As Christmas nears, families begin thinking of “What can I give?” The best idea is to give action and outdoor experiences. Memories and language last forever, toys last for a moment. Tucson has allows for winter outdoor activities due to its moderate weather, and one need not leave the back yard to avoid, “Nature Deficit Disorder.”
Education has a lot of labels covering deficiencies and syndromes, from “Attention Deficit Disorder” to “Autism Disorder Syndrome.” The one I like best is coined by author and child advocacy expert, Richard Louv, “Nature Deficit Disorder.” In short, kids don’t get out enough. Research shows that students learn better if they can wiggle, and even better if some of the wiggling is in the outdoors. Yet schools cut outdoor activity more and more: recess time and P.E. are shortened or excised from school programs. Parents, want to help your child with homework or hands on learning? Get outside with them this Christmas. Plan family adventures.
Can’t get away? Grab a pillow apiece, lay down in your backyard, heads together, bodies extending out like star points, and look at the stars. With your heads together, pointing at constellations or bright stars is easy for all to follow. Have a tent or a couple of bedrolls? Camp in your back yard and experience the sights and sounds of night: Dogs barking in the distance, crickets chirping, leaves rustling, starlight, lamplight, city lights reflected on the clouds. Don’t forget to use the language. in the distance, nearby, above our heads, over there, here, everywhere, barking, chirping, sneezing, twittering, creaking, glowing, shining, brighter, brightest, darker, darkest.
Want to decorate for Christmas? Decorate outside. Use non-breakable ornaments and decorations and let the children hang them from tree limbs and bushes, or spots in the hedge. Talk about it. Did you hang it on a limb? Branch? Twig? Stem? Trees have all four plus bough. Is a limb different from a bough? Branches occur when a limb branches. Stem is what holds the leaf onto the tree.
Make aluminum balls and chains, and/or paper chains to show what happens differently when it rains. With small children, it helps to have some chain made, and let them add a few links. They still think that they did it. Vocabulary: wilted, warped, crinkly, foil, strips, taped, chain, link. Find leaves, rocks and twigs to make a collage or collection. Leaves can be put between wax paper and ironed to make a clear holder – or add some pieces of scraped crayon, to melt colors within. Leaves and twigs can be glued to a paper and covered with plastic wrap. Talk about what you are doing: between, over, under, next to, scrape, iron, melt, glued, plastic wrap.
Get outside, decorate, and learn. Have fun and talk about it.