Friends, today, I’m sharing with you more than just a blog post or an article. Through these 5o+ thought-provoking ideas and 32 pictures, I share with you the secrets to my lasting pleasures. The pleasure that comes with my curious interaction with the natural world.
This earnest joy, I always strive to share with my family and especially with Pari. For it is by exploring and appreciating the mysteries of our nature and mother earth and by developing a love for it – early on – that our children will experience pure bliss of the mind, heart and soul.
And, they will cherish their childhood and go on to love life with a passion that does not come by being surrounded with the artificial world all the time.
Sunday – April 22 – was Earth Day. I had meant to do a few posts last week focusing on ‘kids and nature’ – a series that I started a week back. But unfortunately, I could not write anything on the blog the whole of past week due to a small surgery on my arm. (nothing to worry friends; I’m fine now).
The truth is – more or less – every being longs for nature.
More so kids. They may not crave it like they crave chocolates or toys. It’s sad that they may go on living without even implicitly understanding the lack of nature in their lives. But, this deficiency might go on to impact them in the short and the long term, which we adults may never realize. We may look for the reasons in all the wrong areas and factors.
When, in reality, the effect of nature (or the lack of it) on the young mind and health is intense and immediate.
Nature opens up opportunities for free play for children like no other medium can. And, it’s the free play or the unstructured play without adult intervention that’s the most enriching experience for children. The elements of nature not just soothe them, they also bring out their imagination and creativity in more ways than an artificial setting ever can.
This article is an insightful read on why children’s outdoor play and learning spaces need radical rethinking. It advocates designing them in a way that the spaces encourage stimulating engagement with nature. I can’t agree more! ‘Let the Children Play’ is by far my favourite play-based blog that tirelessly advocates adding natural elements in children’s playscape.
In the book called – ‘Last Child in the Woods‘, child advocacy expert Richard Louv, directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s generation with some of the most disturbing childhod traits. He calls it – ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’.
Speaking from experience, one very important learning I’d like to share with you…
To go out with your children for a nature walk or a nature study, one doesn’t need to be an expert by any means. Far from it, it’s much more beautiful and enjoyable when the parent and the kids are learning together – in spontaneous, unstructured ways or sometimes by prior planning.
I, for one, am always learning along side Pari.
There are trees and birds and blooms that I cannot identify. There are sounds that I can’t recognize. I turn to Pari to take note of it so we can get home and google or find out by referring to a book.
So, I’m far away right now from being an expert guide on nature.
But, I AM something else that’s very very relevant in this whole experience
Which is – I bring along with myself a keen sense of wonder! When I’m with Pari on our nature walks – be it in the woods or merely gazing at trees and birds from our balcony – I am wonder personified. I can’t help. My curiosity is infinite. I get awe-struck at anything and everything in nature (and outside its realm, too!) And, I think my curiosity is my most powerful creative tool.
I whole-heartedly agree with what Rachel Carson wrote in her award-winning classic – The Sense of Wonder:
“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”
So, here are my 50 heartfelt thoughts on how to enjoy nature spontaneously – using all five senses.
I’ve included a number of pictures to make the reading more visual and transport you to the natural world.
I think there’s no barrier of age to enjoy and be healed by nature. No matter how old your child – 6 years or 6 months – he/she will accept the world of nature – intrinsically. The key is to sharing and enjoying together rather than we setting out to ‘teach’.
Whether you’re out in the woods for a nature walk early morning, taking a walk in the neighbourhood, playing on the beach, lounging in your backyard early evening, or sitting in the balcony, porch or on the terrace late evening – doing nothing – you can soak up some nature in the simplest – and most spontaneous – of ways. Ways that are not going to cost a thing. They will only need your wholehearted engagement and …?
Yes, you got it – a keen sense of wonder.
1. Get up at the crack of dawn. Early rising need not be a habit. But, pick a day when you want to savour the light, colours, smells and sounds of the twilight – with your child.
This experience for a child with his/her parent comes with infinite joy and awe. You never know – the hues of the early morning sky might even inspire you to paint!
2. The birds sing the loudest in the crystal clear early morning air. I wonder why they prefer this time. Have you tried calling the birds?
Don’t be surprised, we actually can call them and invite them to come close to us. Certain sounds make them curious and they may allow themselves to come in our vicinity. This video shows how to do a bird call. Doing this is FUN!
3. Then walk into the woods. The toadstools make a pretty picture, don’t they?
4. Count the trees!
I’ve read that Christopher (Robin) Milne, whose father wrote the Winnie-the-Pooh story books for him had said, when he was a kid, his father would drive him down to the woods every summer for two months – “just to count the trees”! Classy example of doing nothing and just being….!
5. Climb the trees…
This old-fashioned play can never be dated! It can keep entertaining children from one generation to another for the no-holds-barred fun, thrill and challenge that it offers. Not to mention – the connection with nature.
6. Swing from a branch
It’s primitive! It takes us back to our origins as homo sapiens! No wonder it’s thrilling!
7. Observe the tree bark; its colour, texture
8. Oh – and the hollows of the trees! Don’t forget to survey them
They are often a treasure trove for the adventure seeker. Bugs, insects, nuts, eggs – even birds – never underestimate the surprise…
9. Collect fallen leaves, admire their hues, textures, shapes…
10. Collect fallen fruits, acorns, pinecones.
Take them home and make a five senses nature tray
11. Watch the squirrels scurry up and down the tree taking their eatables along…
12. Look out for the ants. You might find them gorging on a dead moth!
13. Listen to the birds making music overhead. Can you identify them by their sound?
14. When looking up, linger a while. Can you see a beehive? A nest, may be? You never know!
Or, a ripe fruit about to fall? It’s mango season out here. I’m reminded of those days when I aimed pebbles at a plump mango hanging from that huge, shady tree in my school campus!
15. Follow the winged friends in flight
If you have a camera, try capturing this fleeting moment. It’s challenging but exciting. Their flight through the vast expanse remind how priceless is freedom…
16. Go hiking up the hills. Come down rolling!
17. Admire the birds enjoying water
18. Don’t leave in a hurry! You might get to enjoy some of their antics…
19. When you get back home, make a bird feeder to invite birds from your neighbourhood to a sumptuous lunch!
20. Slosh your feet in muddy water if it’s a rainy day.
Or simply dig up a drain in a sand pit and enjoy the glorious mess!
21. Spot the fishes wriggle and twirl so swiftly. Notice how they huddle together.
I wonder if their heads collide. Or, if there is ever a stampede under water!
22. Smell the distinct scent of the greens and the aroma of the first rain on the parched land
Our sense of smell has the power to establish memories and trigger emotions.
23. Feel the rain on your face.
You’ll be tempted to leave your mouth parted! Drink the nectar drop by drop.
24. Hear it drum on the window pane.
Tap your fingers to match its rhythm..
25. Watch the birds in the rain. Note how they sit quiet and still – their feathers doused and dripping
You might get tempted to go out of the house and get drenched. Don’t hesitate…
26. Imagine shapes in the moving clouds. You never know what you might picture!
27. Now that you’ve seen the big picture – the clouds, the rain, the trees – get up close and personal and discover the fine print! Grab a magnifying lens and poke your nose closer
Do you get snow where you live? Then, explore snowflakes and discover their fascinating structure. Look closer into the mosses and you’ll find hundreds of living creatures that look the size of predators! A magnifying lens brings nature closer in such incredible ways!
28. Observe the reflections in water – reflections of trees, clouds, moon, flying birds! Oh, and your own
29. Sit by the water quietly to spot a frog or a toad.
What might it be thinking? Or, saying? Can you weave a story around it?
30. Why stop at just one frog. Go frog hunting.
Is it single? Or, in pair? – as it’s often seen during spring.
31. Sit for hours gazing at this intense mystery of nature – the ocean
Listen to the waves crashing on the shore; the sands washing away; the shells as they clang against each other and unravel the secret within their souls with a song on their lips…
32. Let the uproarious sea-wind soar your spirit
Yeah, it more than just whistles. It sings the loudest songs and makes the waves dance with sprightly passion. The sight makes my heart skip a beat. Always!
33. Notice how your shadow dances on the shore
Is it long, short, bulging, lanky, wavy?
34. The child’s impressions on the wet sand are much to be curious about!
Encourage him/her to observe how deep are they, which will tell how heavy or light are they compared to the adults’
35. Feel the waves massage your feet; the sands gliding under your feet; pulling them inward
36. When you go back home, create some music with water! Yes, it’s gallons of fun – literally!
37. But hey, Don’t leave yet. Wait for the setting sun to paint the horizon in myriad hues of red, orange, saffron, purple.
If this sight is not sheer poetry, what is? Talking about poetry, I think there must be a gazillion poems written about the ocean! And yet, it’s an enigma…
38. Look for the migrating birds in the painted sky
The geese as they set upon their journey forming a ‘V’ (for victory?) is a sight that makes me nostalgic each time. Have you seen the movie – ‘Fly Away Home’ ? It’s heartwarming!
The sea-gulls – how they make the majestic ocean look poetic and poignant!
39. I’m sure you’ve collected shells every time you’ve gone to the beach or have gathered rocks by a river side. Isn’t it so therapeutic?
Makes you go – aaah and oooh each time you find one with a unique colour, shape or texture. I can go on doing this activity day-long and into the sunset and then the very next day…
40. Next time you go to a stream, try poring through the shallow water to explore life beneath
Water weed, mosses, lichen, tadpoles, snakes – the possibilities are vast. And, intriguing
41. Water IS an enigma! And, the best mode of play. Today, give a break to the bathroom.
Instead, get a shower in the backyard or in a park – with the sprinkler. We did that. The delight your child will feel is unfathomable (see the second pic from top)!
42. Talking about a shower, having one under a waterfall can be the most exhilarating experience
Drive a little away from your city to look for one. In the rainy season, even the smallest waterfall can come alive. The chilly, breezy outburst will make you go wild with ecstasy. Every person – no matter child or adult – must experience this joyous rapture of being out there – exposed to raw and naive nature
43. Marvel at the mystery of the night sky.
Imagine the stars communicating with you as they illuminate the celestial space
44. If you have a binocular, on a clear night, the thrill of seeing a star from close quarters is beyond words!
Never mind that you can’t identify its name. Let that not bother you. Just the notion of getting close to this far away astral beauty is an ethereal experience!
45. What do you see in the moon?
As a child I often pictured a chariot driven by number of horses. Each time I fabricated a new story with the cart and the moon!
46. Listen to the sounds outside in the dark hour. You’ll notice they are distinct from the day-time sounds.
It’s also a time when you feel closer to the cosmic space. You might feel transported to one of the heavenly bodies…
47. The dark hour is also a time to use your sense of hearing to its best effect.
The birds are silent now but the insects are having a musical party. Their chorus is worth listening to – one voice at a time.
48. The next day, early morning, you might want to look for dew drops on the flowers and leaves in your backyard or in the neighborhood.
Their softness will tinkle the senses in your finger tips!
49. Nature has a great sense of colour and style! I can’t help but admire the colour matching that goes on in the natural world.
The term is camouflage but it looks fashionable, too! Keep an eye out for such colour and pattern matching games!
50. Don’t over-schedule your child. Take the time to observe and absorb
Slow down and tune up to nature’s rhythm. Rejuvenate your soul. Keep alive the child’s most precious gift – his/her sense of wonder!
This time spent together in each other’s company – in the most natural setting – also does wonders to the bond we share as a family, besides the life-long bond that we create with nature.
At # 51, I’ll leave you with these words that stirred my heart and soul!
Quoting once again from the book – ‘The Sense of Wonder’ – that I’m currently reading and loving!
“What is the value of preserving and strengthening this sense of awe and wonder, this recognition of something beyond the boundaries of the human existence?
Is the exploration of the natural world just a pleasant way to pass the golden hours of childhood or is there something deeper?
I’m sure there is something much deeper, something lasting and significant. Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
How do you renew your own delight?
What gives your soul infinite joy?