I am exceptionally fortunate to have a Summer Baby. Why? Because the initial steps of self-actualization coincide with spring, right around 9 months. I have a blossoming mind in my charge, and while his self-ness is blossoming internally, I am excited to nurture is self-ness-to-others and self-ness-to-the-world (reference Hegel). I think Summer Babies (like myself!) have it great - learning to walk outside in nice weather, becoming aware when there is so much diversity to become aware of. This spring and summer should be wonderful as Koko is introduced to the wide world around him, particularly the outdoors, which until now, have been foreign, frigid, and mysterious. The following are some of my plans for helping him become familiar with and enjoy the outdoors!
Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Spring is here and in full force. It is unfortunately quite rainy here in Cleveland, OH, but we have had a couple of decent days (or portions of). It's a time for planting, landscaping, renewing, becoming familiar again with the Great Outdoors, which for months have been blanketed in a frigid, snowy, salted drear. I'm planning and researching activities and events for summer. I can hardly contain myself or fathom how we'll fit it all in. I plan on introducing Koko to all four elements, and then some. I've generally been considered, at least mildly, to be somewhat of a tree-hugger. It would only be a natural progression that I instill some of my tree-hug-gy-ness into my son. Here's how...
Farmers Markets & CSAs
Spring means Farmers Markets! The North Union Farmers Market at Shaker Square is our local market, open April through December outdoors on the square and indoors through the winter. I've been a few times in the past, but as I become evermore educated on the benefits of eating local and fresh, I suspect we'll be spending more time there this summer. My sister and I are also going to participate in the City Fresh CSA service, making sure we have great, local produce to eat throughout the summer, also helping to save on our grocery bills. With Koko becoming a more proficient eater, it will be very nice to be able to serve him fresh, local produce and deposit throughout the next few years the importance of the local food scene and also the importance of supporting our local farmers and economy.
Feed Me Local!
Last summer, I had a modest vegetable garden that I unfortunately let fall by the wayside as I became more and more pregnant and less and less inclined to tend to it. Once I had Koko, it was over. I picked my beans occasionally. My tomatoes fell and recycled into the Earth. This year, we are expanding the garden by double, from about 5' by 5' to 10' by 5'. In addition to my potted herbs, I am planting herbs throughout my flower beds and in a dedicated herb garden and expanding the selection. I plan on drying as much as possible for winter to save on buying herbs (I cook *everything* we eat with a lot of spices and herbs!) and will benefit from eating about as local as it comes!
Hanging in the Garden
Composting & Vermiculture
Although this year will not be ideal for explaining the life/death/recycle philosophies of composting and worm-farming, I can set the stages for next year. I have a very small compost pile already started, which will hopefully expand into a relatively competent, fully-fledged compost pile soon with usable compost by next summer. I am also starting a worm bin to supplement my compost and more efficaciously recycle kitchen waste. Both will be invaluable tools to teach life cycle science to my sure-to-be budding scientist and excellently practical for me to tend to and utilize.
I have a poor, neglected bicycle. This year, I'm buying the baby seat (I decided on the iBert), and we will bicycle to the grocery store and Target instead of driving the extraordinarily short distance (it is, however, too far to walk and lug items back home). Bicycle-riding is great! Not only will it provide excellent (and much needed!) exercise for me, it will give Koko an exceptional view of the neighborhood and a chance to let the wind blow through his hair and enjoy the sweet, fresh air!
We are fortunate to live in a suburb that provides ample recreational options for its constituents. The community swimming pool is only a short bicycle ride away, and pricing is very reasonable for a season pass. I don't know that I will sign up for a Mama & Me Swim Class, but I look forward to taking him to the pool, regardless, to cool off and let him become familiar with much more water than he has seen to date. A few of my family members and friends have pools, too, which will be nice to visit when we do not want to be in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the community pool. I don't think this summer will be ideal for local, natural water swimming, but I'm entertaining the idea of a picnic or two at Grand River - Harpersfield Metropark, one of my favorite picnic-ing and summer-fun spots from my childhood, complete with small pools in the river that could be appropriate for some wading.
With so many parks and park systems so close, we are truly blessed in our location. We live walking distance from Cain Park, in Cleveland Heights, which offers a beautiful grassy knoll, an impressive plot of trees, and a large, open-air amphitheater which showcases many wonderful summer concerts and programs. Forest Hills Park is huge and expansive, and we could spend many weekends exploring various portions, spanning numerous suburbs. South Euclid boasts Euclid Creek Reservation, with a walking/biking trail and a few hiking trails, a huge stream with many banks to access it, and a few picnic areas and play areas. Our options to explore the suburban wilderness are endless, and I cannot wait to take Koko for lazy strolls and arduous hikes, alike, in the sprawling nature at our backdoor.
Helping with the Planters
Children, especially very small ones, really do not need too many toys. I believe that a lot of toys are marketed to parents to buy for their children, although there are some that are fun to have for playing outside. Koko is already kind of spoiled... Second great-grandchild on my father's side, First on my mother's; First grandchild for my parents; First nephew for my siblings; First baby for me... He gets showered with all sorts of gifts. For his First Easter, this held true. My parents got him a swimming/wading pool and some pool toys for the summer; my siblings purchased a sandbox for him with accompanying sandbox-accessories, like a bucket and dump truck; and from me, he got a little Fisher Price Garden Cart/Wheel Barrow, with little plastic tools and a 99c pack of plastic dinosaurs (one of my personal favorites from childhood). Will he *need* all this? No. Undoubtedly, however, all of these toys will last him years to come, giving him tools appropriate for him to play outside and mimic what he observes.
I think that the most important part of introducing the outdoors and letting Koko come to terms with the world around him is to let him familiarize himself with his surroundings on his own terms. The few nice days we have had already have been spent outside, with my baby in shorts, barefoot, having been given free range to explore, feel, taste, smell, and listen to the backyard. With a bath waiting on call for our return inside, he was limitless in his options to take it in. Tiny fistfuls of dirt made it in his mouth; he blew raspberries in the grass; he hit the ground and tried to follow the quick movements of squirrels and birds; he helped me start seedlings, even trying to plant a dinosaur or two. We each have a personal relationship with nature and the outdoors, and I'd like him to develop his as organically as possible through exploration guided by his whim and experiences as he sees fit. Maybe he'll discover the great feeling of physically hugging and knowing trees sooner that I originally anticipated.
How are you connected to nature? How have you helped your children connect? Leave a comments or share on the FaceBook!
Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 10 with all the carnival links.)