your request to the above mentioned email address. Bond Play Explore

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