For adults, Nature is big. Mountain big. Ocean big. It's an adventure one has to seek out - a remote hiking trail, a backpacking weekend, an event that requires a lot of planning, and perhaps a lot of gear. I've gotten hung up on this before - immobilized by the immensity of the task of getting out into Nature. When I let this happen, I forget that, for children especially, Nature is small. It's personal, intimate - a caterpillar crawling along a blade of grass, a ladybug that perches on your shoulder, the feeling of mud squishing between your toes. "Small Nature" is always accessible, anywhere. And it's this kind of familiar, day-to-day contact with Nature that makes a big impact on little people.
We've been talking about pitching our tent in our backyard and trying to sleep outside with Finn. We're also in the midst of creating a nature playscape that we hope to have finished by his first birthday (in less a month - hard to believe!) Today, I though I'd share with you some of my favorite resources for bringing children into contact with Nature.
An excellent (and free) jumping-off point is Green Hearts' Parents' Guide to Nature Play . The booklet explains the many developmental benefits of nature play and gives parents some concrete ideas. I also found Green Hearts' 25 Easy Nature Play Ideas For Preschool Yards to be a great resource for setting up our own backyard.
As far as books go, I can highly recommend Nature's Playground: Activities, Crafts, and Games to Encourage Children to Get Outdoors and Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature .
Nature's Playground is a phenomenal resource, as it provides so many ideas and activities to jump start the entire family's interest in (and enjoyment of) nature. I'd say that it's geared toward families with children preschool-aged and above, and most of the activities appeal to a broad age range of children, making it perfect choice for families.
I love that the book is organized by the four seasons - each seasonal chapter provides a wealth of ideas and tips pertinent to that particular season. The one downside of the book (for those of us in the US) is that it is published out of the UK, meaning that some of the plants and insects referenced aren't available for observation. That said, I think that, no matter your geography or climate, the book should be useful (with the exception of the Winter chapter for those living in, say, Florida.)
Coyote's Guide provides a depth and breadth to nature play/education that you won't find in Nature's Playground. My copy is dog-eared and full of highlighted passages because I think it's so awesome. Coyote's Guide is all about how to become a nature mentor for children, and it will have you wanting to become an amateur naturalist yourself (they do offer a training program, if you're interested - I've actually been thinking about doing this with Finn, once he's six or seven.) If you're a homeschooling family, you'll want to pick it up for sure!
If you have favorite resources for nature play/nature education, please feel free to share them in the comments for all to read.