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Curious Nature

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Published on: Mar. 2, 2007

Last revision: Nov. 30, 2010

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There are a number of ways, depending on your family’s interests and experiences. For example, your family may prefer birding to fishing, or canoeing rather than mushroom hunting. But, whatever your preferences, keeping the process simple is the key. The following guidelines will give you a good place to start.

Begin as soon as possible

Some people take their very young children on hiking, fishing or even camping trips. While some of you may be thinking, “Sure, I was only 4 months old on my first camping trip,” others are sure to question this strategy.

Environmental educators constantly evaluate the learning process in order to understand what’s developmentally appropriate for any given situation, group or individual. Parents and caregivers can do this as well. The best way to know what your child is ready for is to interact with him or her in your own yard as soon and as often as possible.

Young children may not yet be able to tell you what interests them. Still, by watching your baby’s reaction to the outdoors, you’ll get an idea of what he or she likes. Does he key in on bird sounds? Does she look intently at fall colors, or does she prefer jumping in a pile of leaves? How does he react to a caterpillar crawling on his hand? Observing your child in this way not only helps you understand how your child learns, the process provides opportunities to bond with your child.

Set no limits

Some parents seem to believe that every worthwhile outdoor experience must be hours (or even days) long. These activities generally include numerous pieces of equipment to be packed, unpacked, hauled, set up, taken down, repacked and… you get the picture. And that is just fine for them. I envy those who have the patience, time and resources to spend as they wish, but not everyone does.

Shorter outings can be just as beneficial. Take your child outside in your own backyard. For some youngsters, time spent outdoors should be kept short and sweet anyway. The key is that it takes only a few seconds for your child to feel the sunlight on her face, smell the locust tree blossoms or blow the dandelion seeds into your neighbor’s yard.

Of course, there are days we can’t spend outside. Having some “non-technological” items around the house can also provide a first-hand nature experience for the very young. Cardboard boxes or paper grocery bags

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