Nature Therapy for Stressful Times
Lots of people are taking kids on walks around the lake and along the creek. Being a nature lover, and amateur nature therapist, I created a list of questions for parents and caregivers to ask children of any age (I still ask myself these questions, and I am 53!) to engage in connection with nature. Based on naturalist Rachel Carson's book Sense of Wonder, the questions are meant to engage the senses and enhance connection, and not to teach, label, classify, codify, or count nature. These questions are to open up awareness, discussion, and more questions. Learning will happen on a very deep level--no homework or quizzes necessary.
Don't overwhelm kids; lots of walks in your near future means you can ask a couple or few questions a day, and see what comes up.
It might be nice to follow up with art supplies when you return home and just see what unfolds.
How does the air feel today? Can you guess what the clouds, moving air, temperature say about what the weather may be like later today or tomorrow?
What trees have buds on them? Do you guess they will become leaves, or flowers? Do all the trees that look like that tree have buds? Which trees look like they are still enjoying winter?
What is the furthest tree you can see from where you’re standing? What kind of tree is it? Do you think it’s the tallest tree, or maybe it’s up on a hill?
What’s the tallest tree next to you? The biggest tree? Are they the same? What creatures do you think live in the tree? In its branches? In the trunk? Under the tree, in its roots system?
Can you see the different kinds of bushes? Although they are not green, what colors are they? Are they smooth looking, or spiky? Why do you guess they are spiky like that? What other shapes do you see in the bushes? Which ones are big, or small? How do they feel? Do you think they will get leaves or flowers soon? How can you tell?
Hear the birds? How many different bird sounds do you hear? Can you imitate one? Does it sound like a large bird or a tiny bird? How big do you guess it is? Do you think it is a kind of bird that lives in a small family, or stays in a large flock? Look up into the trees -- can you guess which bird is making which sound?
What other animals do you hear? Does the sound they make sound happy and joyful, informational, or like a warning? What do you guess it is trying to say?
Where do you guess animals might be hiding from people and their dogs? What animals? Do you think they are nocturnal or diurnal? What do you guess they are doing right now?
What shapes do you see the water making? How does it look different over a rock, in the deepest part of the water, or the shallow part? How does a stick affect the shape of the water? Can you tell where there was water yesterday that isn’t there today? Can you see where there is more water today, where maybe there wasn’t as much yesterday? How can you tell? What do you think affects the way the water changes like that?
Do you see any tracks in the mud? Who do you think made those tracks?
Can you see anything swimming on top of or under the water? What other creatures might be swimming there? What about in the deeper parts that you can’t see? What do you guess is under there? Do you see signs of other creatures? Water plants?
Some of the grass is turning green. What other plants are starting to turn green? Where is there more or less green? What looks different today than on our walk yesterday or 3 days ago?
Do you see scat (poop!) on the trail? What kind of animal do you think made that? How can you tell? Can you see what they might have been eating?
If you are up high, on the hill, what can you see below? Can you guess where the river might be? Can you find where the lake might be? How can you tell?
*Without judgment about right or wrong, good or bad* can you see evidence of people? Do you think the evidence is new, or has been there a long time? How can you tell? What do you think the person was feeling or thinking when they put that there? This is an important piece of becoming one with nature; understanding that we *are* nature, we are a valuable part of the ecosystem and not separate. This deepens the connection. We are not good or bad for the planet, we are part of her.