By Jim Ullrich, Wild Birds Unlimited of Gig Harbor
Summer is the perfect time to teach children about their natural surroundings and connect them with nature. Children are naturally curious and they love to explore and learn about the natural world. Parents will be amazed at the fun and adventure children can experience in their backyard, at their local park or on a summer camping trip.
Local backyard bird feeding and nature specialty store Wild Birds Unlimited of Gig Harbor recommends the following activities to help connect children with nature.
Put up a hummingbird feeder: Hummingbirds are one of the easiest birds to attract. By hanging a hummingbird feeder, you and your child can witness their aerial acrobatics. Hummingbirds can fly up, down, forward, backwards and sideways – and hover in midair. You can make nectar solution, using a four-part water to one-part plain table sugar recipe. Making the nectar and being responsible for filling the feeder can give your child a sense of achievement.
Make a nature bracelet: Using a wide roll of masking tape, make a loose fitting bracelet around your child’s wrist, sticky side out. Take a nature hike around your neighborhood, a local park or camp site. While on your hike, encourage adding flowers or flower petals, leaves or other natural items to the bracelet.
Go on a flashlight hike: Take a nature walk at dusk or after dark with a flashlight. Place the back end of a flashlight on your chin or nose and slowly shine it around on the ground, bushes and trees. Some insects’, animals’ and birds’ eyes are reflective, and you can find them in the dark by the eyes’ reflection. Can you find any spiders, flying squirrels, raccoons or owls?
Create a scavenger hunt: Pretend to be a bird detective, and encourage your children to look for birds in different locations and describe what they are doing. You can discover places that birds might live (holes in trees, an old nest in a bush and mud nests under bridges), seek out evidence of birds having been somewhere (look for egg shells, a fallen feather and tracks in the mud), and search out foods a bird might eat (bugs, insects and fruit). Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site, www.allaboutbirds.org, to help identify birds that you come across.
Play with the colors of nature. Stop by a home improvement or hardware store and select a few paint sample cards. Then on your next nature hike, share these with your children and encourage them to find colors in the natural world that match the colors on the card.
For more exciting ways to reconnect your children with nature, go to: http://www.wbu.com/pathwaysforkids/activities.html