Spring is here and there's a lot
of yard work to be done. But the
children are only able to help for a short while. They need something else to do while you are
finishing up your list of tasks.
Children, especially boys, love
to dig. Give them a small plot of ground
in the yard or garden, some trowels and a shovel (child-sized one works
best). They will be busy for hours. If the digging spot is in the sun, you can
construct a simple awning over it or make sure the children wear their sun
Like treasure hunters, they will
delight in unearthing rocks, roots, wriggly worms and maybe even an iridescent
black beetle. On warm days, the offer of
a full watering can will, no doubt, inspire the sculpting of streambeds and
dams. Unlike sand, dirt will hold its
shape and allow for more permanent geographical features.
A metal cake pan will make a good
pond on which to float leaf or bark boats.
The landscape will grow, shrink
and evolve with the fancy of the earth sculptors. Parents might even have to stop their work
now and again to admire the latest work of art.
For a child, the act of putting a
tiny seed in the soil, watering it and waiting, and finally watching the green
shoot poke itself up into the light is a wondrous experience. Without a word of explanation, the child
apprehends an essential aspect of the mystery of life on earth.
More lessons emerge as the plants
grow and mature. Caring for plants gives
children a sense of time, weather, and seasons that are tangible and not at all
abstract. At the stage of the harvest,
ripe fruits and vegetable are picked and eaten (often even before they get into
the kitchen) bringing the whole experience full circle to
a tasty culmination.
Even if you do not have a large
yard you can still grow a few things in pots on your deck or at the front of a
flowerbed. Lettuce, strawberries, basil, and cherry tomatoes do well in pots.
Many herbs are hardy perennials and look nice interspersed with flowers. Mint and lemon balm make wonderful iced teas
on warm summer days.
No matter what you grow, do not
underestimate the importance of this experience in your child's education. Growing food forms the basis for a not yet
conscious appreciation of humanity's relation to nature and the archetypal work
of farmers past and present.
This charming custom combines the
excitement of "Ding-Dong Ditch" with the warm glow of anonymous
philanthropy. On the first of May, a
small basket of flowers
is hung on a neighbor's doorknob. The doorbell is rung and then the giver
scurries off to hide. When the door is
opened, the neighbor is greeted only by a basket of flowers and hopefully some
May baskets are a simple project
for children, requiring only scissors, paper, staples or glue, and a few
flowers. Even dandelions (which grow
abundantly in our
yard) will give a very satisfying effect.
Start by making the basket. A simple basket can be made from a single
sheet of paper. Old calendars are ideal
for this project because their glossy, colorful
pages make sturdy, beautiful
Cut a long, narrow strip from one
side of the paper. This will be the
handle of your basket. Roll the
remaining paper into a cone. Secure with
staples (or glue or tape), attach your handle and you are done!
Perfect cone shapes can be achieved by
starting with a perfect quarter circle of paper but we try not to bother since
we are constantly fighting perfectionism in our household.
Add flowers to your basket (wrap
the stems in damp newspaper and plastic if you think your neighbors might not
get their gift right away), then run out to make your deliveries.
Even if the flowers have wilted
by the time your neighbors find them, a May basket will always delight. It's a reminder that summer is coming and that thoughtful neighbors are thinking of them.