We’re turning over a new leaf in the Allgeier household (no screen time after dinner), and that means more opportunities for finding fun, interesting or otherwise entertaining activities to do with my now 3-year-old daughter, Audrey.
Sometimes, this can feel like a real challenge, with dishes to be finished, laundry to be done, and a gaggle of pets to take care of, but this week, instead of popping on the TV to watch some late night cartoons, we decided to take a walk.
Now, since Audrey is 3, we didn’t get very far, but in the short span of neighborhood we explored, we found an abundance of fascinating nature all around us. We first started by collecting some leaves and found more than enough scattered on the ground in our front yard. Leaves were divided into categories: “crunchy” and “squishy” – crunchy leaves were ceremoniously crushed and “made into mulch” while Audrey giggled with glee (approval for behavior that is even a little destructive will make any preschooler squeal). The squishy leaves were carefully saved in a paper bag to do some leaf rubbings. As we collected, we talked about the names of each of the trees we saw: Birch, Maple, Oak, Tulip Poplar, and Osage Orange; the tree that makes the infamous hedge apple- a brainy looking fruit that is believed to have been food for mastodons (and which is coincidentally for a preschooler, excellent for having contests to see who can throw them farther).
When we finished collecting, we found a small patch of Black Walnut seeds scattered on the ground in our neighbor’s yard – Audrey was fascinated with the little green balls and insisted on picking them all up to investigate what was inside. Her little paper bag was spilling over with them but she proudly carried them into the house. She watched intently as we opened one and was excited to find the small, black shell inside that when cracked, and the nut removed, looks undoubtedly like a pig’s nose (insert another of Audrey’s squeals here).
Next, we went back outside to do some bark rubbings. At first, we talked about what made all the trees the same (they have bark, leaves, they’re tall) and then as we got closer we looked at the differences – after Audrey realized that some of the trees had different bark, she started running around the yard to touch each of our trees. The papery bark of the Birch was interesting to her, but she loved the smooth bark of the Maple tree best (probably because it was the easiest for the bark rubbing).
The entire experience was only an hour out of my week, but I’ve come back to it in my mind often, pondering what a wonderful hour it was. A few moments of peace and learning that I could share with my daughter in an all too hectic life filled with responsibilities. It reminds me, that you don’t have to go very far to experience the natural world; sometimes you can just go in your front yard and let nature come to you.
For some great reading on exploring nature with young learners, check out the following titles:
Small Wonders, Nature Education for Young Children, by Linda Garrett & Hannah Thomas
Science is Simple, Over 250 Activities for Preschoolers, by Peggy Ashbrook
If you want to go beyond your backyard, join us for our weekly explorative programs for young learners; Wednesday Wonders. For more information, check out theparklands.org/thingstodo/family programs or take a look at the list of upcoming topics below:
Wednesday Wonders at The Parklands:
What makes the sky blue? Why does a bird migrate? What happens to frogs in the winter? Wednesday Wonders are interactive programs designed to spark the curiosity of young children. Each week, we’ll explore a new science wonder with a story & related science experiment.
10/8/14 I wonder why spiders spin webs
10/15/14 I wonder why apples make seeds
10/22/14 I wonder how bats can see in the dark
10/29/14 I wonder how pumpkins grow
11/5/14 I wonder where birds go for winter
11/12/14 I wonder what hibernation means
11/19/14 I wonder how beavers build lodges
12/3/14 I wonder if trees wear coats in winter
12/10/14 I wonder what makes a moon full
12/17/14 I wonder if can catch a star