"Families in Nature"
Five Things Nature will Teach Your Child

by Mark J. Stevens

Deep in the woods, something small is lurking and just waiting to be discovered. Leading children into the arms of nature will expand their horizons and help make them become well-rounded individuals. Here are 5 things your children will learn by interacting with nature:
JOY: The varying strength of air blowing on leaves will teach your child the joys of the subtle differences of sound intensity floating into their ears. The gifts of rotating seasons will enlighten their eyes with ever changing surprise. The smells of wood or a passing skunk can excite the smallest of explorers and teach them the effects of differing wind direction or dampness. Sticks and stones come in many shapes, sizes and consistency. Once your children appreciate the diversity below their feet, each outing into nature will be a joyous occasion.
SHARING: If you talk to your children about your discoveries in nature together, they will learn the very valuable skill of sharing. Just sit on a log and look at a tree or long grass or a caterpillar or at the clouds and talk to each other about what you see and feel. If your child enjoys silence, you can discuss the walk through the woods or in the fields afterwards. Words are a good way for your children to share their experiences with you or their friends. But they can also draw a picture of their favorite spot in nature – another creative way of sharing their experiences.
SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT: Give your children some tasks to achieve in nature. Start with simple tasks such as finding a pinecone or acorn. Then move on to more difficult challenges such as finding three different-colored lichen or moss or insects. Go at your child’s pace. It makes no sense to overwhelm children with impossible challenges. They should have fun while successfully completing a task and gaining knowledge. This will instill a sense of pride in your children.
CURIOSITY: Plant tomatoes and flowers in the backyard with your children. Let them till the soil, put the seeds in the dirt and water them. You will not only see the tomato plants grow gradually, but your children’s curiosity will grow in leaps and bounds. Ask them how their plants are coming along and you will see their sense of pride and curiosity abound. They will regularly run out into the yard to see how their plants are doing. They will learn how the soil, weather and insects affect their plants. Similarly, by asking your children some simple questions about the birds and the terrain along any given trail you will open your children’s eyes and make them curious. They will soon be asking questions that even you will have to research to get them the right answers.
GRATITUDE: When taking a walk with your children along a stream or near a lake or simply in the rain, the topic of water will come up at some point. Once your children learn about the source of water, they will gain an appreciation for a simple glass of water that they need to survive. They will learn how individual parts of ecosystems are intertwined and will develop gratitude for our oneness with nature. If your children have the opportunity to take a walk with you through the desert or in a dry climate, their appreciation for the basic elements of nature such as water will grow even more.
You can inspire your child to keep a journal of his or her nature discoveries. The combination of exploring and writing will be a source of learning that will grow in time like branches on a tree. The pages will be replete with words of joy, sharing, sense of accomplishment, curiosity and gratitude.
luisa's natureAbout the Author:
Mark Stevens, author of LUISA'S NATURE (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, Spring 2008), is a news journalist currently working in Europe. Fluent in French, Spanish, and German, he has enjoyed extensive travel much of his life. Shaped by the rural New Jersey setting of his youth, Mark continues to explore the richness of nature with his wife and two children on the outskirts of Munich, Germany. He also belongs to several parenting and nature organizations in the U.S. and Europe. For more information, visit www.luisasnature.com.