May 19 2021 3 Cool Ways to Explore Nature Together
Categories:Fun with Kids
Mindfulness is about being fully present, fully awake to where we are and what we are doing. If we can model mindfulness for our grandchildren in our encounters with nature, we will have given them the gift of a lifetime.
Nature in Your Hands
No matter what the setting—urban, suburban, or rural—you can always find a bit of nature to enjoy. If you live close to your grandchild, take a walk—in the park or in your own backyard. Pick up a rock, a stick, a flower, a feather and. . . .
- Hold the object in your hand or gently touch it.
- Look at it carefully from all angles.
- Identify two aspects of the item that you might not have noticed in the past, for example, the colors in a rock or the layers of bark on a branch.
- Ask yourself or your grandchild, “How did that rock or shell get here?”
- If you choose, create your own special blessing around the object(s) you found.
If you and your grandchild do not live close to one another, ask your grandchild to look for something in nature you can share via Zoom or Facetime. Share pictures or describe the objects over the phone.
Name That Plant
If your grandchild is an insatiable learner, there are wonderful apps that identify plants and animals. Google Images is a treasure trove.
- Take a walk outside and find a tree, shrub, or flower. Take a picture of it with your phone and see if you can identify it using a plant identification app or Google Images.
- Learn its common and scientific names and any other interesting information. Is it native to your area?
- Identify a few of the key characteristics of the plant (color, shape of leaves, smell, texture, etc.).
- Draw the plant or find a fallen leaf for a rubbing. (To do a rubbing, place the item on a plain sheet of paper. Cover it with another sheet of paper and rub the long side of a piece of chalk or crayon over the paper. Lift the paper to see the impression you’ve made.)
Make these nature walks a regular activity. Give your grandchild a sturdy notebook to record what you see. Glue the rubbings into the notebook or start a special album for them.
Bless the Bugs
Just as Judaism offers an abundance of blessings for food, there are a multitude of blessings for nature’s radiance and power: blessings for plants, rainbows, and oceans, as well as blessings for thunder, lightning, and hurricanes. The Torah reminds us that bugs, like all creatures, deserve our care and respect. We try to be mindful of the mitzvah of bal tashchit, “do not destroy,” in our encounters with nature.
- Go on a bug walk. One of the best places to look for bugs is under rocks. (Don’t handle bugs, which are delicate and some may bite.)
- Bring a magnifying glass and sketch pad and make a drawing.
- See if you can find larvae as well as adult bugs.
- Do an online search to learn if they’re good bugs (beneficial to gardens, for example, worms) or bad (destructive, for example, aphids).