In the Southern Hemisphere we have just welcomed Spring. A time for new life to appear, and the days to warm up.
When my youngest was a toddler, there was nothing more exciting than a ladybird!
If she saw one she would jump up and down, point, and move herself around so she could see it from all possible angles. She was so interested in these that when we were at the zoo I thought she was excited to see the moneys, nope, there was a ladybird on the window!
With so many distractions in the home you can forget to get outside and appreciate the fresh air and wonders of nature. I want to share with your some games and activities you can do to help reconnect with the outside world.
It’s a bug life
Looking for bugs may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but learning to look around, near to the ground, is a great way to experience your garden.
Create a wood pile, or pile up some rocks, and you will soon attract some creepy crawlies for your child to discover. Though squatting down and watching an ant carry a crumb away to their nest may not seem like the height of excitement, it can be a great way of amusing a child.
Your child can learn how to carefully lift and move the different bits, and see what runs off to hide.
You can help teach respect for life and another creatures homes. This can also be a great time to discuss the difference between a bug outdoors, or indoors. Not everything should be squashed or sprayed!
Creepy crawly camouflage
A great way to teach your child about the art of camouflage is to take different coloured pipe cleaners and twist them around nearby twigs and flower stems. See how many your child can spot and see if the colour of them made them easier or harder to see.
This can lead onto conversations about how insects use colour to hide, warn others that they are poisonous, or to scare things away.
Watch it grow
Find an old jar and roll up some kitchen roll and place it inside. Trap a bean seed between the paper and the glass and keep it moist. Kids can see how over time the seed produces a root and leaf.
Swan plants are great for attracting Monarch butterflies. Watching the caterpillars grow, pupate and hatch is a great experience.
If you have an old aquarium then collecting some tadpoles is another option, though this takes a little more care.
Having a small patch of ground to grow some carrots, or other veg, helps show where food comes from, and they get to eat them.
Spot the difference
Encouraging your child to be observant is a skill they will use for life. Collect together a number of different stones and ask each child to choose one to get to know. Once they are happy that they will be able to recognise it again, make a small mark on the back and mix it back up with all the others. Then set your child the task of finding their stone, using sight alone (making sure the mark is hidden underneath).
Find an area which contains a number of trees. One person goes for a wander, while the others close their eyes. The wander needs to touch, hug and look closely at the tree to see how they can encourage the rest of the group to single the same one out of all the others in the area.
When the wander returns they have to describe their tree, using features which will help others to find it, without actually telling them exactly which one it is.
Eg. It is not the tallest nor shortest. It has rough bark but there are bare patches. Some of its branches can be seen to touch the ground. I couldn’t get my arms around the trunk.
When you look outside you may see a lot of green and brown, but when you look more closely, even in winter, there are many more colours to be found.
Create a colour palate for your child to complete. (Made out of a piece of card, with bits of double sided sticky tape on) As your child walks around, encourage them to take small samples of leaves or petals, to stick to the card, to create little blobs of similar colours. See how many different colours and hues they can find.
Learning how to use their senses is a great way to help your child ground themselves, especially when they find themselves in a new or scary situation.
Encourage your child to stand in one spot, then look around and name all the things that they can see which are a certain colour, or shape.
Then ask them to close their eyes and describe what they can hear and feel.
Encourage them to focus on what they can feel with their hands, the surface they are standing on, the material they are wearing, any other surface or object that is within their reach.
The act of consciously focusing on these things helps prevent them from being overwhelmed by unwanted feelings created by an over active imagination.
What do you see?
Lying on your back, and watching the clouds, is something which we could all benefit from doing every so often. Just chilling and watching the changing shape of the world is a great way to spend your time. This can encourage creativity as you make shapes from what you see.
People watching is also a great pass time for older children. Find a bench to sit on and discuss your first impressions of those who pass by. This is a great way to see what types of assumptions everyone is making and how different people can perceive the same situation.
Whatever the weather
When it is sunny you can play with the shadows, chase them, draw them, experiment with different objects.
Water painting works well on a warm day. Fill a sauce bottle with water and let them spray shapes on the pavement.
No one minds when a toddler does a naked rain dance, and it is a great way of showing them that there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices.
Put on those gumboots and have a good splash, puddles make great play things.
Outdoors and active
Climbing trees, rolling down slopes and just generally running about, are all things which can help your child to let off some steam and learn more about their bodies. Generally children know their own limits, though if tree climbing is a no go, then just let them have a swing or see if they can use branches to lift themselves off the ground. They will soon learn which branches are strong enough, and which aren’t.
You can encourage your child to run like a horse, hop like a rabbit, squirm like a snake, with a little direction and the time to have a go, children can be encouraged to shut off their screens and get outside, but you may need to be willing to join them.
Almost everything you can do inside, you can do outside. One of the most important things to know is that memories made outside are usually stronger than those made indoors. This is because all senses are in play. You can smell the earth and the airborne pollen, feel the wind in your hair and the mud on your skin, see so many different things, hear so many different things.
I hope you have a super Spring.