Written by Sherrie Cook, Contributing Writer
Using “suburban” and “nature” in the same sentence may feel awkward for some of us.
Depending on the neighborhood you live in, it may be a task that appears completely daunting or even impossible. Between the ever-growing concrete sidewalks and asphalt roadways there is still beauty to be found. A simple, still, lovely wilderness set before us to explore and encourage our children to take note of as well.
If you are one of the millions of moms living in the suburbs, but longing to bring nature closer to your family, take heart. You are not alone. The masterpiece of God’s creation can be seen anywhere if we just pause long enough in the “now” of the day to take it in.
Polite Considerations & Stewardship
I’ve found that sometimes my children don’t grasp that land often belongs to someone else. They see grass and dirt and rocks and might not realize that it actually has an owner. For that reason, we discuss how to be mindful of other people’s things.
Flowers are a big temptation for my children! People in our neighborhood grace their mailboxes with beautiful flowers and it is a hard thing for my kids to resist the urge to pick mom a special bouquet.
Also, what child ever met a Dandelion that didn’t call his name? To keep from propagating weeds, I do allow them each to pick one Dandelion during the trip and carry it home to “spread”; we never, never “blow” the seeds into a neighbor’s yard. If we talk briefly before heading out about be respectful of other people’s things, we don’t have any trouble on our trip.
Additionally, before we leave the house, we review our safety rules. Then, I remind them that we are going on an adventure! We never know what treasures we might spy. And…not everything we see will be beautiful, but we won’t comment on those things. We will only focus on what is lovely. (We implemented this rule after my son announced to the neighbor standing in her front yard that he was happy to see she was planning a garage sale because she had a lot of junk!) *gulp*
Image by katrenshaw
Ready to Go
Make sure everyone has good walking shoes on and you might want to grab a bag or small basket to carry home any treasures you find. Don’t forget water bottles if it is a hot day.
- Start your walk leisurely. This is not an aerobic exercise. This nature walk should really be called a nature stroll. Chat with your children briefly about whatever they want to talk about to you. Think of this outing as a gift to them. A chance to open their minds and hearts and for everyone to enjoy the present moment.
- A couple of minutes into the walk catch your children off guard. (My kids love this!) Say, “Stop! Listen. (pause) What do you hear?” You can see their little minds churning as they strain to listen. Give each child an opportunity to share what they hear. When I first did this, I was so amazed at what my children shared. I expected the average train, cars, sirens, etc. But they, without my prodding, heard birds and insects and dogs barking. They heard children laughing and playing and when they listened really carefully they even heard the big dirt mover vehicles across the hill. (My boys especially loved this!) You can do this with their other senses, too, like smell, feel, see and even taste – though this one is a bit more challenging.
- Continue on your walk and bring things you find interesting to their attention. Flowers in bloom; the way the neighbor has planted a tree to give a swing set shade; the paths that dogs confined to a fenced area make from their frequent patrol patterns. Don’t forget to look up, too! The patterns in the sky created by distant airplanes are fascinating; the way the leaves on the trees turn upside down in high humidity; the contrast in colors from the sun’s rays.
- Keep walking. Chances are that at this point in the stroll your children will be actively bringing things to your attention. Take this opportunity to commend them for their keen observation skills. (Little kids love to be touted as successful detectives!) Talk about the blessing we have of being able to walk. Ask thought provoking questions like, “How would we have gotten to see these neat things if we didn’t have legs to carry us here?” Talk about the freedom we are blessed with to take a walk whenever we want.
- Don’t forget to really make the walk a unique learning and bonding experience by following up on the things you experienced together after the walk is finished.