Nurturing a love of nature rain or shine By Suzi Mitchell

It may sound a little unusual but whenever I find myself lying under a tree, I’m captivated by the fluttering action of leaves moving in the wind. I trace it back to my early years as an infant starting out life in Scotland. In a land where four seasons in one day is standard weather, children find themselves outside in all conditions.

In my case my mother would wheel me out to nap in my pram (not today’s space like contraptions), park me under the huge beech tree by the house and leave me there for naptime. Forty years or so on, here I am mesmerized by the instant calm of the aspens outside my own home, encouraging my kids to find solace in nature.

It’s been a rainy week in our home town of Steamboat Springs, a welcome treat for gardeners and river rats. For the children of this town it has failed to create the same appeal. Astounding as it may seem to those used to living with constant falling drops; rain is reason to stay indoors.

Not for my three and their hesitant play mates this weekend. I decided to go back to my youth and take them all out for some soggy fun. A cluster of bushes, a tarp or two, a couple mini-camp chairs, play kitchen pots, empty jars and the natural contents of our yard. A café of mud pies, a laboratory for rain based experiments, an animal hospital for insects; our little den wore many hats that day.

Back to school for the week, recess remained indoors much to the disappointment of my kids. They spent a summer in wet suits last year visiting the British Isles, and loved every minute, (at least that is my rose colored memory of events).
This year we left the mountains for a week to not so sunny California. Still the allure of the beach kept us on the shore for hours on end. Even nap time wasn’t a problem, with my two year old finding comfort on the kayak, falling asleep to the lapping of waves. Maybe his sense of calm felt on the water will parallel my love of trees over time. According to my own mom, it is all about being dressed for the elements, a warm child is a happy child.

SuziKidsSummer is fading, temperatures are dropping, and a new season is upon us. Fall brings so much of what is easy to love about nature. Every sense is nourished enough to feed our soul for winter, even those with little awareness. Tapestries of vibrant colors to view, earthy smells to breath in, fruit trees laden to feast from, birdsong ringing in our ears, and soil to touch by planting for another year.

What could be a better time to bring children outside rain or shine? Here is my own guide to fall fun in our family.

Wrap up, as mom said a warm child is a happy child. Be weather appropriate layers are perfect and keep a rain jacket handy.

Pick fruit, kids seem to eat more if they get it themselves from the source. Make a project out of homemade baking, head outside for the contents of your next pie.

Feed the birds. Encourage an interest in the local birdlife, take photos of local birds and keep a chart of who likes to visit your home turf. Help little ones make snacks for their feathered friends and keep it going over winter.

Make a collage for Grandparents. On the next hike set kids off on a project gathering a selection of natural items that can be made into a collage and sent in the mail. They can show family members what it looks like outside, and they don’t even have to visit!

Leaves for art. Gather as many shapes and sizes of leaves, bring home and paint using the leaves to make fun prints. No need to buy thanksgiving cards.

Conker wars. Go on a conker hunt (only found in areas with chestnut trees), or acorns work at a push. Push string through middle and see who can break up their opponent’s conker first.

Help with gardening, encourage kids to plant spring bulbs. They have a sense of reward when they see flowers at the end of a long winter.

Singing in the rain. Waterproof boots on and head for muddy puddles, its only washing at the end of the day!

Posted in: How To, Outreach

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *