Almost five years ago, my husband Alan Bedell and I, were lucky enough to become a third set of grandparents to Shree Aytam, daughter of Phani Aytam and Sandeepa Sangras. Shree knows us as Mimi Dee and Papa Al.
I told Shree’s parents when Shree was just a baby that we couldn’t wait to take her on lots of nature outings and introduce her to many things in the natural world around her. And so we began the early lessons with nature toys and books in her first three years and walks the last two. Fortunately, Shree loves learning more about the nature around her so we don’t have to persuade her to come along on nature hikes with her parents and us. On the contrary, she usually ends up leading us and sometimes explains things she has seen on nature programs or in the reading she has done.
Nature Learning Tools
While I continue to explore nature books and resources to help with her education, I have found Mother Nature is often the best lesson planner. On our walks, Shree has discovered new birds in spring, flowers and plants in summer, acorns and leaves in fall, and snow treasures in winter. Her natural curiosity about nature keeps us hopping and learning to explain the treasures she finds and how they work in nature’s ecological cycle.
There are lots of online resources you can google for children learning about nature but one of my favorite series for children in the 4 to 8 range is the Backpack Explorer book series. Two of my favorites in the series are “Bird Watch” and “On the Nature Trail”.
Keeping track in a notebook or a small sack to collect items found on nature walks can also be helpful for following up on further learning at home about what Mother Nature shows us. Let your child or grandchild lead the way with Mother Nature as your lesson planner. You will likely learn something new in the process too.
Deanna Frautschi is a Master Naturalist who is passionate about connecting families with nature. Using her knowledge of wildlife and her photography skills, she helps others enjoy the nature around them. If you have any questions about exploring nature with your children and grandchildren, you may contact Deanna at Decardinal@aol.com. Join the hundreds who follow her on Facebook where she posts photographs and short video clips of birds and other wildlife taken on her travels as well as in her yard. You can also join her "Hummingbirds Anonymous" Facebook group page.
Story and photos by Deanna Frautschi.