What do you do when your 9-year-old wants you to bring home a big ball of dirt he’s made in a dirt pile? Do you try to convince him that it’s only dirt and it will fall apart transporting it home? Or do you carefully cup it in your hands like a crown jewel and put it in a plastic bag to carry it home?
I always choose the latter, whatever the kids’ treasures may be.
The 7-year-old loves to pick bouquets of dandelions – weeds to everyone else, but beautiful golden flowers from my daughter to me. One of the girls would always bring home pine cones, another would gather milkweed pods. These were crafted into beautiful art projects and crafts or placed on bureaus to admire.
Encourage curiosity of children – let them be hands on learners and touch and feel our world. Create an appreciation of nature by exploring the hiking trails and bringing home the shiny rock full of mica, and explain how mica was used years ago for stove windows or how the granite rock is the same rock that was quarried to make grand buildings throughout New England. The sea shells on the beach - show them how the shell was once the home to a hermit crab. Nature, history, tactile learning and art – so much can be learned by being hands on!
I’ll never forget when my oldest child was a toddler, and my neighbor told his daughter “Dirty, dirty! Don’t touch!” when she went to play in some dirt. What’s wrong with playing in the dirt? That’s fun for kids. Don’t you remember making “mud pies” with dirt and water? And if you did take a bite of “mud pie," you spit it right out; it didn’t harm you! And dirty clothes can always be washed.
Some parents are always hovering and telling their children “don’t touch this, don’t do that, don’t, don’t, don’t!” Well what can the children do? Show them what they can do – play in the rain, jump in puddles, play in the dirt, gather the weeds, rock, bugs and toads (but let the animals go free after you’ve checked them out!) Let children explore creation and learn – hands on in nature is the best teacher along with their parents.