It’s almost spring. Soon nature will be alive again! Perfect time to recapture your own child-like sense of wonder and nurture it in your grandchildren! Inspire them to want to know more, explore more, experience more, and be “wowed” by learning through discovery and hands-on activities that abound this time of year.
Pave the way for wonder-packed discoveries
Be open to spontaneous activities spurred on by a child’s curiosity. Answer questions with a trip to the library, park, zoo, “wherever,” to see things firsthand. No planning required. wonderopolis.org
Appreciate the ordinary as extraordinary in the eyes of a child
The wonder of a grasshopper close-up; stars on a crystal clear night; a brightly colored balloon. My grandson exclaimed one afternoon, “There’s the moon. And it’s not even night!”
From babies to middle-schoolers, adapt these experiences to their age and interest level
Nature walks: Fun for all…even babies!
• Listening or touching walks: Frogs croaking, grasshoppers singing with their legs. Touch tree bark; crinkle a leaf; hold bumpy pinecones.
• Rain walk: Wear raincoats/boots to enjoy spring rain or puddle splashing. Rainwater helps plants and trees grow; trees and plants provide homes and food for bugs, birds and other animals.
• Nighttime walk: Listen to night sounds; smell the air; gaze at the moon and stars.
• Nature detectives: Search for insect and animal tracks and trails in mud and dirt.
Weather can be fascinating
Listen, watch, observe: Raindrops rolling down a window; jagged lightening streaks across the sky. Why is the sky blue? Where do you find rainbows? weatherwizkids.com
Gardening offers lessons about science and life cycles
Planting, watering, growing flowers and vegetables — even pumpkins! — produces fun results: Pick-your-own bouquet, fresh veggies to eat, your own pumpkin to carve.
Or, plant a butterfly garden. (University of Maryland website).
Scavenger hunts instill curiosity and teach observation skills:
• Cut construction paper shapes. Hunt for matching shapes/colors. Discuss what you find and how it’s used in nature.
• Choose a category (things that crawl, seed pods). How many can you spot or collect? Take a bag to hold their treasures.
• Discover animal habitats (nests, hollow logs, holes that lead to burrows).
Did you know…?
• An ant can lift 10-20 times its own body weight. bugfacts.net
• Frogs see forward, sideways, upwards all at the same time. They never close their eyes, even when asleep. sciencekids.co.nz
Discover the wonders of the world with your grandkids, helping them learn new vocabulary words and build skills that are building blocks for success in school and adult life. Child-initiated exploration sparks questions that allow for extended learning opportunities and help children develop the self-confidence to pursue their interests.
• Ideas for spontaneous activities: http://wonderopolis.org/
• Animal Tracks Identification Guide: http://www.tahoma.wednet.edu/subsite/ths/teachers/szkweb2004/apweb2005/envirothon/pdfs/Track1.pdf
• What Can a Child Do in Nature? 101 Ideas: http://www.greenheartsinc.org/uploads/What_Can_a_Child_Do_in_Nature__2_columns.pdf
• Disney Family Fun Outdoor Crafts and Activities for Toddlers: http://familyfun.go.com/crafts/natural-wonders-709214/
• Weather Wizkids: http://www.weatherwizkids.com/about-crystal.htm
• Butterfly Gardening for Kids: http://wicomico.umd.edu/Horticulture/Kids%20Butterfly%20Garden.cfm
Remy Agee is the former Anne Arundel County (MD) Child Care Coordinator and retired as Director of Communications at a large family and children government agency. She has conducted county, state and national workshops on school readiness and early childhood partnerships. She now focuses on developing and writing articles for parents, grandparents and early childhood professionals.