Exploring Nature with a Child

Exploring Nature with a Child
Exploring the world with a young gifted child is always interesting. Things that most adults take for granted are small miracles when witnessed by a child. A bursting milkweed pod, an abandoned Robin's nest, or a simple blossom may have the child talking for hours! It doesn't take a lot of money or effort to follow a curious child down a wooded path or through a wildflower meadow. You can even explore in your own backyard! Let your child wander, and see what wonders she finds. Encourage her to ask questions and ask a few of your own as well.

My children have been avid naturalists ever since they could walk. Sometimes we take a notebook along and jot down our observations; at other times we prefer to immerse ourselves in the moment and forget about recording anything. At first, my kids might dictate entries which I jot down in our notebook. A typical nature walk with a toddler might have an entry such as this, “ We saw a pile of deer poop. It was fresh! I almost caught a leopard frog, but it jumped away. We saw some black ants and a beetle. “ Later on, as the kids have grown, they've taken over the writing for themselves, and gotten more detailed. A recent vacation trip to an island had the whole family joining in on a bird count. My ten year old was our unofficial scribe, and he carefully noted all 37 species of birds that we observed. One of the trip highlights was sighting a mated pair of American Bald Eagles!

If your child has questions on flora and fauna that you cannot answer, I urge you to take the time to help him figure out how to get the information he wants. Many of our walks have ended with us running to the internet or to our beloved field guides. Sometimes we have trouble finding the specific facts we need. We may turn to friends or family who are better informed on a particular topic, or we may contact a professional scientist who works in geology,entomology, botany, or marine biology. Many are very happy to help out their young counterparts.

As an example, my daughter was about five years old when she adopted a beautiful tomato hornworm caterpillar from our garden. She had more questions than I could properly answer. I located information for an entomologist halfway across the country, and he was kind enough to answer my initial email. My daughter ended up corresponding with this gentleman for a couple of months, and her caterpillar, “Crystal”, became the star of a science fair project.

Why not take a nature walk today? Who knows what you may find! Children who grow up loving nature will be good stewards of the earth as adults.

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