Getting anywhere with our kids in tow is a slow, long winded affair, especially if we are walking, like we do 80% of the time. They stop at every leaf and every stick to ‘explore’ and that’s what kids do. They are present in the now, extraordinarily so, that means they observe, recognise and understand most, the things in their immediate environment.
Initially my kids would be running outside and come up to me and say, ‘Amma where are the acorns? Can we pick come pine cones?’ this was based on books they read or shows they watched in which the pretty outdoor pods or nuts were either acorns or pines. Unfortunately we didn’t find either of these or any of the other plant things they knew because these are not native to India. Fortunately we did find a lot of other beautiful pods, flowers, distinctly shaped leaves, and fruits or seeds, we didn’t know the names for most though.
Over the last couple of years we have learnt to identify a number of trees, plants, creepers and their parts, what they do in each season and when they best time to pick the beautiful pods etc is. Since there isn’t good readymade resources for nature study in India we had to do a lot of ‘red pod of tall green tree with leaves shaped like cones’ kind of random search terms to get what we wanted. Over time however we have found some good resources online (mostly) and offline (some) to be able to reference back when we do our walks and round up our nature picks for the day.
A few of our go to weblinks to identify flowers, birds, trees or vines include –
http://www.flowersofindia.net/index.html – this site captures most wild flowers, creepers, vines and other plant related information. It is quite difficult to navigate but you will find most answers here.
http://www.walkthroughindia.com/ – Although it’s not an exclusive nature related website, we have found a number of tree names and flowers from here.
http://www.birding.in/birds_of_india.htm – This has been our go to site for identifying Indian birds, especially because of the quality of pictures.
https://www.birdsofindia.org/home – this is more of a professional bird watcher crowdsourcing platform but does provide specifics around bird studies if you are looking for more than just general information about the birds you are watching.
These are our most often used resources to study nature. I have however for a long time been on the lookout for good books that focus on the great Indian Outdoors. Books that can help us identify which tree, bird, bug, flower or pod we have picked that day! You cannot imagine the joy of finding a beautiful flower and coming home to open a book and finding the name and what the flower means for children, it’s like magic happened.
My kids have been thrilled with these books because they can see so many things they recognise. https://www.dk.com/in/ ‘The Big Little Nature Book’ series is a good start to this. It complies 100 flowers, trees, bugs, birds and animals in India. Al though I wish more research had gone into getting picture samples of flowers, pods and leaves of each of the trees which would have made it more interesting for kids, as a beginner series it’s a great introductory book for children and adults.
The books are linked below so you can get them directly on Amazon –
100 Indian Bugs and Butterflies
One of our favourite naturalists especially because of his humour and way of storytelling is Rohan Chakravarty of http://www.greenhumour.com/ . We have his book ‘The Great Indian Nature Trail’ as part of our nature study resource as well. Other than the font which makes it a little hard for younger children to read, this is a great book that outlines habitats and the fauna that live there, especially if your kids like the comic strip format. For cool posters on Indian bugs, the Indian wild Safari cards, Vaishnavi of https://wildpaper.in/ is another super talented nature enthusiast creating resources specifically for kids.
As part of our nature study session I hope to start making some specific resources as well as link them here for anyone that might be interested too.
Hope you find this round up useful! Here’s to right now spotting the beautiful red berries of the Banyan and the green pods of the Peepal on the sides of our roads as we drive to the mall.
Look out for the yellowing leaves of the wild almond and the big red fruits. The leafless, tall branches of the red cotton silk tree with green pods hanging like christmas baubles.