“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.
God’s world in the spring offers so many nature lessons for young children in listening, seeing, smelling and feeling. We will celebrate Arbor Day on April 30, Earth Day, today, on April 22 and the month of April is recognized as “National Garden Month.” Children love fresh air and nature and these celebrations engage children and families to interact with their environment.
One way we can teach young children to respect nature is to guide them in responsibilities of caring and nurturing nature. Even though we have had to cut down on community gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic, these three dates can be adopted into family celebrations.
Arbor Day is the time that we as families can plant new trees from sprigs or starter trees in our own yards, neighborhood, communities and towns. What a wonderful family project it is to watch a tree grow over time. You and your children can go to local stores and nurseries to purchase sprigs or starter trees cheaply.
In the early childhood classrooms, young students love to celebrate Arbor Day through crafts. Arm trees, hand trees, sponge-painted trees, leaf, bark rubbings and mini field trip findings of small branches, leaves, seeds can be displayed in a simple nature mosaic. Taking a “walking field trip” around the home, school and neighborhood provide opportunities for children to identify different trees by size, type and color of leaves, and different kinds of bark. You can discuss with your child how trees provide homes for different animals such as birds. These ideas can be adopted for families to do at home.
Today, April 22, is celebrated as International Earth Day. God created for us such a beautiful world to live in and enjoy through fellowship with our Creator. This is truly our Father’s World. How can we start teaching our young children to learn to take care of our earth? As a teacher of young children, I expose my students to nature through arts and crafts as well as hands-on science lessons. This is something that families can do during this time. Just walking outside in nature and familiarizing your child with natural qualities of leaves, grass, pine cones and rocks makes for good observation and science lessons. Collecting nature items and gluing them on a piece of paper or tagboard is a craft lesson in making a nature collage. This allows you to spend time with your young child by taking little nature walks as they feel the sunshine on their heads, the wind blowing against their little cheeks and feeling the thrill of water from falling rain.
Early childhood teachers are famous in teaching their young students the three R’s of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Someone else’s trash is truly a teacher’s treasure in arts and crafts.
Reduce — It’s important to stress to young children to be good stewards of what they have. Tell them to conserve energy by turning off lights. Gently remind them not to leave water running from indoor faucets or outside sprinklers. Use the front and the back of paper when drawing and don’t throw away that plastic bag that can be used again. Guide your young children to take good care of their box of crayons, markers and pencils.
Reuse — Many moms who have raised young children are familiar with reusing materials we already have. Instead of buying a lot of new materials for everyday uses, keep empty grocery bags and bread bags for storing items. Thoroughly wash out and sanitize empty gallon milk or orange juice jugs to be used again for another round of lemonade, apple juice and Kool-aid. Keep those toilet tissue and paper towel spools to be used for early childhood crafts at home and school. Keep empty shoe boxes to make dioramas or animal habitats. Use old newspapers for different purposes such as making kites, cutting out pictures or for packing. Children are thrilled to get a birthday present wrapped in comic newspapers. Outgrown toys and clothes can be used and enjoyed by others.
Recycle — With recycling, homes now have recycling bins to be carried out with the regular garbage. Train your child to throw cans, plastics, bottles and newspapers into the recycling bins so they won’t end up in landfills. These items can be used over and over again. When you stop by local fast food restaurants, point out to your child that brown napkins, bags, cups or cartons are made with recycled materials.
Last but not least, stress to your young child not to be “Litter Bugs” inside or outside. Get them in the habit of safely picking up trash when they see it. Have yard or neighborhood cleanups.
Let’s start digging in the soil to celebrate April as National Garden Month. Young children just love to dig. When taking young children out to play, we early childhood teachers take a package of wet wipes and paper towels out because we know our young students are going to explore God’s World by digging in the soil. Soil gets under their fingernails, but they are learning and having fun. So please include your young children in your planting projects.
Young children understand the simple explanation of photosynthesis. Explain to them that it takes soil, sun, water and seeds for plants to grow. Simple books or simple drawings can be used to explain how plants grow.
For Mother’s Day Projects (Mother’s Day in 2021 is on Sunday, May 9), I love to plant rye grass seeds in soil in cups or cartons because the rye grass grows so quick into a beautiful, luscious green grass. Young children get so excited when they see the grass grow up so quickly. Children love to decorate their cups, planters or cartons with love to their mothers and those they call mother.
Another classroom project that can be adopted by families in showing how seeds germinate and grow is to pick up large butterbean seeds. Use a small Ziploc bag, wet paper towel and tape. Tape the seeds inside the bag and put the paper towel to the back of the taped seeds. You and your child can tape the bag in a window where the sun shines in. Over a two week period your child can observe and see how the sprouts from the butterbean seed begin to grow. In this way a young child can understand how a seed that they plant in the soil grows sprouts and roots into the soil.
You and your child choose the kind of garden you want to plant. It may be out in the yard, in small pots or an indoor garden. Read carefully the directions on the seed packets to know how deep each seed needs to be planted. The seed packets will tell you when and where to plant and how much sunshine is needed, as well as how much water is needed. So many skills can be learned when you and your child plant a garden.
Seeds of time, love, understanding and patience can be shared and planted in a young child’s heart. From these seeds we plant into young children’s hearts blossoms a life of love and joy!
Classroom Observer, Beth Pinyerd