Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

A Charlotte Mason Christian Home School: Preschool – 3rd Grade :)

Backyard Naturalists

on April 20, 2012

While I seem to be on the topic of making children into naturalists lately, I want to share a great little guide I found containing ideas for making your backyard a place for nature play. Simple things that don’t cost much money, but ideas that don’t always cross our commercially brainwashed minds. Too many of our suburbia yards are simply a block of grass and cement, too prisitine, too sterile for accomodating a true experience with nature. Growing up on a unkempt 3/4 acre property provided me all the best childhood memories of exploration, freedom, invention, and wild fun that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I am determined for my children to have equally life forming experiences with nature even if we do have a small yard.

Every spring, I start racking my brain–what outdoor toys do I need to go buy that would really engage our kids outdoors this year?? Do I need to splurge on a big expensive plastic play structure? Do you start thinking this direction too as soon as the weather warms up? The thing is, I hate buying stuff that just becomes stuff sitting around unloved like too many backyard play structures, gimmicky outdoor “fun” equipment, and cobwebbed ride-ons I have noticed. So I have vacillated to the point that we have accumulated very few outdoor toys. But admittedly what sways me even more is that I almost hate toys in general, and especially the commercialism directed towards our children.  I agree with what Teaching the Trivium says, “Give the child plenty of time to explore and play. Do not buy ‘toystore’ toys – they are expensive and are usually forgotten after the newness wears off. Invest in real things. Garage sales and auctions are an unending source for things like sewing machines, small tools for working in the garden, hammers, nails, and things for building, some wooden blocks, and dress-up clothes. Buy tools for exploring (a good microscope, telescope, binoculars, etc), not toys for adoring. When your children are young, spend your money on the tools of exploration, and motivate them to learn how to use the tools and enjoy using the tools.”

Thankfully this spring, I feel that my perspective has shifted just enough to really believe that we can have more meaningful fun without buying lots more outdoor toys. A few things have certainly helped grow my perspecitve–getting hens and chicks, planting and tending a vegetable garden, and letting the kids just play in the dirt. Noah proudly holding up a grub that he found in our raised garden bed while preparing the soil for planting, insisting on a night time frog hunt with flashlights to find our resident croaker (and finding slugs instead), excitedly bringing a snail inside to see if this time it would come out of its shell for us (it did)–these are the formative experiences with nature that mean so much to children. In past years, the excitement over seeing hummingbirds and collecting ladybugs are some of my favorite memories with Noah. Nature fun can be never ending. Our future naturey backyard plans include keeping fish in the fountain, feeding the birds and the squirrels, and planting butterfly plants to study their lifecycle. So the more my mind wraps around building a “nature” centered yard rather than a “stuff” centered yard, the more non-toy ideas come, and I know these nature ideas will provide the basis for incredible learning experiences. Lets ask ourselves, why would we want our children learning about creation from a lifeless science textbook inside the 4 walls of a classroom when they could learn about it through the rich impressions of real life experience? Nothing beats the world as your classroom!!

May your backyard grow more wild this spring too!


One response to “Backyard Naturalists

  1. Miss Emily says:

    I LOVE this post and agree whole heartedly. I had forgotten as well and hope to get back on track. When my brain was working, before kids, I bought a couple books I heard about, that focus on back-to-nature for our kids, and a simple life, less scheduled/chaotic life, which our kids seem to be subject to these days. The two books, which I haven’t read yet, are “Last child in the woods” by Richard Louv, and “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim Payne. I think I heard about them on NPR a few years ago, and loved the concept behind them and sounded like the authors had great messages. I hope the books come through on that. If anyone reads them and has comments, I’d love to hear.

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