Chances are if you ask your child to draw a tree, this is the kind of thing you're gonna get. Am I right? Ok ok... I know you're child is Picasso - so is mine but - if I'm honest with you and myself - when she draws a tree - she draws something along these lines.
Now, in truth, this isn't the full picture of a tree is it? If we think about it for more than a moment, this is only half the picture! A whole network of beautiful roots underground gets completely ignored when we try to depict a tree. I don't think I realized how this so strikingly until I visited Cambodia many years ago - before children. Suddenly, I was able to see the full power and impact of tree roots at the Ta Prohm temples. Here is an image I took of a small doorway overtaken by roots. Enchanting huh?
Want to share the enchantment with your little observer? Try this simple nature journal entry:
1. Settle in near your favourite tree.
If you have one you visit regularly that has become "your" tree - lay out a blanket near it. Otherwise, just choose a tree that feels right! Next, walk several meters away and survey the tree from a distance. What do you see? Leaves, branches, needles, a trunk? Next, examine the tree up close - perhaps some roots are even visible above the ground! Explain to your little observer that trees have a whole network of roots below the ground that we can't see. That's how the tree drinks and eats!
Fall is the time to get cozy with little ones with a cup of something warm, a blanket and a good read aloud. Right now, I target my read alouds to my daughter's age (she's 6) but usually my toddler will listen in for a bit off and on and many of these books could work for preschool-aged children too. You're the best judge of what will keep your child listening at story time but occasionally introducing and trying a few pages of a chapter book can never hurt. My daughter tends to love books with maps in them so last year Milly Molly Mandy was a hit and so was My Father's Dragon among others. This fall, we're trying something a little bit different! Here is our reading list month by month!
September: Basil of Baker Street
I know! It's not just a movie! I was as surprised as you are. Just re-published this summer - this book is the first in a series of books that make up the "crumbs and clues" collection. The collection includes 5 of the books that were originally published in the 1950s about a detective mouse who is inspired by the real Sherlock Holmes! (If this is too advanced for your little one - try out the same author's "Anatole" series that we read last year about a mouse living in Paris. eek! too cute.)
It's funny how all the talk of gardening with little ones tapers out almost completely at this time of year. It isn't until children are carving their pumpkins in late October that any of us really appreciate the value of time spent in the garden with our little ones as summer transitions into fall. Not to get too overly existential here but there is a circle of life that happens in the garden and while we are excited to teach our little ones about planting seeds and watching life form - we forget that there are also valuable lessons to be learned as life matures and the garden goes to sleep for another year. Here are 3 Life Lessons we can share with our kids during Harvest Time:
1. The Fruits of their Labour
"So. Remember all that work you did to plant, water and weed the soil for this little seed? Voila! Here are the fruits (or veggies) of your labour... literally!" What better life lesson could we share with our children than to teach them that when they tend something with love and care it comes back to them one hundred fold and in such magical ways?
2. Cycle of Life
Life is part of a cycle. We must have a balance between the energy and vibrance of spring and the rest and cozy periods of fall moving into winter slumber. Plants and animals understand this instinctively and so do our children! Watch as neighbours chop wood and don sweaters. Maybe leave one vegetable to rot in the garden to enrich the soil and as an example of how all living things make up part of this wonderful circle we call life. Visit it regularly and observe the process as it goes back into the earth with all its seeds. Check in the spring to see if it comes up again as a brand new plant!
3. Preserving and Cooking
Make a big batch of soup with your little one either with the harvest from your own garden or from a local veggie patch! Allow him to select the spices to season the soup, and to be part of all the steps from picking, chopping, simmering and maybe even pureeing! Cooking and preserving are both excellent life lessons for little ones especially little boys!
All this talk of cooking has me hankering after a smooth butternut squash soup! You? What other life lessons does gardening teach our little ones? Please share what you have learned in the garden this season with your own kids!