The Gift of Nature

“There is no description, no image in any book capable of replacing the sight of real trees, and all the life to be found around them in a real forest.” Maria Montessori

I am happiest outside.  Whether it’s going for a run, sitting on our patio with a glass of wine and a good book, or, perhaps my favorite, hiking in a national park, I would pretty much always rather be outside.

In addition to loving being out in nature, I believe strongly that it’s important for children.  Nothing sparks curiosity more than hearing the music of the birds in the morning or noticing a rustling in the bushes and standing completely still to see if you can discover the mystery behind it.

When teaching in the classroom, I saw fist hand the magic of giving children the gift of time outside.  We had an outdoor classroom where children could bring their work.  It was beautiful to see the concentration that happened when allowing them to do their work in the fresh air, rather than just catching occasional glimpses out the window.  For some children in particular, it made a remarkable difference.

Incorporating outside time into our routine with James has been easy.  A normal Saturday for us before he was born would often include hiking on Austin’s Greenbelt and then eating at Tacodeli at the picnic tables outside.  This is still what we do, just with an extra passenger in tow!

We go for walks every day.  Sometimes these are on a trail somewhere, but often just around our neighborhood.  I would like to get a membership to the nearby Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center soon and take some of our walks there.

We often spend some of his playtime on the back patio.  It’s so easy to bring a blanket out there and get some sunshine.  Sometimes we take playtime to a park too, or this week to Barton Springs, for some variety.

When playing inside, we’re almost always in front of either his mirror or a window, sometimes with the window open to feel the breeze and hear the outside sounds (which are sometimes just traffic noises….)

Bringing nature inside is something I really want to start doing more.  I am the WORST with plants.  I do not have a good track record with them.  I really want to have more plants in our house though.  I need to research some really easy ones instead of just wandering blindly around a plant nursery and picking something pretty.  Any ideas?

While we spend a lot of time outside already, I know there is so much more we could do.  Some things I would love to start including:

  • Nature Books: James has a book about National Parks and one about bugs, but I think those are really the only ones he has about nature.  I plan to go to the library soon and see if I can find some other good ones.  I also might make him one on Shutterfly using photos we’ve taken (my husband is a great photographer!)
  • Nature Photographs: James has nature photographs up in his room, but I’d love to print some more and laminate them so that I could prop them up for him to look at and switch out the images.
  • Outdoor Environment: While we often bring a blanket outside and play, I do not have any sort of real outdoor environment set up for him yet. I’d like to get a cabinet to hold outdoor play items like bubbles.  I would also like to get some sort of shade structure and a water table or small pool for the spring and summer.
  • Nature Box: I would love to have a box or basket of items from nature for James to look at, but I’m not quite sure how to go about this given his strong desire to put everything in his mouth right now. I’m thinking of looking for bigger things like large sea shells or fossils that aren’t a choking hazard.
  • Garden: I’m hesitant to even include this given my aforementioned history of killing plants, but I know gardening is such a rich experience for children. I’m thinking of starting with just a small vegetable garden and seeing if I can keep them alive.  Perhaps I will beg my mom to come help me….

I would love more ideas!

What is your favorite way to get outside? 

If you have children, how do you expose them to nature?

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  1. I agree with everything you said in this post! Just something about being outside changes my whole mindset and helps me to reset. I would have to say that my favorite outdoor activity is sitting on a patio and reading with a glass of wine, too. 😉 I unfortunately cannot give you any advice on plants, because I cannot seem to keep one alive for more than about five minutes. My aunt is really into them though and her house just is always so airy and fresh and I want to be like her, but I just don’t know how haha

  2. We love being outside too! I’ve done a lot of reading about how important it is for little ones to spend a lot of time outside for their development! My daughter loves it, and it’s like her eyes just come to life. We do walks all the time, and I always let her wander around our yard when we have time before we head to school in the morning!

    1. That’s so nice that she gets to spend some time outside in the morning before school! What a beautiful way to start the day 🙂

  3. I totally agree with you about time spent outdoors! There is nothing my son enjoys more then running and exploring. The winter has been tough on us but I try to get him outside for even 15 minutes every day.

    1. We are definitely lucky to live somewhere warm! In the summer when it’s hot, it’s still usually nice enough in the morning to be outside. That’s nice you get out in little bursts though!

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