Summer Solstice Ideas For Families

I love to use the seasons as a way to connect with nature and deepen our bond with the Earth.  The changing of the seasons (solstices and equinoxes) are a perfect opportunity to slow down and notice the changes that are happening around us. It also a time to be grateful for all Mother Nature provides.

Summer solstice marks the beginning of summer. It occurs when one of Earth’s poles reaches its maximum tilt toward the sun, and we have the longest amount of time between sunrise and sunset. It happens twice a year, once in each hemisphere. Here’s a nice explanation from a meteorologist:

And here’s an explanation for the kids:

Simple ideas for learning about and celebrating summer solstice with children:

  • Go outside and sit and observe. Just one minute of sitting in silence and using your senses to notice. Ask children what they see, smell, hear, feel, and taste. Make a list or web of ideas.
    • Ask children questions such as: What happens as we enter the summer season? (more daylight, it’s warmer, flowers are blooming, bugs are abundant… What is there more of? Less of? How do we know spring is over?
    • Doing this helps children to: observe, develop critical thinking skills, organize thoughts on paper, practice handwriting, build conversation skills…
  • Go for a walk to find and collect samples from nature. Talk about what you are finding and comment on textures, colors, smells, and sensations. Children are building their vocabulary by listening to the words you use! As you are exploring invite children to gather whatever they find interesting: Leaves, rocks, feathers, butterfly and insect wings, bones, mosses, seashells, bugs and beetles, seed pods and the list goes on and on.
  • Make a nature mandala with your collection. The word mandala is taken from the Sanskrit word for circle. We chose to represent the four seasons and four directions in our mandala, so we started with four fern leaves pointing north, south, east, and west.
  • Other topics for discussion or writing prompts: What are you thankful for this summer? Is there anything that is bothering you or you are upset about? What can we do this season to make that better?
    • Share your own thoughts on these questions as well. Children will surprise you with their incredible minds. The more you ask them questions like this the more comfortable they become with thinking creatively, an important skill for the future!
  • Add to your nature journals!
  • Read my new book If Sun Could Speak, and check out these activities for playing with the sun and printable resources: https://kourtneylafavre.com/printables/

 

How do you incorporate nature into your family or classroom activities? I’d love to hear from you!

Guidebooks and Nature Journals

book pile

Although guidebooks are not designed and marketed to children, they are a wonderful addition to children’s personal libraries! I wanted to share how we use them and their benefits, so I created a quick video to highlight our experiences and love for guidebooks. We also incorporate guidebooks with nature journaling.

Nature journaling is a simple and fun way to encourage young children to make observations and develop a connection with the natural world. It also promotes curiosity, wonder, and self-directed learning. Nature journaling helps develop and support reading and writing skills too. And it’s a great opportunity for connection within a family to have a shared activity.

Happy Journaling! You can also view the video from my Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you! Does your family take part in journaling?

Good Relationships

“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”  A 75 year Harvard study has revealed this as the most important factor in human happiness. I have read about this study, and the length of time and amount of effort put into this is impressive. Although the study started with just men (women and children are brought into the study eventually), the results are significant for all. It seems like it should be common wisdom that the quality of our relationships affect our well-being, but it’s not common knowledge so it’s important for work like this to occur. And of course my mind goes right to how this knowledge is important to children and childhood. Childhood is the foundation of life. It is a crictical period of human development when we are figuring out how the world works and our place in it. We also receive lenses or filters through which we will view the world, ourselves, and our place in the world. The words we hear, the things we see, our experiences with people, places, and things, are all a part of that foundation.

How are we laying down a foundation for children that includes building relationships that are supportive and healthy? There are two things that come to mind for me. The first is what opportunities and support do children have to create these quality relationships? The second is what is being modeled for children?

  • On a side note, I realize I ask a lot of questions. It’s the Socratic philosopher in me. I actually can’t help it. I get passionate on a topic and I immediately think of  a list of questions that I want to ask myself and others. Anyone else like that?These are two topics I am particularly passionate about, so prepare yourself for a lot of questions!

Children need opportunities to practice the skills that will serve them for a lifetime. That’s why we have a childhood. It’s a period of development for them to observe, practice, take risks, ask questions, build knowledge, and seek answers. Their play is a vital component of the childhood experience. Their play is their work. So when we look at the foundational experiences of childhood, how are we supporting opportunities for them to develop good relationships? Are they getting opportunities to interact with a wide variety of people? Do they get to talk with people of different ages and generations? Do children get to cooperate on projects, seeing how different people have different strengths and weaknesses, and when they come together they can achieve big goals? Are they learning that all people have something to offer and do they have opportunities to showcase their strengths? Are children able to follow their passions and meet people that are passionate about the same topics? Are children sometimes introduced to a topic that they might not have explored on their own, and can then develop relationships from there? I’m asking all these questions because I believe they are important to the development of good relationships.

The second topic is where the adults come into play. Are the adults in children’s lives modeling how to seek out and maintain healthy relationships? Do they model setting healthy boundaries, expressing gratitude, practice empathy and compassion? Are the words that adults use sending messages of positivity, kindness, and encouragement? Do the adults have a healthy relationship with themselves? This is probably the most important question because it all starts with taking care of ourselves, everything evolves from there.  All of these questions are contributing factors to healthy development of quality relationships.

So if we look at the common and unquestioned practice of putting children into a school setting, how are these practices in support of the development of healthy relationships? Children are grouped into rooms with only children of the same age. They are gathered into schools based on where they live and placed with children that live within a certain geographical radius around their homes. I’m finding it hard to see how this practice is in the best interests of children and their development of healthy relationships.

Teachers do the best they can to bring the outside world into their classrooms, but is that enough? I have been there. As an elementary teacher I was always looking for opportunities to bring experts from various backgrounds and generations into the classroom. And these experiences are wonderful, but they are still just a substitute for the real life experiences that children need. Teachers do the best they can within their imposed limits. This is the reality of standardized, compulsory schooling. I’m sharing this point of view because we all have a responsibility to raising the next generation. Enrolling your child in the local school district does not necessarily mean a well rounded education. Children need more interaction in the real world in developmentally appropriate ways, in order to prepare them for life in the world.

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To set children up for success we must first model what healthy relationships look like, with ourselves and others. And we must also give them opportunities to build a foundation that leads to development of good relationships. So no matter who you are: parent, teacher, grandparent, politician, stranger in the grocery store, please set a good example. The children are watching and learning from what they see, hear, and experience.