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Infant - Month #46

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Backyard Ecosystem at Your Fingertips

By Lindsey Hill, edHelperBaby

Your Little Nature Explorer
           What's in your backyard? Yes, grass, trees, and rocks, but there is also an entire ecosystem that offers a wonderful place to teach your little nature explorer about the precious environment. Kids are naturally drawn to the outdoors whether they are free to explore and play at high intensity energy levels or because the outdoors offers opportunities for 100 percent parent involvement with very few other distractions. Showing your child how to protect nature is sure to emphasize the beauty and abundance of the outdoors while providing hours of enjoyment for everyone in the family.


An Eye On The Issue
           In recent years, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there has been a decline of interest in outdoor play because of an increase in electronic entertainment, fast-paced lifestyles, family structure differences, and detailed attention to academics. Playing actively each day, whether indoors or outdoors, unstructured or structured, has many benefits for young children. Active play promotes cognitive, physical, emotional, and social learning while also burning off stress, excess energy, and minimizing poor behaviors. Play time also promotes creativity and engages parents fully with their children. This is certainly not to say that academics isn't vital for children because it is but rather that unstructured play time is essential for healthy development of young children.  Finding the balance in their lives creates favorable developments.       

       Exploring in natural spaces offers limitless boundaries for a child's imagination to run wild. It also creates a connection with nature, offering creativity and inventive problem solving because of the many hands-on learning experiences the outdoors offers. It is often the case that young children who grow up spending time with nature are very strong advocates for the environment in their futures. This offers benefits for future generations, as well.


Just Try It
           Spending time outdoors with your child offers creativity, independence, and imaginative adventures. Try some of these simple environmentally friendly activities with your child while encouraging discussions of nature along the way.
  1. Create an "outdoor hour" at least once per day. Spend time writing with chalk, listening to the birds while taking a walk, or rolling in the grass.
  2. Go on a leaf hunt. Collect four to five leaves and paste them on a piece of paper to form an object in nature.
  3. Discuss nocturnal animals at dusk while lying in a tent you pitched together during the daylight hours.
  4. Fill a bird feeder with bird seed or sunflower seeds and enjoy bird watching.
  5. Create a nature kit together from items around the house or the dollar stores in your area. Include a magnifying glass, pocket-sized binoculars, flashlight, bug jar, a nature notebook, and crayons.
  6. Create a wind chime using old metal forks and spoons. Hang it on your front porch and listen to its music on a windy day.
  7. Subscribe to National Geographic Kids magazine or check out the latest copy from the public library for free.
  8. Recycle mail by collecting the paper contents and taking it to a local school or church for recycling.
  9. Write a letter to a friend or family member using the back of your junk mail. Make an envelope from the mail, too.
  10. Start a nature club with neighbors, siblings, or family. Create an activity to complete each week such as a leaf collection, tree crayon rubbing, or a list of animal sounds. Meet in someone's clubhouse outside to discuss.
  11. Turn trash into treasure. For example, take an old DVD or CD and make a clock, set of coasters, or a picture frame.
  12. Go on a listening walk after reading Listening Walk by Paul Showers and talk about what you're hearing.
  13. Lie on a cozy blanket outdoors and play the game I Spy.


Parent Chit Chat
           Finding books that Cory can enjoy is always great fun for our "homework" night. Once a week, Cory has a show-n-tell item and a homework assignment for a particular letter in the alphabet. The teacher in me enjoys connecting many of these activities with children's books because it shows him that reading is a very important part of our lives at any age.       

       Cory and I read Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. As I began reading the book, he was more interested in the crayons and glue on the table than the book itself. However, with a lot of expression, pointing at the objects, and questions about the illustrations, Cory became interested in the objects the leaves made when glued together on the pages. This book was a colorful and exciting way to discuss the leaves, their changing colors, and why it was better to use the green leaves rather than the brown, crunchy leaves to make our own picture object. After we finished the book, Cory was eager to make a leaf man of his own, so we headed outside for our typical evening play. Once outside, he requested that Daddy hold all of his leaves in his pocket. After we finished collecting leaves, we sat at the table and made a cheetah with a really long tail (stem from the leaf), three ears, and a tiny body; all out of leaves. Cory was so excited to show Daddy his leaf creation and spent the rest of the night wanting to paint, color, and glue items together!


Book Basket
           Open the pages of these unique learning books aimed for infants to age five!
  • Leaf Man; Lois Ehlert
  • In the Tall, Tall Grass; Denise Fleming
  • Listening Walk: Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science Book; Paul Showers
  • Carrot Seed; Ruth Krauss; Crockett Johnson
  • Why? The Best Ever Question and Answer Book about Nature, Science, and the World Around You; Catherine Ripley
  • What Makes a Rainbow? A Magic Ribbon Book; Betty Anne Schwartz
  • Dog Food; Saxton Freyman
  • Eco Babies Wear Green; Michelle Sinclair Coleman
  • The Tiny Seed; Eric Carle
  • All Around Us; Eric Carle
  • Growing Vegetable Soup; Lois Ehlert


Exploration Station

       Print any of the mini-books from our edHelper web site and take them with you outdoors. Pitch a small tent, spread out a cozy blanket, or lie in the cool grass while you enjoy the quiet time together, listening to sounds of nature as you read the books.


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