Monday, April 11, 2011

Freak of Nature

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous day outside!  It was 83 degrees outside and couldn’t have been more perfect after such a long, wet and cold winter. It was the first day my son got to play outside for more than an hour and he couldn’t have been more thrilled!  That being said, I didn’t just unleash him and let him run wild—though he did essentially do wind-sprints between our house & the neighbors he was so excited!  My little man is extremely inquisitive and (once his initial frenzy has worn off) likes to examine everything and explore.   

These teachable moments are perfect for not only teaching him about what plants, animals, and things he is seeing, but how it ties to the world, what they do and why they are important. Naturally you have to be conscious of their age and your explanations have to be simple and in some cases creative, but taking advantage of these teachable moments will effect every outdoor experience they have there after.

For example, late last summer my son discovered bees… or rather, he discovered he could now keep up with them.  Fearless as he is, one day he saw one pollinating a flower and reached out and grabbed it!  Those watching were initially concerned and attempted to go to his aid before I stopped them.  This is how they learn.  Gabriel held the bee up close for a minute, literally studying it before he let it go.  The bee stung him once it was released of course, and once he stopped crying I explained to him that he scared the bee and it just wanted to get away.  Now he was 2, so I know he doesn’t remember that. So yesterday he saw another bee and went to investigate, but before he got too close I told him to be careful not to scare the bee and to just look. Which he did, he sat down and just watched it while I explained that the bees help the flowers grow big and pretty. After the bee flew away he went and examine every different kind of flower and plant he could find.   (See photo)

We also found bugs (which of course he studied--
See Photo) and we talked about trees and birds and squirrels and all kinds of things and spent the entire day outside. Of course the entire day wasn’t nature or lesson based, he played with his dinosaurs and trucks as well. But my point is that he can get to know the world around him intimately without it being a chore, work or lecture. And the more he experiences it the more he’ll care about it.

I introduced him to the outside world within a few weeks of his birth, and we regularly spent whole afternoons out there, taking naps and watching the trees dance and the birds flutter around.  As a result my son is drawn to the outside world almost as strongly as he is to the ground via gravity! 
Before he could walk he would crawl to the door and bang on it to tell me he wanted to go outside.  If it was too cold or raining he would just sit by it and cry.  As heartbreaking as the scene was at the time it thrilled me that he was so enamored with being outside, and while he no longer cries (usually) when he can’t go outside he is still addicted to being outside—partially, I think, because I’ve encouraged his exploring and taught him about what he’s seeing.  I don’t tell him not to touch things or splash in the mud, because doing those things—even if he gets hurt—teaches him and gives him confidence, while fostering his desire to learn more on his own.

Days like yesterday reinforce my desire and commitment to raising him as a conscious and ecologically responsible citizen of the Earth. As well as encouraging me to continue it shows me that its working, and worth it.  So yesterday was glorious not just because of the weather, and the fact we spent the whole day outside, or brought out the grill.

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