Category Archives: Getting Into Nature

Getting Into Nature…Snowflake Investigation

IMG_1266I know that the groundhog has declared that Winter is on its way out but we live in New England and here you never know what Mother Nature has in store.  So for that reason, I am sharing this activity.  You might have to wait until next year but it is too fun not to share!

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A few weeks ago we had big fluffy snow falling from the sky.  There was not enough snow on the ground to play in but the fluffy flakes falling from the sky were too pretty to miss out on.  We grabbed some black paper, our magnify glasses and our sled and headed out for a snowflake investigation!  It was so much fun to collect and observe the different snowflakes.

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A great book to go along with this activity is Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.  It is a true story about a boy, Wilson Bentley, who was fascinated by snowflakes and photographed them with his camera.  He then made this his life work and though many questioned why he was doing this “useless” act, his work showed the beauty of snowflakes and that no two snowflakes are alike.  It is a wonderful story that we look forward to reading each winter.

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Some other great snow books that we love are:

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner

Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams and Jean Stoick

Snow Day by Lynn Plourde

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Getting Into Nature-Project FeederWatch

P1060176It’s 7:30 AM, the Downey woodpecker comes down from his tree and “hops” to one of the two suet feeders.  His mate follows suit and comes down to the other feeder moments later.  Soon the first dark-eyed junco lands in for his breakfast and signals to the others that the eats are good.  Within three minutes 15 other junco’s have joined him on the ground under the feeder.  At 8AM the 10 Mourning Doves come down from the trees for their turn at the feeder.  Two to Three of them,who think that they are small birds, rest on the small feeder bottom while the rest nibble the droppings under the feeder.  A tufted titmouse (or two) and two chickadees dart in around them and try to get a nibble at the feeder, although it is hard with the Mourning Doves taking up the valuable space.  A white breasted nuthatch comes down to nibble at the suet, while a Hairy woodpecker comes to nibble at the other suet feeder.

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This is a typical morning at our bird feeder and on counting days we are glued to the window, watching for that odd visitor.  We have had a cardinal, a few blue jays, a pair of bluebirds back in November and now they seem to be more regular, red bellied wood peckers, house sparrows, gold finches, red breasted nuthatch and even a small hawk!  But the regulars come like clockwork and we look forward to seeing them each day.

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This is the first year we have participated in Project FeederWatch through Cornell University.  It is a scientific study, where home birders across the country count the birds at their feeders from November-April.  You have two scheduled counting days a week (okay if you miss a week here and there) and the data can either be entered in on paper and mailed in or done online.  The initial fee is $15 and with that fee you get a beautiful colored poster and other materials to help you learn how to identify and count your birds.   We are now at the point where Wally enters in all the data online by himself.  He loves being part of this large scientific study and I love how you can go in and look at the data from all over the country or your state and compare it to what you have seen at your feeder.

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If you want to learn more, check out the Project FeederWatch website.  They are now running at 2 for 1 promotion where you can participate for the rest of this year (season ends in April) and all of next year for one $15 fee.  It is a wonderful program and the entire family has really enjoyed it.

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Getting Into Nature….If You Find A Rock

My Getting into Nature posts are inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods.  I hope you will join me each week as I work to get my children outdoors and exploring the wonderful world around them.

Today is all about Rocks!  I don’t know about you but I LOVE rocks.  I use to collect them as a child and even still have one of the rocks I found at the bus stop when I was little.  This love of rocks (and shells) has been passed onto my children and they now have a mini collection of their very own.

The kids and I came across the book, If You Find a Rock, this spring and we adore it.  It is by Peggy Christian and it is all about the different types of rocks that you may find in your travels.  No it is not a scientific book that will teach you how to identify the different rocks and minerals….it is a book for young and old about the different functions that rocks have 🙂  There are skipping rocks, wishing rocks, splashing rocks, sifting rocks, resting rocks and so many more.

I developed a Rock Scavenger Hunt that the kids and I will try to complete in our travels this summer.  It will stay on our clipboard in my backpack and every time we find one of the rocks mentioned in the book, we will make an X our list and take a picture of the rock or maybe even keep it if possible.  Between hunting for rocks, birds and license plates from other states (I think we have 25 so far)….we will be very busy this summer!

If you would like your own copy of my Rock Scavenger Hunt….Click Here 🙂

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Getting into Nature…..Insects

My Getting into Nature posts are inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods.  I hope you will join me each week as I work to get my children outdoors and exploring the wonderful world around them.

Last week the kids and I spent over 30 minutes laughing and giggling as 6 butterflies danced around our heads.  I have never been this close to butterflies in the wild, especially this many!  They would land on the fence, dance two by two in the sky above us, fly over our heads and then land back on the fence.  They allowed us to get quite close and we were able to study them for quite a while.  It was an absolutely magical experience!

My kids are a bit timid when it comes to most insects, but this year they are warming up to them.  I watched my two year old daughter follow an ant around the driveway the other day, stopping when it stopped and then stooping down for a closer look.  My son loves his bug box that his buddy made for him and had a centipede in there a few weeks ago with lots to eat 🙂  Insects are something in nature that are available to everyone and you need not spend any money to spend time with them 🙂  Whether you are watching an ant hole, observing honeybees (from a far is best), watching dragonflies and butterflies dance across the sky or trying to identify a new kind of bug…there is so much to explore.

Here are some great books to help bring an appreciation to the world of insects.  Give your child a clear container with holes and a magnify glass and they can spend hours searching in your backyard or local park.  If you have some other good books to share, please do so in the comments!  We are always searching for new books to read.

Hey Little Ant by Phillip Hoose

Ladybugs by Gail Gibbons

From Caterpillar to Butterfly (Let’s Read and Find Out about Science)

DK Big Book of Bugs

Magic School bus, Inside the Hive by Joanna Cole

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Getting Into Nature….Bird Watching

My Getting into Nature posts are inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods.  I hope you will join me each week as I work to get my children outdoors and exploring the wonderful world around them.

I took an ornithology course one summer while in college and it was by far the best course I have ever taken.  With only three students in the class, we could hop into one car and go out in the world to bird watch.  We met often times at the crack of dawn and even had one class at night where we “hunted” for whippoorwill (awesome experience!).  This class left me with a love and fascination for birds but unfortunately life got in the way and I forgot much of what I had learned.  That is until this year….this year with my children’s interest in birds I have brushed the dust off of my bird knowledge (so much has come back to me) and have fallen in love all over again.

Our entire family is so in tune with the birds around us and it has thus made us so much more in tune with nature.  We have noticed each and every plant grow and bloom this spring, we have noticed the trees in every stage throughout the spring, we notice each bug, squirrel and the two white tail deer that ran through out woods last week…we notice it all!  And the birds, oh the birds….we have seen so many different species this year and continue to learn how to recognize more and more all the time.  A nuthatch on a tree by the lake would have usually gone unnoticed but for me it became a 15 minute wonderful experience.  We pulled over the other day to watch this group of geese that my son pointed out, last year they may have gone unnoticed.  And the raptors, we can spy them from a mile away and are getting pretty good at identifying them too!

This weekend they are having a “Peregrine Falcon Festival” and we are all sooooo excited.  This is my son’s favorite bird and we can’t wait to see them up close and personal!

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Getting Into Nature…Fishing!

My Getting into Nature posts are inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods.  I hope you will join me each week as I work to get my children outdoors and exploring the wonderful world around them.

In our state children under 12 do not need a license to fish.  In fact, my children have been “fishing” since the age of one.  Their poles have weighted objects at the end and are great for practicing casting without any injuries 🙂  My son started to fish with a hook last year (caught his first two fish!!!) but only does this when there is one on one adult help and that adult must be good at removing fish from the hooks and throwing them back in the lake (I am not this person :)).

Some might argue that fishing is a disruption to nature and in a way it can be.  But it is also a great way to teach patience, a great chance for children to quietly observe the natural world around them and a chance to learn not only about the creatures that they are trying to catch but other creatures that inhabit the same ecosystem.  For our family it is also a time for family bonding.  A chance for father to pass down to his children the art of fishing, just the same as it was passed down to him from his father.  Not too many fish are caught in our family but there are LOTS of laughs and smiles 🙂

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Getting into Nature…..Fairy Houses

My Getting into Nature posts are inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods.  I hope you will join me each week as I work to get my children outdoors and exploring the wonderful world around them.

A little over two years ago my friend Katherine introduced me to Fairy Houses via her blog. She had mentioned making them with her children on their vacation, and having never heard of them I googled “Fairy Houses” right away.  I loved the idea and ordered Tracy Kane’s first Fairy House book right away. I included it in my daughter’s Easter Basket (she was 6 months old at the time) and at the time my son was not that interested in the idea and so I put the book away and took it out 15 months later while we were on vacation at the lake.  I read it to my son and my niece (ages 4 1/2 and 3 1/2 at the time) and they were enchanted by not only the story but about the idea that they too could make their own fairy houses!

Building Fairy houses is a great way to get your children outdoors.  They can be built anywhere and anytime of year….we have them all over New England.  The rules are simple…they must be built out of things found in nature and no living thing should be harmed in the process.  It is a magical activity for both children and adults.  When children later go back to check their fairy houses and things have been added or moved (mother nature often moves things in the wind), it is quite exciting.  We have had many living things visit our fairy houses…butterflies, dragonflies, bumblebees and even a bird or two.  We always wonder if these creatures are fairies in disguise or if a fairy might not be along for a ride on their back.

My children got the other two Fairy House books in the series this year for Easter, Fairy Flight and Fairy Boat.  They are both great and have inspired even more Fairy House creations.  Sparkle Stories is another place for fairy inspiration.  Martin and Sylvia are often building Fairy houses and they also have two fairy series…So Many Fairies and By Thistle, By Thimble.  Have you built a fairy house??  I suggest you go out and try it today….it does not matter how old you are….Fairy Houses are for people of all ages!

 

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Getting into Nature–A Day at the Beach

My Getting into Nature posts are inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods.  I hope you will join me each week as I work to get my children outdoors and exploring the wonderful world around them.

Last week we had the chance to meet good friends at a science center on the coast.  The center is small but jam packed with fun ocean activities for kids.  They have a touch tank with local tidal animals, lots of tanks with some really cool ocean organisms (blue lobster!! and sea horses), hands on exhibits for exploration and play and the ocean right outside the door.  The kids had a ball in the center but also enjoyed time climbing and hunting around the rocky shore.  On the way home we stopped at the beach.  My two children spent over an hour beach combing, digging, bird watching, exploring and playing in the sand.  I let them lead the way and was so amazed at their curiosity and the fun discoveries that they made.  It was a wonderful day in nature, a natural world that we don’t get to see every day.  Pure joy for all.

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Getting into Nature–Gardening

My Getting into Nature posts are inspired by Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods.  I hope you will join me each week as I work to get my children outdoors and exploring the wonderful world around them.

This week is all about the garden.  This is our fourth year gardening with children and each year we all learn a little bit more and thus our garden does a little bit better 🙂  We have one small bed, one larger bed and a bunch of containers where our gardening takes place.  Our focus is on growing easy crops (cucumbers, beans, peas, lettuce), herbs and a few more challenging (tomatoes and pumpkins).

We love the garden because it gets us outside almost daily.  Between preparing the beds, planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing and then harvesting….there is always something to do.  My five-year old enjoys the planting and watering part but usually leaves the rest up to me.  This year I was able to coax him to help me prepare the beds so I hope he will also take interest in the rest as well.  I also love gardening because it teaches my children how much hard work goes into growing the food that they eat.  We are also members of a CSA and it is my hope that our own small-scale garden will help them to appreciate the food that we get from the CSA that much more.

Kids Garden Books

Composting 

The Vegetables We Eat

Miss Rumphius

How a Seed Grows

Planting a Rainbow

Gardening Websites

KidsGardening.org

Elements of a Kid Friendly Garden

Gardening with Kids

Sprout Robot-this site will email you and tell you when to plant which seeds!

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Getting into Nature

For the past month I have been reading Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  This book has been an eye-opening look into the lack of exposure to nature for our American children and the ill effects that it is having upon our society.  Richard coins the phrase, Nature Deficit Disorder and says that the majority of our wired young generation suffers from it.  In fact most children are unable to identify 6 species of trees in their own community.  This lack of nature is causing an increased epidemic with attention disorders, depression, anxiety and of course obesity.

Richard Louv says that technology is not the only thing to blame for this new disorder of our youth.  He also places blame on the abundance of organized activities and a new fear of nature that children absorb from parents, school and the media.  Years ago, children spent the majority of their free time outdoors.  They’d play with neighborhood friends, explore their local woods and streams and not be expected to be back until dinner time.  It was during this time that parental warnings were about staying away from poisonous berries, poison ivy and when I was a child “strangers”….but that was about it.  Today’s child are lured to be indoors more.  There are hundred’s of television channels, video games, computers, ipads and so many technological options for them.  Today’s child is also over scheduled and has limited free time.  Between school, sports, clubs and organized play dates there is very little time to just play.

This book has started a lot of discussions with other mothers and my husband and I have quickly realized that my children are not getting the nature exposure that they need (or deserve).  I make it a point to not over schedule my children and do limit their technology but my fears of lyme disease and the fact that we live on a busy street has created a fear in me, which I have now transferred onto my children.  The only place that I really let them run free and be “nature loving kids” is at our family’s home on a lake.  Here I allow my five-year old a great deal of freedom to play, explore and soak up all of the wonder of our great planet.

So I have a plan…each week I hope to share something that I am going to do to make sure that my children are being exposed to their natural world.  I hope that this will hold me accountable.  The plan is to get outside as much as possible and hopefully their fear (and mine) will ease and they will learn to love the outdoors as much as I do 🙂

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