Change is inevitable but learning to accept and even embrace change is a learned skill, one that is critical for emotionally healthy children. Children experience change when the family moves, a sibling is born, or when a new school year begins. Change may bring feelings of fear or discomfort. How do we help children prepare for these transitions and navigate change effectively?
Connecting with nature and noticing the rhythm of the seasons is a simple, yet effective way to accomplish this goal. Discuss how animals and plants develop resilience as they adapt to changes in light and temperature. Celebrate the beauty each season brings, such as delicate snowflakes, a crimson fall leaf, or a cherry tree engulfed with blossoms. Activate your senses and look for the sounds, sights, and smells associated with each time of the year.
At the beginning of each month, take a walk with your children. As you hike, look closely at your surroundings. Are there blossoms, seeds, or buds on plants? Do you see insects or other signs of animal life? Be sure to look on the ground, as well as up in the branches. Walk the same path at the first of each month, taking note of what has changed and how living things have adapted. Take photos in the same spots and marvel at changes you observe. Nature improves everyone’s mental health!
My favorite Christmas traditions revolve around photos. When I decorate my home each year, I look forward to these decorations most of all! On my mantle, I hang a banner with clips, so I can attach past Christmas cards. As I clip on each card, the memories attached to each photo come to mind and bring me such joy.
On a side table in my dining room, I have family photos displayed. Behind each photo is another photo of my daughter with Santa. Each December, I just switch the photos, and I can easily switch them back after Christmas.
My friend, Debora, shared the next idea with me. She takes all the photo holiday cards she receives and places them on a ring after Christmas. Then she prays for friends and family throughout the year as she turns the photos on the ring.
Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, is one of my favorite days because from this day forward, daylight will increase in Atlanta. This year, the winter solstice falls on Tuesday, December 21st.
According to Britannica, “We know that seasons are caused by Earth having a slight tilt on its axis. As Earth wobbles around the Sun, different points of the earth receive more or less sunlight throughout the year. If Earth wasn’t tilted, the Sun would just shine directly on the Equator all year long, leaving us without seasons. But we also wouldn’t have solstices or equinoxes. Solstices designate the point where the Sun’s path in the sky is the farthest north or south from the Equator, which occurs around the 20th and 21st of June and the 21st and 22nd of December. The summer solstice marks the beginning of summer and is the longest day of the year, just as the winter solstice marks the beginning of winter and is the shortest day of the year. But which solstice happens on which day depends on the hemisphere you live in.” Click here for the entire article.
Click here to watch a video about the winter solstice.
Around the world, many cultures celebrate this day with ancient traditions. I am a fan of the Tinkergarten Program. Click here for their family winter solstice celebration suggestions.
To connect science with math and geography, check a weather app on a regular basis to discover when the sun rises and sets in your location. Record the data and graph your results. Determine how many hours of sunlight you experience each day. Many students find calculating elapsed time challenging.
Comparing when the sun rises and sets in several different cities is another relevant activity. Find the locations you check on a map and analyze results based on the city locations.
When I first read this book, I believed the family was off to choose their Christmas tree, but there was a delightful surprise awaiting me. This charming story is sure to be a favorite with nature enthusiasts.
Start a new family tradition and make edible ornaments for the birds. One of my favorites is a pinecone covered with peanut butter (natural is best) and rolled in birdseed. Hang the pinecones with twine and in the spring, the birds can use it for nesting material.
When I was in the classroom, I always looked for science phenomena to encourage my students to wonder and ask questions. I saw a row of trees that appeared to lose their leaves in an unusual manner as I finished some holiday shopping. What do you notice? Students develop a sense of curiosity and engagement increases in an inquiry-based approach to learning.
Click here for a collection of phenomena that could be used at home or in a classroom.
Mistletoe is a plant that grows parasitically on trees. It extracts water and nutrients from the host plant. In the winter, the plant produces white berries. Use caution around children and pets because mistletoe berries are toxic.
What is the origin of the holiday tradition of kissing under the mistletoe? Mistletoe is considered a symbol of fertility and life because in winter, when deciduous trees have lost their leaves, and many plants have died away, mistletoe remains green. There are a myriad of myths and legends about the mistletoe plant throughout history.
When you hike or while you drive, ask your child to spot mistletoe growing in trees,
Many of us decorate our homes with poinsettias during the Christmas season, but what do you know about this plant?
Poinsettias grow wild in Central America and Mexico.
In their native environment, poinsettias are shrubs that grow as high as 10 to 15 feet tall.
Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first ambassador from the United States to Mexico, brought the plants to the United States in the 1820s, and they were named after him.
The colorful parts of a poinsettia aren’t flowers, but modified leaves, called bracts. The flower is the yellow center of the plant.
Click here for the Safeshare link for the following informative video.
Visit a nursery or greenhouse with your child to examine different varieties of poinsettias.
The Legend of the Poinsettia, from Mexico, is an excellent choice if you are studying Christmas around the world. Legends are traditional stories regarded as historical but with little or no evidence to prove them.
I was gardening when I saw the vultures begin to land on the street near me. Although not a popular bird, they are fascinating, and these social scavengers have an important role in the food chain. It’s a nasty job, but grateful they do it!
As large as they were, they blended into the branches of this tree across the street, Can you spot two vultures?
After observing them as I worked, I wanted to learn more. Listen to find out why they don’t have feathers on their heads.
I hung up my suet feeders this week and they are already frequented by a wide array of birds. Woodpeckers are one of my favorite visitors. So far this season, I’ve seen downy and red bellied woodpeckers.
Did you know that bioengineers are studying woodpeckers to design new football helmets and head protection gear for other sports?
Listen for, as well as look for, these interesting birds when you hike. Examine dying trees. Do you see any sign that woodpeckers were there?
For young children to understand what a feat it is for a woodpecker to drill a hole in wood, ask a child to hammer nails into a tree stump. This is also a great fine motor task.