{GUEST POST} The Need for Nature

Today my fab sister, Katie, is sharing about two of her greatest passions … nature and being an auntie! Thanks so much Katie for sharing your words of wisdom! Jemma is blessed to have you as an aunt!
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When I reflect on my childhood, it is seen through a lens of branches, creeks, frogs, and dogs. I grew up living outside of the contains of the house and explored the nature that God blessed me with. 
Lucky for my ‘woodsy spirit’, my parents built a house next door to my Grandma out in the woods where you could not see your neighbors house and there was no pizza delivery :( Going up our driveway was like crossing a threshold, going from the busyness of the world to the comfort of a ‘cabin in the woods’. 
I grew up loving to play ‘Native Americans’, imaginative games, exploring the forest, collecting bugs, and playing unorganized, unfocused, and unplanned games. I specify this because this is what young, growing mind needs. Not a schedule full of organized sports, planned instrument lessons, and backlit games. This is a new idea, that this substitution of pavement and electronics for nature is having a detrimental affect on us. As you can see, I am passionate about this because of my love of nature and was thrilled to write and present my senior capstone paper on this topic. (Major source was Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv)
Back to the topic on hand :) With my sweet little niece being at the age that she is interested in new things and with a nephew on the way, I want to make sure that they are well endowed with the opportunity and the shared time in nature. I want them to be excited about the bugs we find, the plants that grow, the games that you can imagine, and mental, rejuvenating breaks obtained from time in nature.
The goal of this post is to show the different ways that Jemma and Brother will get to play in nature with yours truly! :)
  • Nature Walks – Just go for a walk with phones off, music quiet, and iPads at home! Take the time to look at flowers, hunt for animal tracks, listen for animals :) I prefer the forest or an unmanicured form of nature but a park is better than nothing!
  • Nature Jars (aka Terrariums) – These are great ways to take the fun that you have outside and show it off in your child’s room! Terrariums can be gorgeous mini-ecosystems where you plant a small plant and accent it with moss, shells, twigs…a child can make one by collecting different things from their nature walk and arranging them in a jar :)
  • Plant book (pressing plants) – This combines my love of reading and nature! Find a big book, a pretty flower, place the flower inside of a paper towel and carefully squish it in the book! There are easy ways to make an actual flower press. My grandma would do this and it is wonderful to have a lasting memory :) you can even place them on paper for a card, on a bookmark… 
  • Animal/Plant Identification – There are many kid friendly books for animal and plant identification. It can start with the basics, and move more specific. I remember as a child a small book that every-time you found a bird, plant, or animal I got to put a silver, sparkly star next to it!
  • Nature Vacations (National Parks) – There is a study showing that the attendees of National parks has shifted from family ages in the ’50’s-’60’s to the older retirement generation. This is a sad fact that our children are more aware of the latest movies and pop culture than of the planet that we are living on. National and State parks are all an awesome way to get away from the consumer/technological culture and relax as a family together! Many of my favorite memories as a child were the trips we would take…Carlsbad Caverns (New Mexico), Lavender Farm (New Mexico), working on a cow farm (Pennsylvania), Everglades (Florida), firefly catching (Missouri), Crater Lake (Oregon), Yellow Stone(Wyoming)…as you can see, we had fun as a family :)
But don’t just stay with information you know! Don’t be afraid to not know the answer to your young ones questions! Hypothesize with them! Why does the bird live in that tree? How do slugs move? What food does chipmunks eat? This gives a great reason to go to the library and learn how to search for answers :) 
… Oh so many ways to follow along …
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