Fall is a time of change – the leaves change to a variety of colors, we anticipate the change in the weather and temperature, the sunsets come earlier and sunrises later as we watch the last of the flowers in the garden fade away. We change our clocks, our meal choices and our wardrobe…time for all those sweaters and fleece to come back out of the closet where they have been (although in Seattle it may have only been for the last few weeks!)
While we look forward to change we may long for time to stay the same. I enjoy the crisp, colorful days of fall, but long for the lazy, sunny days of summer while looking forward to cold, snowy days by a fire in the winter. I want it to stay the same as I remember the fun of past activities and the excitement as I look forward to the new activities yet to come. This is true of parenting. I loved when my sons were young. I was always happy with the age they were. We enjoyed all the “seasons” as they grew. All were wonderful and different and challenging. The joy of the “firsts” -- first smile, first words, first steps changed to first lost tooth, first sleep over, first summer camp. Then it was time for learning to drive, college applications and their first time living away from home. We have enjoyed the time with our sons and being a part of the changes as they have grown from babies to adults. We cannot turn back the hands of time. What we can do is enjoy the memories as we look forward to all the new experiences yet to come. Just like the four season we experience each year parenting has it’s seasons. I think the three seasons of parenting are: memories - looking back at the past, moments -enjoying the present and milestones- planning for the future.
This month I would like to write about my passion for the outdoors. It is so important to be outside with your children. I have to be outside. I have always been an outside kind of person. I draw so much energy from nature and being able to be outdoors. When our sons were little we did as much as we could outside. Hiking, exploring, walks in the neighborhood, visiting parks, camping and looking for worms after a rain were just some of the activities we enjoyed.
This fall, at preschool, we will be adding to our play area to give the children more ways to exercise their bodies while being in a natural environment. I like watching children as they experience the wonder of nature. The trees moving when it is windy, the smell of the salt air, the feel of the rain mist on their skin. While we are at preschool these are all things they can experience while being in the outside area. What do they learn while they are outside? All of their 5 senses are used while in nature. They can hear the birds, feelthe wind, watch the clouds, tastea fresh picked raspberry from the garden and smell a flower. Their world outside is finite and infinite, the same and everchanging They can watch a spider spin a web, a bird soar in the air, a squirrel run up a tree and play with their favorite toys that they know will be at preschool. While they dig in the dirt (or sandbox) they are learning about physics and math, when they pet an animal they are learning how to interact in a kind and gentle manner. When they are outside they are discovering that they are a part of this big world they live in.
It is important for children to be given opportunities to explore their world. Give them time to roam about, by themselves, and explore. It is possible to allow children to feel independent by setting up safe outdoor environment for them. They can play outside while you watch from the window or porch. Give them an opportunity to explore the back yard while you watch from a distance. Some of the children will like the experience of being outside “alone” and others will want you to be near them. It is important that the children feel like they have some input in what is happening in their outdoor world as they learn and explore the natural environment in their yard, a park or at school. Let them interact with nature by climbing, sitting, running and exploring in their yard (or safe outdoor area) on their own. It is just as important to be there to explain the world around them as it is for them to have a chance to experience the world of nature on their own. What do they learn when they are outside? They develop
~ critical thinkingskills(what to believe, what to do)
~ curiosity (what is this …)
~imagination(what can I do with this),~
~problem solving skills(how do I climb up this rock)
~a joy of learning (developing a love of learning for learning not for a grade or the approval of others)
One way to do this is to give them an area to dig. This could be in a sand box, at the beach, in a pile of dirt or a space in the garden. Let them use natural materials, like sticks and rocks, to build with. Our sons had a huge sand box to play in. They would spend hours building roads for their vehicles, homes for their animals and dinosaurs, digging for buried treasures. I would sit nearby and read or we would build together depending on how they wanted to play that day. It was a delightful way to spend a sunny afternoon. “When we treat children's play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that's to be found in the creative spirit. It's the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.”
― Fred Rogers
As our sons grew their “sandbox world” changed to climbing the boulder in the Cougar Rock Campground at Mt Rainier National Park, exploring my Grandfather’s farm in Ohio, playing Ultimate Frisbee games at Discovery Park and hiking in the North Cascades. Nick has summited Mt Rainier, Mt Baker, Glacier Peak and Mt Olympus. Joel and Danielle climbed Half Dome in Yosemite. They have gone on several National Park trips. They still like to spend time at Mt Rainier with their wives. We spent a lot of time hiking and camping. Now both Joel and Nick spend time with climbing, hiking and camping with their wives and family. Danielle takes Ansel and Zoe out on hikes every day. They spend time looking at leaves, playing Pooh Sticks and exploring the neighborhood parks along with hikes that are in the mountains and at the beach. Danielle loves the outdoors and she is sharing that love wither children. Just as I shared my love of the outdoors with my sons. I would like to think that their love to explore the outdoors, and the world around them, is partly inspired by the worlds they created in their backyard sandbox and the time we spent exploring the world together as a family.
Take some time to allow your children to explore the world around them and you will be planting seeds of curiosity that will grow in them.
A FUN FALL NATURE ACTIVITY. Take a COLOR WALK. Learn about the colorful diversity of nature and the usefulness of camouflage.
Gather squares of paper in different colors – or let your child pick out some paint-chip cards at the store – and go on walk around the neighborhood, your back yard, or the park. Collect things that match your color cards. Green – grass, Yellow-dandelions, Red- leaves, Brown-pinecone, etc. (you can point out that at this time of the year all the colors that the leaves are) You can collect them in a plastic baggie or gather them up and place them on the sheets of colored paper. Talk about the colors and size of the items you collect. Talk about what colors are easy to find, what color is your favorite, where do find colors, how many colors are in the sky. See if you can name something from each color.