“The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”
Robert Louis Stevenson captures the essence of childhood in this short verse. With a keen awareness of their environment, including an eye for detail, many children take in what adults often tune out. Once struck by the joy, they are self-motivated to discover more.
Now that the winter is bowing out to fairer weather, perhaps we can join in our children’s discoveries in welcoming spring. Here are some activities which promote springtime observation for the little ones in the family.
Bring in early shoots of pussy willow, forsythia, or other flowering fruit trees to open in the house. See if your youngster can discover what makes the shoots open indoors faster than if they stayed outdoors. This can lead on to other questions such as what do plants need besides warm temperatures?
Take frequent walks, whether in the woods, a park, or just around the block, to observe the subtle changes in nature. What plants and trees are among the first to bloom in spring? As the new leaves appear, learn to identify the telltale shape of the maple, oak, willow, sweet gum, etc. (depending on your location). If you find a cut tree stump, your child can discover how many years old the tree was when it was cut down by counting the circular rings on it.
The distance between the rings tells something about the stages of the tree’s growth and the climate of those years. Observe new growth on evergreens by looking for the lighter colors at the end of the branches. These nature walks provide an excellent opportunity for children to do the exploring which leads to discovery.
At home, your child might like to find a spot in the yard that gets at least a half day’s worth of sun and would be suitable for a small vegetable garden, a flower bed, or both. Aided by books from the library, children can plan their garden and perhaps start some seeds in flats indoors. Like other new activities, gardening gives children the chance to learn by experience new words such as evaporation, heliotropic, and mulching.
Identify the different birds returning in the spring, and listen to their songs. Children can offer the birds building materials for their nests by hanging pieces of string on a fence. And, of course, supplying birdseed and water will invite birds to your yard.
Finally, in between the spring showers, join your child in one of the most popular of all spring activities – go fly a kite.
Indeed “the world is so full” … it warms the heart as well as the spring. This is the time to encourage our youngster’s curiosity and watch it grow along with the