There is a growing body of evidence which indicates that direct experiences with nature are essential for a child’s physical and emotional health. Studies have also shown that exposure to nature can increase a child’s resistance to stress, anxiety, and depression as well as build up their immune system. Ask your child if they would like to go on a nature scavenger hunt or go bird watching. Their answer may surprise you.
Become as a child yourself as you rediscover the wonder and mysteries of flowers, ants, worms, birds, or critters in a pond. Take a free walk around the neighborhood meeting friends, relaxing, and building muscles as your child leads you on an adventure of learning and awe. Bring a sack or basket to collect some of the treasures that you discover.
My friend Katie from Mommy with Selective Memory took these photographs of her twenty-two month-old Little Buddy and three-year-old Munchkin Girl on an outdoor adventure.
Little Munchkin and Buddy took a nature walk with mom, gathering some of nature’s beauty.
When they returned home with their sack of treasures, they helped mom make a Salt Dough mixture so they could make a keepsake.
The children enjoyed combining the ingredients and feeling the texture of the salt dough.
Then they pressed their nature objects into the dough.
Mom baked the keepsakes to harden them. Now they can be used as a gift to grandma on Mother’s Day or kept in their special Treasure Box as a reminder of a fun outdoor adventure.
I asked Katie if the nature walk and salt dough recipe was enjoyable for her children. This was her response: “Yes, they had so much fun they wanted to go back outside and collect more stuff! They spent the next 30 minutes happily collecting outside and talking to each other about all the things outdoors. It was really cute.” If you need a laugh, click here to see what Little Buddy collected the next time Katie gave him a sack.
Salt Dough Recipe:
1 cup of salt
1 cup of flour
½ cup water
In a large bowl, combine the salt and flour.
Make a well in the salt/flour mixture and add the water.
Knead until smooth and shape into a ball (can wrap in plastic or store in airtight container for later use).
Press flat and add objects.
Put on baking sheet in oven at 100 degrees C or 200 F for 2-3 hours, or if hot weather, may dry outside for several days in the sun.
Check out these posts that have more ways you can use your nature collections. Pattern Naturally has ideas for children to learn math by using objects found in nature. Also, Why Craft? Why Art? will give you more ideas and reasons why the art process is so important for children to experience.
Susan Case is a retired teacher, now author and blogger. You can visit her at Kindergarten for Teachers and Parents.