We spent the morning at our local nature center. In addition to visiting the peacocks and feeding the goats, we went into the greenhouse. There, hidden in obscure corner, is a display of touchable plants.
There, visitors are encouraged to find leaves that are fuzzy, bumpy, rubbery, hard, smooth, and good-smelling. The educators at the center bring tour groups here on a regular basis, but it’s largely ignored by the rest of the visitors.
We showed the area to our friends and spent a few minutes looking together.
It made me start thinking about what a “no touch” environment our kids live in, especially when indoors but also in nature. We tell them to stay on the path, don’t pick the flowers, stay away from the overgrowth, and it’s made our kids hesitant to engage, because they keep being told “no”. Maybe we need to be just as intentional about pointing out what they can touch, smell, and explore.
How do we do this? It means being ok with dirt, maybe keeping wipes in your pack pocket for that particularly germy discovery, and inviting our kids to engage:
- Touch this pinecone. How does it feel, does it smell? Is it heavy? Does it make noise when you run your fingers over it? A stick?
- Check out this dandelion. What happens when you break the stem? What does it smell like? What do the petals feel like?
- Pick up a blade of grass. Rub 2 together. What happens? See if you can go out early enough that there’s dew on the grass. Can you find the water beads? How do they move? Do they blades bend? break? twist?
These don’t have to be long, extended experiments or unit studies – just taking a couple extra minutes to literally stop and smell the roses.