My childhood memories of nature include holding soft baby kitties, bicycling on the dusty gravel road, watching ants in the grass, hanging upside down in the swing in the big oak tree, collecting rocks, and digging tunnels in snow drifts. What are your favorite outdoor memories? Did you know that those experiences, in an unstructured, extended time frame, form the foundation of curiosity, learning and development of empathy? Scooping and dumping sand, making mud pies and stacking wood scraps were how you might have begun to learn physics and mathematics? Climbing a tree, running on uneven ground and carrying branches help a child develop body awareness, strength and visual spatial skills. Want your kid to be able to parallel park when he learns to drive? Give him outdoor experiences manipulating large natural materials and chances are he’ll be at the head of his driver’s ed – or graphic design – class. Kids also learn to manage risk and problem solve when they have early experiences in natural settings. Pokémon Go the virtual reality game may be a way to get kids outdoors, however unless they pay attention to the surroundings and explore those spaces, it does not substitute for actual experience with nature. Geocaching is another way for families to explore the out of doors.
I’ve been a certified Nature Explore trainer since 2009. Thousands of Iowa early childhood professionals – teachers, child care providers, naturalists, parks and rec staff and parents – have learned to use tested design principles to help children connect to nature. Imagine my joy when I was invited to participate in a research project on Nature Explore backyards in Iowa City. It was magical to watch families embrace the concepts and open their backyards to transformation. My memory of watching a toddler explore sound in his family’s new outdoor ‘classroom’ sustains me whenever I do a design consultation or teach a workshop. Excerpts from that research are in the book At Home with Nature.
My own backyard contains the Nature Explore principles and I’m having fun seeing how they will change over time as my 16 month old granddaughter grows up. Watching her pick and eat berries for the first time, check out the wren’s nest and sing back to the momma and papa birds, stack river stones, fill a pail with pinecones, turn sea shells over and over in her tiny hands and swing in the mosquito netting hammock all fill my heart with gratitude and hope for her future.
How do you help your kids connect to nature?
One of my favorite things to say about young children is “their life is like science class 24/7, 365 days a year”. I love watching young children (especially infants and toddlers) explore their world.
Infants take in EVERYTHING. They can’t seem to get enough of looking, touching, tasting, shaking, and smelling everything in sight. Toddlers do the same, with just a bit more gusto.
Everything is a discovery session. Everything a science experiment. They wonder, “What happens if I drop the cup milk off the high chair? What does it sound like if I shake the bowl of cereal? If I chew on my mom’s arm what does she sound like?”
It seems like everything they do can be based around science! The discovery of cause and effect. The observation of the ‘law of gravity’. The exploration of mass and volume.
I’m sure you’ve witness hundreds of science experiments at your house. Some experiments turn out very successful. Other experiments may have been less than stellar. No matter the outcome, fantastic learning has probably taken place.
How have you seen your children take in information from their every day experiences and turn it into scientific discovery? How did you encourage them? (and my favorite part, active participation)What did you do to partake in the experimentation with them?
Share with us what everyday science exploration you have done.
Not all parents feel confident having “the talk” with their children — when the topic is science, technology, engineering and math. However, it’s an ongoing conversation parents and kids need to have.
STEM — Science, technology, engineering, and math — is a vital part of our kids’ education and their future and parents play an absolutely critical role in encouraging and supporting their children’s STEM learning at home, in school and in the community. This month we will discuss how to create a science-learning friendly home. We’ll also talk about how parents can be more actively engaged with their children’s teacher and school.
Welcome to the Science of Parenting. Doug and Mike explain the kinds of parenting topics they’re going to be talking about in this new monthly podcast. They say you might even hear scientific information that could make you a better parent and ultimately mean your children turn out OK.