Last night was a full moon night. The little one went in to our tiny balcony and back about 7 times, he then plonked himself on a sofa near the window to get a good view. Every few minutes he would get up to look out of the window. He was absolutely fascinated with the moon and its brightness.
Children are innately curious with what they see around – they laugh at the moon that follows us as we drive in the car, winking at the twinkling stars light years away, stare fascinated at the bright red flower that was only a bud yesterday but bloomed overnight while they were still asleep. They long for the rain and puddles and have no qualms with the blazing sun beating down their backs.
Living in Mumbai means space is a premium, we live in a tiny apartment in one of the higher floors where stepping into nature is not something that happens coincidentally. Fortunately, we live in a place that allows us access to open spaces within short walking distance from our home. We make the most of it but that is now, it wasn’t always like this, the constant hustle and bustle of our lives don’t factor in stopping to smell the roses.
We have consciously included nature in all our activities. Be it art or play we spend lots of time outdoors, we bring back treasures that are then used in play abundantly. Sensory experiences, textures and smells that nature offers cannot be equalled by any toy. I have seen my children develop attention to details and observation skills even I don’t command just by watching and playing outside. But we have been doing this for over a year and we also have access to the environment, although we started really small.
Our tryst with nature began quite accidentally –
The wonders of a sunrise / sunset – when our eldest was 3, he had to catch an early morning bus to school. He was not an early riser so this timing was a big challenge for him and us, that’s when we began our tradition of watching the sun rise, this seemed to ease his stress, he was so interested in this simple morning ritual that he would get ready only so he had time to see the sun rise before rushing to the bus. We also extended this to sun sets, 2 years later he still loves watching them.
Colours around us – lets do an exercise shall we? Go for a short walk around your house and pick up all things yellow that you can find. Chances are you have found a lot more than you bargained for, when you speak to your child about this the abundance of colours in nature they find the idea mind boggling. Who paints these flowers? Why are they yellow? How did the leaves become yellow? The questions are endless and so is the child engaged.
Feel how soft this leaf is Amma! – like I mentioned earlier we pick up a lot of natural articles to play with at home. Each time he picks something up my 5 year old is quick to observe how it feels in his hand. Soft, prickly, squishy, hard its all out there waiting to be experienced.
Its free – most times I feel like we undervalue things that come free. This environment is the best example. Everytime we go out to play the kids refuse to come back in, most kids love the outdoors, the wind, the air, the smells, just the feeling of being free appeals to them. And when we do come back in we bring a bit of the outdoors in with us to play with.
To know nature is to love and appreciate – our children don’t learn from being told, they learn from experience. When we go out and the wonder they feel with the environment, how the seasons change, how the birds call, how the flowers bloom is what makes them love it. What they love they will always cherish and respect. This to me would be the most high impact consequence of our nature play.
We are learning our trees, we met our mushrooms, we have watched the seasons change, we love every one of these. Nature for now is our best play space.