As children’s lives become more and more defined by technology, the effects can be far-reaching. Richard Louv describes it as “nature deficit disorder” in his book, Last Child in the Woods, which presents recent research showing that lack of experience with nature is linked to higher rates of obesity, attention disorders, and depression.
In addition, we all know that young children learn through their senses. So if you’re going to talk about an apple, a young child will only truly understand if he can see, touch, and maybe even taste that apple! Combat nature deficiency disorder and bring your storytime attendees and full-sensory experience with these idea for bring nature in:
1) Incorporate natural seasonal objects into a prop story.
For example, in our “Squirrely Squirrels” Storytime Theme, our original prop story, “Sammy Squirrel” uses acorns.
2) Choose a nature craft.
Make berry ink, just like the pioneers did! Find a simple recipe here.
3) Use natural props to bring a book to life.
For example, you could pass out real autumn leaves for kids to crinkle as you read an autumn book like The Leaves on the Trees by Thom Wiley. (Yes it might get messy, but that’s nothing that a vacuum cleaner can’t take care of!)
4) Explore nature through books.
Lindsay Barrett George has created a wonderful collection of books that explore nature. For a fall theme, check out, In the Woods: Who’s Been Here? As Cammy and William walk through the woods on an autumn afternoon, they find an empty nest, feathers and more, with each discovery prompting them to ask, “Who’s been here?” Use real natural objects throughout the story to simulate interest and understanding.
5) Set up a smelly scavenger hunt:
Follow up a book like Nosy Rosie by Holly Keller or Sammy Skunk’s Super Sniffer by Barbara DeRubertis by having kids use their noses to find aromatic natural objects hidden around the storytime room. (Some suggestions: a basil or rosemary plant, roses, oranges, cinnamon sticks.) See if the kids can identify the items by smell.
6) Try mud painting!
Check out this great site for ideas.
7) Take storytime outside!
If you’ve got a good place for it, take the kids outside for a nature walk, a story or a whole storytime! Make sure you plan lots of movement activities to keep kids engaged, as it’s harder for young children to pay attention to a book when there are so many novel sights competing for their attention.