We only had The Oldest Child then, but knew we wanted at least one more and wanted to raise them in as natural an environment as possible.
Even then, with just a small suburban garden to explore, The Oldest Child always loved getting outside and getting dirty.
His two brothers have followed in his footsteps, and it’s not uncommon for me to hear the TV on in the lounge, only to take a look and discover they’ve abandoned the couch for the garden.
They are very fortunate in that they have a huge space to explore now, and their games range from all-time favourites like hide and seek, to elaborate schemes involving trees, Tupperwares, sticks and rocks (of course).
The latter usually ends up with The Middle Child having no clothes on. At 4 years old, he still loves stripping down and running around the garden starkes when the mood takes him.
He normally says it’s because he was too hot, or got wet, but I think he’ll find any excuse to go au naturale. Ahem, or create one!
This past weekend was a case in point. We finally got some decent rain down in Wilderness on Friday night, and come Saturday morning the garden looked all shiny and new, the dust of a long, dry winter firmly washed away.
Of course, none of the boys could resist the muddy puddles that beckoned to them from the wet, swampy garden, and it wasn’t long before they were all outside splashing in the mud.
I think it was less than 5 minutes and The Middle Child had abandoned his clothes and found his way into a pond we’re currently building, which had gathered a bit of water in it overnight from the heavy rain.
I crept up behind some bushes in the garden and watched him: first he made mud pies, then he slathered some mud on his arms and legs, and finally he romped and sploshed in the mud until he was covered in the stuff, save for a big smile of pure joy.
Kids really are at their happiest when left to potter around in nature, unrestricted.
They all seemed to have caught some sort of spring fever that the rains had brought in with them overnight, and frolicked with great delight among the still-wet flowers.
I thought it was a great opportunity for a little spring activity that would keep them outside for longer.
First I asked them what spring meant to them:
‘It’s a time when all beautiful flowers come out, and the sun goes down later, and there are more birds in the garden. The flowers are different to the rest of the year…’ The Oldest Child
‘Everything’s beautiful and it makes the flowers bloom. When I look outside, I see lots of nice animals and I can see lots of nature…’ The Middle Child
Then I set them each a challenge: pick 4 things in the garden that say ‘spring’ to you. They took their time making their spring selection, with The Middle Child declaring it an exciting ‘nature trail’!
This is what they came back with:
The Oldest Child: sweet peas; jasmine; yesterday, today and tomorrow; and lavender.
The Middle Child: lavender; a fresh, new spinach leaf; a keurboom blossom; and a bright green mulberry leaf.
Next I tasked them with using sprigs from these plants and making a piece of art to welcome spring.
The Oldest Child added large nasturtium leaves and gravel to make a pretty flower shape, with his spring blooms forming the centre of the flower. The lavender was used to make a border around the picture.
The Middle Child was slightly more adventurous, and included a wooden block that he’d found somewhere in the garden along with a few small mosaic tiles, larger tile shards, a piece of fabric and a rock (of course).
His collection was creatively arranged in the centre, with the spinach leaf and a spring of lavender standing guard, while some torn up nasturtium leaves served as stepping stones to access the design.
I loved seeing their interpretation of spring, and how they welcomed this special time of year when our garden burst into life.
To finish off the activity, I let each child choose their favourite flowers and press these (between sheets of tissue paper, between a few heavy books). Later on, once perfectly dried, we’ll use the pressed flowers to make nature suncatchers (we’ll take pics and post them when we do!).
What nature-based crafts do you enjoy doing with your kids? I’d love to hear from you!