One of my favorite 8-year-olds and I were recently wandering a winter garden when she picked up a white and grey Mockingbird feather. 

In magic wand fashion she waved it back and forth, then used it to feel the wind on her cheek.Her eyelids dipped and a gentle smile brightened her face. As she bent down to place it back on the ground I said: “that would be a good one to bring inside and put on a nature table.”  Her eyes fell to the feather, now on the ground and she replied: “Mom doesn’t let me bring dirty things in the house.

Nature offers our children a plethora of simple but effective ways to grow their neurological synchrony. Something as simple as a feather offers our sensory systems opportunity to engage and develop. Fostering a child’s development by connecting with nature doesn’t have to be a grand gesture like a backpacking trip to the hinterlands!

In fact, a child’s daily connection through tiny but consistent interaction is far more supportive of their development than one grand gesture saved for summer vacation.  

So how can you, as an adult, facilitate developmentally connected opportunities on a daily basis and during this holiday season?

Focus on your language

Words have power and when a child hears that something is dirty or gross, it closes the door for that child to further connect. Humans have been living immersed in the “dirtiness” of nature for millions of years.  Our biome is made up of this apparent dirtiness! Notice the words you choose to reference nature and see if there is a way you can make even a small shift to highlight the positive aspect of a “dirty” feather or stone. Something like: “let’s see what that feather does when we wash it like the birds in the birdbath!” Then you have a clean feather, and the child has a positive association!  

Historically this time of year was one in which people held space for nature to return to their lives. They recognized that (in the Northern Hemisphere) the days were getting shorter, they honored the land for what it offered, they paid attention to the activities of the birds and animals looking for signs of impending weather, and they trusted into the return of the light.

These opportunities to be more connected with those historical activities still exist.  But we need to give them even just a little bit of attention.

Create a nature table

Bringing things from nature into the home and creating a special place to put them like a nature table does 3 things:

  1. It gives children (and others) the message that nature matters.
  2. It provokes greater curiosity when outside. Children will have a reason to pay attention to what is around them.
  3. It stimulates conversations about nature.

I’d love to see how you and your child are connecting with nature this holiday season! Send pictures of your nature table to us at [email protected] or tag a picture with the hashtag #rxoutside on Facebook and Instagram!

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