I am always on the look-out for good books of activities that I don’t have time to do with my kids. One day…when the baby is a little older…not that I am wishing her precious babyhood away! But, I digress.
I stumbled upon this one at Amazon and I really like it! It is Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children by Carol Petrash. Here is a quote from the back cover: “This book is “filled with hands-on nature crafts and seasonal activities to enhance environmental awareness. The activities are carefully written and beautifully illustrated. Children play with the elements of earth, air, and water. They develop a respect for nature, for the earth and for all living creatures. they experience the awe and wonder of the world around them.”
While this may be quite an ambitious description of the book, I can tell you from a Mom’s (rather than a publisher’s) perspective, that it is a really cool book. Will it instantly turn my children into little green protectors of Mother Earth? Maybe not. But I do firmly believe that the more children learn about nature, the more respect they will have for it. Teaching children early on to appreciate the beauty of life and nature can only help the planet in the long run.
One of the things I really like about this book, and what sets it apart from other similar books that I have seen, is that the chapters are organized by season. Plus, each season has subsections: The Whole Earth Home and Classroom, Bringing Nature In: The Season’s Garden, Bringing Nature In: Seasonal Crafts, and Supplying the Missing Links. This makes it easy to find projects that are seasonally appropriate.
The “Supplying the Missing Links” idea is another feature which sets this book apart from other “nature crafts” books. The introduction describes this as providing “activities that will allow the children to connect a product which they often use and usually purchase in a store with the source and process from which it comes. The aim is that they will then have a subtle understanding of their strong connections with and dependence on the Earth and an experience of making things for themselves.”
I love this concept! My children are always asking me where things come from, and these projects can actually teach them a little bit about some of it. One of the more ambitious projects in this category is: “From Wheat to Bread” (no, Mom doesn’t go to Safeway for a bag of flour, the kids thresh and grind wheat themselves, then bake their homemade flour into bread).
Wow! I thought I was being “crunchy-frontier-mom” when I, on very rare occasion, bake bread from scratch without my machine. Now the bar is raised! If we do this experiment (not that wheat on the stalk will be easy to come by where I live – especially for a non A-lister like me), will the kids expect me to make my own flour every time I feel domestic enough to make bread? Hmm…could be a dangerous precedent to set, but cool idea nonetheless!
There is a similar project with Indian Corn (we can probably get that here): string necklaces of corn kernels, grind the corn and make corn bread, use the husks to make corn husk dolls, then grate the cobs to make a corn cob powder for play cooking. How about learning about wool, apples, pumpkins, and butter?
If you don’t have the time or ambition to make your own flour, then you will be happy to find other, more manageable projects here too. Some examples: FALL – leaf banners, leaf crowns, nature’s people, lanterns. WINTER – pine cone bird feeders, tissue paper transparencies, finger knitting, yarn dolls. SPRING – wind wands, pinwheels, kites, dish gardens, pressed flower cards. SUMMER – shooting star streamer balls, walnut boats, butterfly crowns, parachute people, paper birds.
I really love this book. Anyone who wants to unplug their children and tune them into nature needs this book. I know that any Waldorf or homeschooling family would love it too. Please check it out, I think you will be pleased!