Kids and Nature
by Jane Bath
What do I know about kids and a love of nature? I really do not know. Many kids do want to be there (in nature), but stumbling blocks might be in their way. You might consider your own situation. Are you opening up this world to them or are you part of the wall that keeps them removed from this strange world you might be afraid of yourself.
Dirt: One would think that dirt is the most evil thing in the world. Dirt on the hands, dirt brought in by shoes, dogs and clothes. I think many think dirt is really just germs waiting to take over the body and make one sick.
What I am really thinking of are those endless home landscapes that are just too neat and clean, if not sterile. Do you have a place where the kids can make a mud pie? Can they find a place to plant something, somewhere, somehow, and whenever? Are there woods that can be raced through? Do they see anyone going outside fooling with plants, talking to them, and discussing their particulars?
What about a birdhouse going up for Mrs. Bluebird to have her families all summer [yes, they have many during the summer in one bluebird house with one nest after another piled high.] How about planting a bunch of zinnias that will bloom midsummer to late fall giving butterflies a real treat every day. Plant a squash plant at the back door. Pick strawberries and buy at farmers markets.
Is a visit to the local nursery that special time? Or a put down? I owned a nursery years ago. A mother was busy with her purchases. Her 6 year old approached the counter with a small flower to buy. Her mother brushed her off [basically indicating how silly and unnecessary a purchase]. I saw lights go off in that child’s eyes as she quietly put this small purchase back. But I saw so many others bring in their kids regularly with absolute joy that they were there to get something to add to their gardens. They would race around and discuss each plant with such determination of just what they wanted to get. Just amazing to see these kids.
Just imagine your school programs that do all of this. Hands on dirt; minds exploding with information; excitement seeing things grow; handling tools [now that is really funny to see]. We hear certain ones tell of their own gardens at home. It is just real excitement.
Spring is now here. Talk about it. Cut branches and let a child make arrangements. Notice what is blooming now and two weeks later. Purchase a plant and have your kid help with anything they can do. Pet the plant; help put it in the car. Buy some soil amendment and show the kid what it is. When opening the bag, let them help put it in the hole when planting. Let them dig, water, mulch. Talk about those roots. Show them the picture of the plant and help them watch it grow.
When you are making a container garden for your place. Let your kid pick their own container and plant it with their choices. It is remarkable just how different each kid is in making those selections. They can put in little rocks, marbles, mosses and creatures to round out the creation. Just amazing. Life is amazing. Gardening is amazing.