Sunday, August 31, 2014

Playing in the Rain!

This summer, I've noticed my kids had an almost obsession with playing in the rain. They have gone so far as to delay going outside until it is actually raining. For example, one day, I said, "Why don't you guys go outside for 15 minutes or so because it's going to rain soon?" They responded, "Can't we just wait until it's raining?" Wet t-shirts and shorts have been the norm at least once a week this summer!  Thinking back to my childhood, I can remember a few specific times when I played in the rain and floodwaters as well. There was joy in getting drenched by the downpour!

Here are a few things they enjoy doing in the rain:

1. Popping bubbles that form in the bird bath! I spied him outside popping all the bubbles away. Still not quite sure how they are forming. :-)

2. Using a bucket to fill, dump, and pour!

3. Playing in the puddles with sticks.


4. Squishing toes in the mud!

5. Playing with sticks!

6. Finding the closest downspout from the gutters!

A few other ideas, I might encourage them to try in the future . . . 
7. Building dams with sticks and rocks to divert the flow of water from the pooling rain. 
8. Slip and slide in the grass and it will be especially slick.
9. Play games in the rain, like tag, soccer, kickball, etc.
10. Making mud pies.

During the summer, it's fun to go out without shoes on. In cooler weather, they may need more rain gear to go out. Obviously, we choose not to go out when there is thunder and lightening for safety reasons. I also currently banned all the new school shoes from going out in the rain. They have sandals or old tennis shoes they can wear! 

Need more inspiration and ideas on playing in the rain? Check out:

There is an undeniable joy in playing in the rain! Adults, you may enjoy a stroll in the rain as well! Next time you find it raining, try a little outdoor fun in the blessed rain! 

A little quote inspiration: 

"Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain."
- Author Unknown

"A rainy day is the perfect time for a walk in the woods"
- Rachel Carson

"Life's not about waiting for the storm to pass...
It's about Learning To Dance In The Rain."
- Vivian Greene

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bioblitz at Ox Bow Park

In July, the boys and I took a couple of hours between a parade and other activities to participate in the mini bioblitz at Ox Bow Park. What a delight! The intent of a bioblitz is to catalogue as many species in a short amount of time as possible.

I met Jared Collins a couple of times leading up to the event. He is a graduate student at Miami University studying conservation biology and partnered with Elkhart County Parks to put this together. He has a Facebook page for Michiana Biodiversity Conservation Initiative. The event was open to the general public, so I thought we'd check it out, knowing we might not have lots of expertise to add. As we arrived, there were many guide books and a few animals to greet us. They had a bucket of some of the finds we started investigating. Most people were scattered throughout the park, listing as many insects and other animals they could find in the area. Many experts were recruited to help with the count.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Defries Gardens

Defries Gardens is located just south of Goshen in New Paris. It is part River Preserve Park of Elkhart County Parks, being donated by the late Mrs. Defries. It has made quite a transformation since the donation time. Check out the before and after pictures here! We visited River Preserve Park, but had not visited Defries. We were in for a treat indeed! This Flicker page by Jon Cutrell, the landscape designer for Defries Gardens, shows the plans for the garden and pictures of the area throughout the seasons. Breathtaking! 

We had a beautiful walk in the gardens with the boys. I'm always a little worried when I take the kids to a garden area, as they are used to more wild areas and being a little more wild. However, it's good for them to be exposed to this more sculpted gardens with different rules than walking out on the trails. We talk about proper etiquette and to be mindful of other visitors in the area. There is a circular path that goes around the center of the calendar garden, with plenty of places to just sit and enjoy the beauty! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Magical Exploration of Nature with a Preschooler

Here are a few tips that may be useful to interact and play with your preschooler and nature:
  • ·      Create invitations to explore and interact with materials.  An easy way to allow children to role-play and interact with natural materials is to create these magical small worlds to explore how nature interacts. Sensory bins with natural materials, nature-based play dough and elements, and using nature as the basis of art supplies allows further exploration.
  • ·      While a preschooler “plays” or interacts with nature, create dialogue. Ask questions, such as “Why do you think . . .?”, “How can you observe this in another way?”, etc. Use this time to talk about observations and add more information.
  • ·      Use songs, movement, fingerplays, books, etc. I’ve found several action cards to help inspire children to imagine they were insects or animals. Simple songs that teach natural concepts abound.
  • ·      Follow the child’s lead. Often I may have a “plan” of how I want our nature exploration to go; however, if I follow my son’s lead, we can explore his interests and what he notices as a natural explorer.
  • ·      Provide opportunities to document. Use paper and clipboards, nature journals, video recordings, art, pictures, etc. to record observations.
  • ·      Use tools to explore, such as a sturdy net, bug jar, tweezers, shovel and bucket, etc.
  • ·      Host a natural busy bag exchange with others. Build up a supply of ready-made materials by exchanging nature based busy bags with others.
  • ·      Use resources like Growing Up Wild and Project Learning Tree Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood.
  • ·      Find natural play areas and/or create your own. A downed log becomes a balance beam. A pile of mulch, dirt, or sand, a bucket, and shovel are invitations to explore. Simple and inexpensive natural elements can create learning and discovery opportunities.
  • ·      Share nature with friends. Start a family nature club, invite tag along friends, or attend preschool nature programs in your area. Learning is often a social activity, whether it is with siblings, friends, or in an organized manner.

Another mom and I host a nature based preschool program at a local nature center. I collected various ideas by season on my Pinterest Boards, for fall, winter, and spring. Feel free to explore ideas that may be helpful in your own learning situation with your child. Rachel Carson stated, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” We can be that person to discover nature with our child. We don’t necessarily have to “teach” our child but can spend time connecting with nature and allowing exploration. 

I recently wrote this article for Handbook of Nature Study for the August Newsletter. Barb always has great ideas and inspiration for nature study! Subscribe to her newsletter at the top right corner of the page here. The monthly newsletter is free and chock full of information. She also has a subscription service to the many, many valuable resources she has developed over the years.