Slow Living

SlowMama in 2014

January 13, 2014

Snail About to Jump

All the talk of New Year’s resolutions lately got me thinking about some resolutions for this little blog. Sometimes I find myself surprised that it’s still alive and well, given what my life has been like the past two years, but here we are! I’m excited about what’s in store for SlowMama in 2014, and I wanted to share some of it with you, as well as ask for your input…

Of course, much will remain the same: I still plan to show up here at least three or four times a week with posts on the usual lifestyle and parenting topics. (I do reserve the right to skip a day or two every so often, to help preserve my sanity.) My regular contributors — Margaret Cabaniss and Ann Waterman — will also be here; they always bring so much to the table with their skill, creativity, and reflections, and I’m glad to have them. I’ll continue to have guest contributors stop by occasionally, too.

I feel like it’s time to freshen things up a bit, though, so you can expect a few changes this year. The first is a site redesign — nothing too drastic, but something that enhances what I’m trying to do here and makes our content more accessible. I’m not promising a date, but I really hope to launch it this quarter.

I’ve got a couple of projects in the works that I’m not ready to talk about quite yet, but I look forward to getting to a place where I can share them. I also want write about some topics that I haven’t addressed as much I’d like: aging, style and beauty, health and diet, homeschooling, multicultural education, and more. I’m also considering a new series or two, and here’s where you come in…

More than anything, I want SlowMama to be a global community of people who care about living well in a fast-paced, busy world — so I’d really like to know what would help you live better. Are there are topics you want to read about here, issues you’d like addressed, information or inspiration you could use? If you’ve got a few minutes, here’s a short survey I’d love you to answer in the comments:

  1. What do you enjoy most about SlowMama?
  2. What would improve your experience here?
  3. What kind of information would most help you in your life right now?
  4. What currently interests or inspires you?
  5. What social network platforms are you most active on — Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Instagram? Others? None?
  6. Are you a parent, a non-parent, a working mom, a stay-at-home mom, etc., and what part of the country or world do you call home?

Even if you don’t tend to comment on blogs, if you like SlowMama, I’d love to hear from you. (If you’re still just too comment-shy, feel free to email me your feedback.) Here’s to a great 2014 here at SlowMama!

Image: via Pinterest, source unknown

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Beating the January Blues

January 6, 2014

January Scene

While I always love the fresh start a new year brings, January has been a hard month for me since I became a mom — and I’m really feeling it this year. Our Christmas vacation was lovely, but not long enough. Just as I was beginning to think I might get to my list of “stuff I want to do while I have some extra time over Christmas,” that time was gone. And the extra days together as a family, with no school to think about and fewer work-related commitments, are hard to say goodbye to. Yesterday I realized I needed a concrete plan for addressing my January blues.

Although it doesn’t sound very inspiring, the first thing I’m doing this week is making sure I have what I need to be organized. I’m trying to manage so many details every day right now and feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. Keeping it on paper (or gadgets) declutters my mind, and that goes a long way.

I have a few celebrations to look forward to this month, including B’s birthday and a small party for a friend. Planning for special events like these will lift my spirits as I get back to the regular routine. I’ve also got exciting longer-term goals and plans for 2014, and I know that reminding myself of these and working on them step by step will motivate me.

January is also good time for a little pampering. While it’s hard to imagine adding anything else to my schedule right now, I’m going to commit to something that feels a little decadent: an aromatherapy bath by candlelight one night, a pedicure or facial or massage…

The last part of my plan is to sit myself down, take a deep breath, and refocus my attitude. I want to be grateful — I have so much to be grateful for! I want to be hopeful. I want to be excited about what this new year will bring.

Amazing how just writing this down in a post was helpful. What about you, friends? Are you feeling the January blues? Do you have a strategy for overcoming it? I’d love to hear!

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Traveling by Train

December 23, 2013

Steam Engine Train in Germany

If you’re traveling this week to see loved ones for the holidays, are you going by plane, train, bus, or automobile? (Or bicycle or boat?) If I had my druthers, I’d always choose a train. (Unless I were going somewhere far, and in that case I would choose that beam-me-up-Scotty machine from Star Trek that I’m still waiting for someone to invent so I don’t have to fly.)

I’m such a big fan of trains that one of my fantasy jobs is taking over Amtrak and whipping it into shape so this country can have a proper train service. There’s something about traveling by locomotive that can’t be beat… I’ve had some of my best creative ideas while riding trains, and I’ve met the most interesting people. Once I went all the way to New Orleans from Washington, D.C., and paid for sleeping accommodations. I thought it was the coolest: There were linens in the dining car, polite service, and chocolates on my pillow. I had lunch with an aspiring musician and dinner with an astute Louisiana businessman. I shared tea with a novelist and sipped evening cocktails with a motley crew who otherwise would have never cross each other’s paths, save for their common interest in traveling long-distance by rail. For some reason, trains allow for conversations that you can’t really have on other forms of transportation, at least in my experience.

Given all this, it looks like I should consider moving to Britain: A recent piece in The Economist reports that Britain has 108 steam railways — who knew? — and they’re extremely popular:

In 2011 they carried 7.1m passengers—25% more than four years earlier. Passenger trips on boring ordinary railways went up by 20% in the same period. Some heritage railways are little more than a few men in overalls tinkering with locomotives. But most are semi-professional, backed by trusts and staffed by volunteers. Some 18,500 people volunteer on steam railways, and the number is rising.

Interesting, huh? Frankly, I’ll take any kind of train — steam engine, high-speed…whatever is well-run, clean, and gets me where I want to go. To be able to relax, talk, write, pray, think, eat, drink, and stretch out on an actual bed while never having to leave the precious ground is pretty darn fantastic, if you ask me.

What about you: Do you like trains? Have you ever had an interesting experience traveling by rail? No matter how you’re traveling this week, be safe — and enjoy your holiday time!

Image: Steam engine near the eastern German city of Wernigerode, Matthias Bein / AFP – Getty Images

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by Kathleen O’Beirne

Zebra

The British essayist G. K. Chesterton once said, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly.”  I sometimes wonder if Chesterton wasn’t perhaps an extrovert, because this is exactly the kind of thinking that lands me in too many activities.

I don’t know if over-scheduling is necessarily a problem unique to the extrovert, but I often blame my tendency to put too much on my plate on my extroverted, sanguine side. Sanguines traditionally get pegged as both sociable and impulsive — and that, my friends, is a recipe for one crazy calendar and one burnt-out mama.

This fall, I began working part-time as a teacher for the first time in seven years. I also found myself trying to homeschool one child, send the other kids to two different schools, advise students at yet another school, host a monthly book club, take a class on the weekends, volunteer at church, and keep some semblance of order in my house. New moms needed meals, my kids needed rides to music lessons and birthday parties, library books needed returning, and bills needed paying.

B&W Girls Playing

By the first week of September, my head was spinning. I can’t remember whether it was the third Back to School Night or the sweltering heat from the 500 hotdogs I volunteered to grill at the parish picnic, but somewhere in the chaos I had a come-to-Jesus moment: I realized I had ignored all the things I normally consider before taking on a new obligation. As a result, I felt like one of those sheets of phyllo dough — you know, the ones stretched so thin they might break at any moment.

I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself smacking your forehead because you just hastily agreed to host one of those Stella and Dot parties during the first week of school while your spouse is out of town (I wish I were making up this example), but I thought I’d share my hard-learned lessons just in case:

Embrace the power of “maybe.” Often I say yes when asked to make a commitment in order to avoid saying that uncomfortable word “no.” When I tell someone “maybe” or “let me think about it,” I give myself time to consider the matter fully and avoid rash decisions.

Kathleen's Daughter

For every new obligation, there must be either a delegation or an elimination. New commitments will always eat into the time and energy given to other activities, and as the old adage goes, “Something’s gotta give.” When I take on a new task, I try to either remove another commitment or delegate it to other family members or outside resources. When I went to work part-time, I knew the bathrooms would turn into Petri dishes for new and interesting types of bacteria if I didn’t rework our current cleaning system. I decided to budget for a cleaning service twice a month and put my kids to work in between those beloved visits from the cleaning fairies. On another front, my daughter wanted to try piano this year, so we dropped soccer. Making cuts can be brutal but freeing!

Drop the junk. Sometimes I really want to take on a new and noble cause or some fun activity, but I feel too overloaded. I find it helpful to look at my day and make sure I’m giving my time to things I find truly enjoyable or necessary. Is Facebook and blog reading (except SlowMama, of course) keeping me from opening a new Etsy business or meeting my neighbor down the street?  Whenever I take an honest look at my how I spend my day, I’m always amazed at the random time-sucks that routinely clog my schedule.

Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize.  I know there are many worthwhile ways to spend my time, but I try to remind myself that I cannot do it all.

What do you do to streamline an ever-expanding schedule?

Image: Kathleen O’Beirne. Kathleen is a wife, mother, teacher, and extrovert writing from Arlington, VA.

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Extracurricular Activities

August 20, 2013

by Ann Waterman

Extracurricular Activities- Goggles

I’ve been relishing these last few weeks of summer vacation before our schedules ramp up again with the start of school — and, with it, the start of after-school activities. I avoided enrolling my eldest son in any extracurricular activities when he was little (except for swimming lessons, which I consider important for safety reasons). It was only last year when he turned 7 that we started a few other activities in earnest — and even then, I made sure they had limited time commitments. In the end, those activities were enriching without putting a strain on our family schedule, so we’ll continue them this year.

Part of my aversion to extracurriculars comes from my own experience as a small child. I did gymnastics, baton, and a summer camp, but my mom never signed me up for subsequent classes: At that young age, I made it clear (mostly through feigned illness) that I just wanted to be at home and play. Eventually I fell in love with swimming, and when I was 8, my parents signed me up for swim team, where I thrived.

I appreciate that my parents followed my lead and never pushed me until I was ready. Obviously, the right time to introduce extracurricular activities varies depending on the child, but from what I’ve seen of my own kids, they’re happy with lots of unstructured time playing by themselves, with friends, or with their siblings, just like Zoe discussed a few weeks ago.

Extracurricular Activities-Under water

The other reason we’ve limited extracurricular activities is because I’m fiercely protective of family time. For now, I’d rather spend Saturday mornings having brunch with the kids and enjoying my coffee than hanging out at the soccer field. I know extracurriculars will become more important as the kids get older, but for now, while they’re still so young, I feel our time is better spent together rather than rushing them to various practices and games.

We’re also committed to a slow lifestyle. With three young kids, life can be chaotic even with a clear calendar. After making it through the week, my husband and I need the weekend to recover together – not with one of us running one kid to a scheduled activity while the other stays at home to keep on top of nap schedules.

Extracurricular Activities-Swimming

Just to be clear, I’m not anti-extracurricular activities. I think they can be a great way for children to develop valuable skills and hone their talents, but I’m also keenly aware of how they can become all-consuming and keep family members running in different directions. I approach them with caution and try to carefully consider how each activity will affect my children and our entire family.

How do you handle extracurriculars in your family?

Images: Ann Waterman

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Rushing Our Kids

August 19, 2013

H Looking for Flowers

Show me a person who isn’t guilty of rushing her kids and I’ll show you…well, a person who isn’t a parent. Even I — a woman who runs a blog called Slow Mama — finds herself saying to her daughters on a regular basis: “Hurry up, we’re going to be late!” and “If you don’t stop [fill in the blank here], we’re going to be late!” and many versions of the same. The irony is not lost on me that one of my daughters often says, “Mum, I don’t like fast; I like slow.” I’ve even started calling her “slow girl.” (Who knows, maybe she’ll start a blog!)

An article by Rachel Macy Stafford in the Huffington Post titled “They Day I Stopped Saying ‘Hurry Up’” got me thinking about how I want to be more intentional about when I rush my daughters. Because while it would be nice to say that I’ll never say “hurry up!” again, there’s storybook land and there’s real life, and I inhabit the latter. It’s not horrible for children to learn that accommodations must be made for appointments and deadlines and other people, and that the universe does not revolve around their need to chase a butterfly down the street or change their shoes for a fourth time. But the truth is, rushing children all the time denies them a huge part of what it means to be a child.

Children live in the moment, not by clocks; they notice details and take time for intangibles; their pace isn’t driven by perfectionism, compulsions, or others’ expectations. This will dissipate with age, but if we rush them into that change prematurely, we don’t just rob them of the specialness of childhood, we make it harder for them to know how to live meaningful lives as adults — because adults who can’t slow down and be in the moment are usually not as happy.

This doesn’t have to be an either-or proposition: Hurrying our kids is usually a reflection of our own failure to accept the way kids are wired and to plan accordingly. It’s entirely possible for me to make it to an appointment on time (or thereabouts) if I remember that I may be able to get out the door in three minutes, but my girls need at least fifteen. If I overestimate the amount of time it takes them, we might actually be somewhere on time — or even (heaven forbid) early. Either way, it takes the rush out of it, and we all remain in good moods.

The other thing I’ve found helpful is to minimize the number of trips we make each day. If I have errands to run, I try to do them all at once when we’re out. Children have a harder time transitioning from one task or mode to another, so the fewer times I have to break my daughters’ concentration to get them out the door again for one more thing, the happier everyone is.

This point about transitions is key. It helps to know what motivates your child to move to a new task and to give warnings in advance that a transition is coming up. You can set a timer to help keep everyone on track; some parents even use written schedules that their children can read and follow. I’ve started telling my girls in the morning about how our day is going to go, then I give them a 20-minute warning before a big change is coming (going out, meal times, etc.), and then every 5-10 minutes after that.

Does it always work ? No; baby dolls will have diapers that suddenly need to be changed, of course. But overall, it has made a difference.

Allowing extra time for a child’s pace means having less time for to-do items on our own task lists. But every day, we have to make decisions as parents about what gets top priority. Daily life with our children is a lot more enjoyable if we’re not stressed and rushed and annoyed with them — and in the end, that’s more important than whether we got 15 things checked off our list instead of 10.

Do you struggle with this? Have you discovered any strategies to help reduce the “hurry ups” with your children?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

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Why Do You DIY?

August 15, 2013

by Margaret Cabaniss

Why Do You DIY?

If you’re reading this right now, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’re a DIY fan. Most of us here probably aren’t going off the grid anytime soon, but SlowMama readers tend to be an amazing bunch of bakers, crafters, knitters, gardeners, sewers, and general-interest doers of things with your hands.

So here’s my question: Why? What is it about these hands-on, old-time-y pursuits that appeals to you?

Recently I picked up Emily Matchar’s new book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, which is what started me thinking about our current DIY mania. Anyone with eyes and an internet connection can see that the “New Domesticity,” as Matchar calls it, is big business these days, but where did the boom start, and why?

Matchar has a few theories (quoted from her book):

  1. A rising sense of distrust toward government, corporations, and the food system
  2. Concern for the environment
  3. The gloomy economy
  4. Discontent with contemporary work culture
  5. The draw of hands-on work in a technology-driven world
  6. An increasingly intensive standard of parenting

Homeward Bound

I wouldn’t say all of these apply to everyone, but at least a few of them apply to me — particularly 4 and 5. When I started writing for SlowMama, I was working from home for an internet-based company; I enjoyed the work and my coworkers, but when all your efforts are stored in 0s and 1s in the ether, you really start to crave an outlet with actual results you can see and touch (or eat).

Matchar goes on:

[Author Matthew] Crawford thinks the current mania for “the home economics of our grandmothers” — the knitting, the gardening, the sewing your own clothes — is really about the search for purpose in an increasingly impersonal high-tech culture, a struggle he sees as being “at the very center of modern life.”

Add in the political, environmental, and economic instability that we read about in the papers today, and the consumerist culture that dominated for the past few decades definitely starts to lose its shine. When you consider that it was only within the last 50-100 years or so that the average person could get away with not knowing some of these skills, our culture’s renewed interest in them today starts to look more like a simple return to form.

Of course, most people likely wouldn’t answer the question in such global terms; usually, it’s much more personal. As I put it in my very first post for this site:

I realize what a rare thing it was to have a mother who could cook homemade meals every day, or sew our clothes, or whip up little crafts…essentially, do any of the number of things that she did all the time without a thought. Now that I’m on my own, I understand how valuable those skills really are — not just as ways to save money, live simply, and be more self-sufficient (though of course those, too), but as ways to show our love for and connection to the people and things we care about.

There’s so much else to talk about in Matchar’s book — the history of homemaking; the modern rise of DIY blogs (ahem); the real benefits of the modern blog explosion (greater community, work-from-home opportunities, creative outlets), as well as its drawbacks (blogger envy, unrealistic expectations for home life)…if any of this interests you, I definitely recommend picking up a copy.

For now, though, I’m curious: Why do you DIY? What do you think of Matchar’s explanations for the new DIY movement?

Images: Margaret Cabaniss, Simon & Schuster

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by Christine Nelson

Beekeeper at Work

Beekeeping first caught my attention about ten years ago. I was a mom living in the suburbs, and the thought of “free” honey sounded appealing. I was already raising chickens for eggs, so why not bees? I reminded myself I was a mom with young toddlers and put the idea on hold. Then, about three years ago, my normally productive vegetable garden was no longer productive. The plants were healthy, but there was little fruit to speak of—no cucumbers, few tomatoes, few squash. It occurred to me I hadn’t seen many honey bees or pollinators that year.

The drumbeat of media attention on the demise of the honey bee had already begun. Combined with my own experience, I realized that I needed to bring honey bees into my garden — and my sweet tooth loved the idea of a regular supply of honey. But I had to persuade my bee-phobic husband.

Equipment for Keeping Bees

With my husband’s eventual okay, last season was my first beekeeping season. Armed with an eight week beekeeping course and a smoker, I was excited to take on two hives. I loved watching my bees expand and grow throughout the season. Is there any creature on earth that works harder than a honey bee? I marveled how such a small insect could seem so intelligent. I fell in love with the honey bee. But my bees never survived the winter. I wasn’t alone; beekeepers across the nation were also experiencing huge losses. A local farmer who also keeps bees said to me this past spring, “Thirty years ago you couldn’t kill the honey bee; now it is a struggle to keep them alive.”

Honey Bee

I knew by January of this year that they were gone. And I had a moment when I thought this fun hobby was hard. It was time to dig deep. I spent the rest of the winter reading and then reading some more about what had gone wrong and how I could prevent it. I researched favorite nectar plants for honey bees and planned out which ones I could add to my yard.

To add to the challenge, I wanted to keep bees organically: I became determined that bees should not receive a potent cocktail of antibiotics and pesticides (which most beekeepers are taught to administer), all in the name of keeping them alive. I wanted to raise healthy bees, bees that could survive — and thrive. It was no longer about me and my need for honey and pollination, but about them. I wanted (and still want) to keep bees to help them survive.

Bee Hives

So how are my bees doing this season? I started with three new hives, but had to combine two of the weaker ones. One hive is particularly strong. It’s still too early to say if they’ll survive, but I’m cautiously optimistic. My dreams of honey will have to wait — for now, at least — and that’s okay.

Would you ever consider keeping honey bees?

Images: Christine Nelson. Christine is a stay-at-home mom in central Massachusetts. She shares her home with one husband, two kids (ages 14 and 9), one dog, two cats, a rabbit, chickens and, of course, bees.

 

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Is Social Media Stressing You Out?

Last month, the Huffington Post highlighted a survey taken by more than 7,000 moms that showed that social media is stressing out 42% of us. The main reason — according to the survey — is that social media conveys picture-perfect lives, leaving moms feeling inadequate and anxious. Apparently, Pinterest in particular makes moms feel pressured with its intimidating photos of DIY projects, professional-looking parties, and perfect food. Moms don’t feel like they can measure up.

Is this true for you? I know I’ve often coveted the craftiness and decorative skills of those behind the gorgeous pics I pin, but I gave up hope of being another Martha Stewart long ago. I’m usually happy to see what others can create — and what I can aspire to when I dare. As a blogger, I already know that blog posts, Pinterest pins — really, any photos online — are just tiny snippets of a life, not reflective of what goes on in someone’s daily reality.

The stressful part of social media for me is not what I see or read but keeping up with it at all. If you’re a blogger trying to build traffic to your site, it’s important to be active in social media, but I find it next to impossible to keep up with all of it. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn…each appeals to different people and serves different purposes, so it’s easy to feel like you have to be on top of it all. I’ve decided not to even try – it’s not exactly very “slow” of me, after all — and to focus on a couple I enjoy the most and where I think my readers spend their time.

I still don’t know how some people manage to keep an active blog going, get a new tweet up every 20 minutes, boast a Pinterest following of thousands, keep conversations going on Facebook, and put up great pics on Instagram every day. Someone must be making meals at their houses, paying attention to their children, and maybe even sleeping for them. Who knows?

I love to be connected online, but making myself step away sometimes is important (as my husband likes to remind me). Whether it’s one day a week, or certain times a day, or an “unplugged” vacation once or twice a year, a little time away helps us unwind from some of the stress that we can find ourselves feeling from social media.

I’m curious: Do you feel pressured by all the picture-perfect stuff you see on sites like Pinterest? Do you struggle to keep up with it all? What is your favorite social media platform? Where do you hang out the most, and why?

Image: Social Media Cupcakes made by Crazy Moose Bakery, posted on Flickr by Geek Cake Love

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Raising Nature-Loving Kids in the City

I grew up on 75 acres of oceanfront property on the north shore of Nova Scotia. There were fields and woods, brooks and marshlands all around me, and I was outside all the time. But here I am now, raising kids in the city and trying to find ways to foster a love for — and knowledge of — the natural world in my girls. While it can never be like rural living, there are simple, thoughtful ways to help children be in tune with nature amidst concrete and sirens. Here are some of the things I’m doing and highly recommend:

H Splashing in Puddle

Get outside every day. Even in less-than-ideal weather.

When I was a kid, we were outside all the time — rain, snow storms, and wind were just extra incentives for us to venture out. As adults, we tend to think we should stay inside whenever the weather isn’t pleasant. But why? Unless it’s dangerous, throw on the appropriate gear and head outside with your kids. Maybe you won’t be able to stay out very long, but let your children feel the elements: Let them get wet, feel the wind in their faces, tromp through the snow, and sweat a bit in the heat. To help them cope better, make sure you have plenty of water (when it’s hot), extra mittens (when the first ones get sopping wet from snow), and fun rain boots (to wade in the puddles). Believe me, this will be good for you, too.

Take walks along regular routes and point out the seasonal changes.

For the first four months our girls were home, we pretty much walked the same way to the same park every day. The girls watched the leaves change color and fall to the ground, the trees grow bare, the cold of winter arrive, and the signs of spring pop up; now it’s summer and everything is green. Every time we walked, I pointed out the changes — even when the girls probably didn’t understand what I was saying. Now they point out the changes they see when we’re out.

Insect Finding

Call attention to your natural surroundings wherever you are.

Your children will notice whatever you take time to notice. Look out your windows and mention what you see: What’s the weather like today? Is there a squirrel on the balcony? A bird sitting on the tree branch out front? Stop and smell a flower and encourage them to do it, too; bend down and look at the beetle crawling across the sidewalk; point out how green the grass is now; make note of any new flowers planted in your neighbors’ planters. Can you see the sunset? What about any stars or the moon at night? Nothing is too small or insignificant to point out.

B and Girls Hiking

Research the best parks nearby for hiking and take regular nature walks.

B and I have turned into hikers as parents. Who knew? We’re fortunate to have many parks within an hour’s drive with good family-friendly hiking trails. Our girls are small, so we stick to short and safe routes, but there’s always a lot to explore with them. They enjoy packing their backpacks (just like Dora the Explorer, of course) and discovering new trails. We discuss different kinds of plants, trees, and creatures along the way. We practice being quiet and listening for nature sounds. A couple of weeks ago, we got to experience a large buck barreling through the woods behind us.

If you don’t have nearby parks with hiking trails, you may live near bodies of water, mountains, or farmland. Whatever it is, take your kids out and experience it together. (And, of course, be sure to bring water and snacks for the kids!)

Create simple projects and activities that encourage exploration of nature.

I loved doing this stuff as a child — I think all kids do. I love this neighborhood tree guide project from KidWorldCitizen. In the fall, collecting leaves and making something with them will be a perfect craft. My daughters are petrified of bugs (not sure why, though we saw no bugs in Ethiopia except for the odd mosquito), so I’m planning an insect project of some kind with them soon. Butterfly nets are now on the girls’ birthday wish list after they recently used a couple belonging to some new friends. Just laying on a blanket and looking at cloud formations is fun on a lazy summer afternoon.

Bring the outside in.

Let your children bring home leaves, flowers, and things they find outside. There are limits, of course — no injured birds allowed in here (or poisonous things)! And we do teach them that some things should not be picked but left alone to grow and be enjoyed. My girls like picking little flowers and finding leaves.

Nature-Loving Kids

I like to keep natural elements in the house…a dish of seashells in the bathroom, wooden bowls, interesting rocks. I also make a point to keep fresh-cut flowers on the dining table and live plants in the house. Bringing natural things into the house, and letting the kids do the same, helps connect you all to the world outside.

Raising Nature-Loving Kids in the City

Plant something together. 

A couple months ago, we bought sunflower seeds and each of my daughters planted a few of them in two tiny pots and placed them on a sunny windowsill. When the seeds sprouted, I helped the girls replant them in a larger pot and we placed it in their bedroom. I remind them every couple of days to water it, and we note how it’s growing. Of course, if you have space for any kind of garden and can get your kids involved, all the better! Tending to something from the time it’s a seed not only teaches children about how things grow but instills in them a sense of responsibility for something living.

Plan vacations that get you out into nature, and take advantage of ways to learn about nature in your area.

Maybe it’s the beach, or the mountains, or a national park, but plan some trips that allow your children to explore and enjoy nature. And consider something new — even challenging — like tent camping or mountain climbing or sailing. Don’t forget little getaways that may be closer to home; overnight or weekend trips can be just as memorable. With young children, it’s always best to keep it as simple and stress-free as possible. Many cities have destinations like arboretums, aquariums, planetariums, etc. We’re fortunate to have the National Aquarium right down the street. It’s not cheap, but it was fun to take the girls recently and witness them seeing sharks, dolphins, jellyfish, and many small ocean creatures face-to-face for the first time.

At the Aquarium

How do you foster your children’s connection to nature, especially if you live in an urban area? I’d love to hear about it!

Images: Zoe Saint-Paul 

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