It’s a bright November Sunday morning and because it’s perfectly suited for such a day, all of us are up and about quite early. To make the day lazier, my husband suggests a picnic lunch at the park and my son squeals with excitement.
Children love the outdoors and can’t get enough of it. What if we could make outdoors a way for them to connect with nature? It can be done through fun do-it-yourself (DIY) activities. Here are a few:
1) Leaf shadows:
I saw Aarti and her little one pick up leaves from the garden the other day and couldn’t help but probe.
“We’re going to play something we call ‘leaf shadows’ with these leaves,” explained Aarti.
What they do:
On a chart paper, place leaves of different shapes and sizes.
Then, draw the outline of leaves. Colour them as the real leaves look.
Introduce variation in colours, shapes, and sizes of leaves!
For her two-year-old, the shapes are more important than colours. But I think, for an older child, say a six-year-old, it’s a fantastic activity to understand the colour palette of nature.
Don’t you agree?
2) Nature chef:
“This one is our pet activity,” says Dr Rajeev whose five-year-old is filling his mug with mud.
What they do:
In garden or a park, find a patch of a clean mud. Carry old plastic bowls and plates along.
Create dal or soup by mixing water in a bowl of mud. You can also make chapatis or dosa by kneading and rolling it.
Parents can talk about natural, organic, ingredients used for cooking as kids play.
Dr Rajeev here also introduces some recipes during play and then gets his son to eat those in reality, later. Experts believe that touching and feeling nature around us is a very good way to connect with it.
3) Beach day out
Well, this one is a tried and tested DIY activity with my if-I-could-I-would-live-in-water son.
What they do:
On a few sheets of old newspaper on the floor, spread flour. Imagine it’s beach sand. Then place a small tub/mug of water to show the ocean. Draw animal cut-outs and colour them and then place them where they belong (a seal is usually on the sand, while a fish in water).
If available, shells and small rocks can also be placed in the beach. We even tried fitting a baby bench and umbrella to give it a resort-like look.
Introduction of the flora and fauna around the beach.
And, if your kid staunchly believes that even cuddly bears visit the beach like mine does, there’s no actual harm, is there?
4) ‘Not a Stick’
Not an individual DIY activity, but a reference book, a local librarian introduced me to. I’ve been through it and I believe that Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis is an excellent inspiration for parents.
The book displays the various fantastic uses a humble twig or a stick can have. Kids can conduct various craft as well as show-and-tell activities by using a simple stick.
It’s a book full of wonderful ideas to connect with nature. You can get your kid a copy now!
5) Flower painting
For a change, my husband had positive contributions to make towards my writing. Here’s his favourite DIY activity from childhood:
In olden days when paint was not invented, painters used the colours of flowers to paint. This is the same concept.
What they do:
Take a few wild flowers and soak them in a few drops of water. Then crush their petals and mince them a little with your hands. You will notice that they give out some colour. Use this colour to paint.
Talk about natural and organic paints/dyes with your kid.
Fun, isn’t it?
6) Photo sessions
“Can I take a pic, aunty?”
Anish loves clicking pictures. His mom has converted this passion into a DIY activity for him to connect with nature.
What they do:
Go to a local park and take close up photos of trees, leaves, grass, fruits, bees, and flowers.
Then take the child along get a print of these pictures (works well if the child is involved in every step of the game).
Once done, stick the photos to make photo albums using old newspapers and leftover printing sheets.
The take away:
Exciting, hand-made, photo albums and memories.
“Anish has several albums. Park, jungle, zoo, and even one that says, the plants in my house,” explains his mom as I fell in love with the idea.
7) Yogic tree pose
“I tried teaching my daughter and she enjoyed it,” says Minal, a yoga student in my class who taught her six-year-old a few basic postures. This gave me an idea. Since we do yoga to connect with the world within us and to absorb the world around us, why not teach children a pose that connects them to the Earth?
What we do:
In a park or garden, do the yogic ‘tree pose’ with your child. The pose is about balancing on one leg while the other rests, foot-flat, on the thigh with raised hands reaching the sky.
This balancing posture, done barefoot on grass, connects them to the ground. Makes kids understand how trees stand, and spread out their branches just like we are spreading out our hands. Refer to this page for a better idea.
I’ve tried it and I bring back a very calm and connected kid home. It’s your turn now!
Do you have a set of favourite DIY activities to connect your kid with nature? Share a few of them with us.
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