Note from Kristy at Prairie North:
Welcome to our series of environmental & sustainability education posts for kids: Budding Adventures. This series is by our dear friend Amy Porter who has extensive experience in early childhood education and a deep love of caring for the environment. If you’d like any ideas for specific activities to do with kids, leave us a comment with your suggestions below!
Hello friend! My name is Amy and I’m a queer mother of two with a passion for education. I have a total of ten years of experience under my belt, teaching ages 0-18, and along the way, I have developed a passion for early childhood education.
Before COVID arrived and prior to discovering our son’s critical heart defect, I was accepted to complete a master’s program with the University of British Columbia focusing on how to teach environmental sustainability to the youngest members of our society. While this goal has been put on hold until some semblance of normalcy returns to the world, I continue to read research papers and experiment with my own children in hopes that I can help them create lasting brain synapses where caring for the environment is a part of who they are rather than something they have to constantly focus on doing.
My hope is that I can assist you, dear reader, in finding meaningful ways for you and your family to engage with the outdoors.
So, let’s get started!
The easiest way to do this is to simply get outside, but before you head out, here is something to consider. Is this outside time for you, or for your child?
My four-year-old is the slowest human possibly to have ever graced this earth, and while this trait certainly does test my patience, it is also the reason why she appreciates nature as much as she does. She takes the time to appreciate the world around her, bringing all of her senses to exploring nature, and I think that this is an excellent place for families to start digging into environmental appreciation – the senses.
Engage with the Environment: Child-Centric Walk
A Child-Centric Walk
- Plastic bag
- Bug catcher
Going for child-centric walks takes time – a lot of time – so make sure that you leave yourself lots of it so that your child can go as quickly or as slowly as they would like. For children who are able to walk, let them lead the way as much as possible, or when you get to an intersection, ask them which way they would like to go. These small decisions will empower them and help them build connections as to who and where they are in their communities.
Here are some guiding questions to think about on your walk:
- What do you smell?
Flowers, fire pits, skunks, laundry, BBQ, stinky sewers, mowed grass, rain? Take the time to stop, notice, and name what it is that you smell. Even for infants, taking the time to stop and smell the flowers helps to build their connection to nature.
- What do you see?
Airplanes, bunnies, insects, flowers, colours, plants, leaves waving in the wind, kites, pets, other children/families? Let your child try to capture that ant, even if it means you only went three feet from your house. If that’s what is amazing to them right now, be amazed with them. Try catching one to put in a bug catcher (we do catch and release) so that they can get a close up view. You can find a cheap bug catcher at the dollar store, or a cleaned out plastic container with holes poked through the roof would also suffice.
- What do you hear?
Cars passing by, birds chirping, dogs barking, ambulance sirens, trees rustling, bees buzzing? The sound of a helicopter always stops us in our tracks.
- What can you touch?
Prickly conifers, soft flower petals, squishing fallen berries, splashing in puddles, smooth rocks, picking up sticks, leaves, or pine cones? We often collect many of these items, thus the plastic bag. My four-year-old loves to collect rocks and pebbles and if I don’t bring a bag, my pockets tend to get filled instead.
- What can you taste?
It is important to note here that for this sense, it is important that you, as a parent, are 100% confident that the item you are picking is safe and edible for your child. For our family, if we can reach something edible from the sidewalk, we respectfully take a taste and continue on our way. Apples, cherries, herbs, saskatoons, raspberries, strawberries, pears? There’s this really cool map of edible fruit trees around Edmonton that you and your family can check out.
So get out there, folx! Unplug from your playlists and explore your surroundings with your child(ren) in mind. Point out all of the things you find together and maybe, just maybe, you might notice something you haven’t before.