When I visit my father, I like to tell him about the wildlife I’ve seen in our yard. “Heard the coyotes last night,” and he smiles upon hearing this. “This is a picture of the robin’s nest on our front door wreath” makes him shake his head in wonder. “A little snake ran over my bare feet” prompts him to ask, “What did you do?” “Nothing–it was exciting!” I said.
He and I have broadened our conversations to include other wildlife. Bluebirds. Bald eagles. Red-shouldered hawks. A Cooper’s hawk holding its prey. Today I plan to tell him about the latest bobcat visit to our yard, and that the robin has laid two eggs.
As you can see, backyard science is for every generation.
When our children were young, I showed them how to listen for peepers in the early spring. (If you live in the central or eastern United States and Canada, you know this magical sound that rings in spring.) They learned to ask questions and find answers, used their imagination to think up answers, and discovered the peepers’ habitats. Soon this became an annual home science experiment.
All of this noticing connects directly to what a child learns in school. Observing, listening, wondering, and critical thinking are some of the greatest skills you can help your child develop in relaxed, natural, disconnected-to-a-device ways.
One of the best parenting tips I know is to show your child how to notice things in the natural world. Even if you’ve never done it yourself, it’s a beautiful and rewarding experience to share.