« Reconnecting children to the richness of the real-world means, among other things, allowing them to reconnect with nature. They spend too much time at home, separated from nature, their eyes are often fixed on screens. Today, children are able to identify more than one million logos of different companies, but less than ten plants occurring in the area of their residence. We should help our children reconnect with nature because they are part of it and without the surrounding environment their survival would be impossible. Nowadays, it is essential for the young human being to grow up and understand our planet using sensory and intuitive approaches. As an adult one needs to know how to live and use natural resources in a respectful and sustainable way ».
Celine Alvarez – Child’s natural laws (Les lois naturelles de l’enfant)
My daughter is still too small to understand the mechanisms that control the change of seasons on Earth. However, as a two-year toddler she uses her senses to experience the small pleasures offered by each season. To do this, I try to draw her attention to natural phenomena of each season, such as the changes in temperature. I show her that we choose her clothes according to the temperature outside. She discovers fruit and vegetables we eat each season too, the different activities we do and the changes in environment during our various walks. It is her second spring and I share with you some activities that helped my daughter understand the characteristics of this season.
Selection of books celebrating spring
Books have always been an excellent support for discussing abstract notions with my daughter. Here are our favourites that we highly recommend:
Rotraut’s Spring Book (Le livre du printemps de Rotraut) by Susanne Berner. This is a beautiful picture book about spring. There is no text but thousand of images to discover and rediscover. There are stories to invent and so many opportunities to share a pleasant moment with your child. Throughout the book we move in a springtime landscape and we visit: a house, a farm, a train station and a shopping centre. The characters do the spring cleaning, the trees bloom, the birds come out of their nests, children play in the garden and Easter eggs hide in houses and shop windows. Recommended from 12 months.
First springs (Premiers printemps) by Anne Crausaz. In this book, we discover the simple pleasures nature offers us each season. Anne Crausaz invites children to use their five senses to appreciate the changes caused by different seasons: to smell the cherry trees in the spring and hear the blackbirds sing, crack the dead leaves in autumn… It is an invitation to listen to nature’s song, to be fully aware of what seasons bring us each year. Everything in the book is explained with gentleness, poetry and accompanied by beautiful illustrations. Recommended from 12 months.
My little docs – The garden (Mes p’tits docs – Le jardin). We love the My Little Docs collection by Editions Milan Jeunesse. These are board books on various topics (such as moving out, going to the doctor, kindergarten, travelling by plane etc.) and are suitable for young children. The text is simple and informative, and the book has beautiful illustrations. This one helps to approach the universe of gardening: the child discovers that there are gardens which one can modify and use to grow different plants. There are also gardens that one can visit and admire. We play in the garden, eat in the garden; we can take a nap in the garden. In short, we feel good in the garden! Each page allows you to talk about everything you find in a garden: fruit, vegetables, tools, insects… Recommended from 2 years.
Ten small seeds (Dix petites graines) by Ruth Brown: A must-have. This book helps to explain to children the topic of sowing seeds and planting. It invites us to discover the plant life cycle: the child sows ten seeds, then observes their germination and follows their misadventures (some buds will be torn off, unearthed by the small animals of the garden).
A collection of books by Kazuo Iwamura: We are great fans of this Japanese author and illustrator. There is something poetic in his stories, the illustrations are really beautiful and full of different details. In Kazuo Iwamura’s books we follow the adventures of a mouse family (three generations live under the same roof) or those of three squirrels (Nic, Nac and Noc) who live in contact with nature, help each other and enjoy life according to the rhythm of seasons.
For spring, we have:
- Hooray for spring (C’est déjà le printemps): The three squirrels wonder where the snow goes when it melts, and begin a great expedition that leads them to the water.
- Fu, Hana and the dandelions (Fû, Hana et les pissenlits)
- The dinner’s ready! (A table !): During their walk on a beautiful spring day, the three squirrels try to rescue a hungry chick. Excellent book to introduce children to the principle of food chain as well as the differences in diet between the species.
- The mouse family and the pumpkin (La famille souris et le potiron). The whole mouse family follows the growth of a pumpkin.
Let’s go gardening!
Who says spring, says bird songs and budding flowers. It is time to roll up your sleeves and get out your boots, rake, transplanter, pruner, and garden claw to take care of your garden. Ours is on the balcony, which we have transformed with the help of our daughter.
First, we went to choose our plants at the gardening centre.
Each member of our family chose the plants he or she wanted to grow on the balcony: herbs, flowers or vegetables. My daughter was extremely proud to be able to choose her own tomato and strawberry plants! We let her decide which plants she wanted to grow in order to make her responsible for something.
Back home it was time for planting! I prepared the activity in advance and installed all the necessary equipment within my daughter’s reach: pots, potting mix, plants, garden tools such as transplanter, rake, watering can – all adapted for little children of course! My daughter immensely enjoyed this gardening activity. She loved touching the soil, transferring it from the bag to the pot, mixing it, and feeling the smell of it. She breathed the perfume of the flowers and handled the seeds and bulbs. She had fun doing the same things as Dad and Mum (she is currently in her imitation phase).
Once we finished planting, a special routine has been set up concerning watering the plants.
Indeed, gardening is not only about planting, it is also about watering plants and taking care of them. We explained to our daughter that water is an essential element of life, no living organism is able to survive without it. Like her, plants need to « drink » water to grow and flourish. It is with real enthusiasm that she followed her father in the watering activity. Such activities develop self-confidence in children (because they take care of living organisms) and willingness to protect the environment. This permits to carry out precise actions and develop executive skills. Moreover, these actions are more predictive than IQ (if you want to know more about this notion, please read this excellent article by Celine Alvarez).
We finally took advantage of this period to enrich my daughter’s gardening vocabulary using Montessori cards.
We offered her « My Montessori garden box » by Ève Herrmann and Emmanuelle Tchoukriel (Nathan Editions).
The box includes:
• 120 identification cards containing 4 sets of classified images
• 2 packets of organic Vilmorin seeds: basil and zucchini
• A 32-page booklet about gardening and instruction how to use the material
This box can be used at different ages and it follows your child’s development. It is initially used like a picture book, first to enrich the child’s vocabulary and later as a support to prepare him or her for reading. Given the age of my daughter, we only work with the plain cards (with no writing on them). We have added to this box several cards with garden tools.
Enjoy walking and discover the surrounding fauna and flora
If there is one thing that my daughter really loves, it is walking outside. We transform our walks in the botanical garden or in the forest into exploring games.
- Here are our favourite activities:
identifying trees by their leaves. To play this game we use a picture book called « My picture book: discovering trees » by Editions De la Martinière Jeunesse.
- recognizing insects and birds, and listening to birds’ songs
- taking the time to smell different flowers and enjoy their scent
- touching the moss, removing the bark from a tree trunk and having a pleasant surprise to discover that it is the place of life of some insects
- picking up some objects that my daughter brings home. Most of the time they are pine cones, dandelion flowers, daisies, tree barks or acorns.
As you can see, these are very simple things, but new and fun for a two-year old girl. We see pride on our child’s face. She is proud to be responsible for her plants and to have the same tools as Mum and Dad. Our daughter was so happy being able to help us in this important activity of gardening. My little girl was so pleased to see her strawberry plant produce fruit (at the moment she cannot pick them up because they are not ripe enough). As a parent, I also feel very proud because those shared moments with my daughter greatly boost our wellbeing! I finish this blog post by sharing an article from a serious French newspaper « Le Monde ». The article begins with this statement: « Screens, overloaded schedule, fear of insecurity… everything holds the new generation inside. A worrying finding as playing outside is essential to human development ».
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