Columbus Day is always of great interest to children. Not only do many parents and children have the day off, but because it falls so early in the school year it is often one of the first introductions to famous figures in history. The story of Christopher Columbus is one that includes hardship, persistence, and a sense of adventure. The voyage of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria is of course a mixed legacy, for although Columbus is credited with opening up the Americas to European colonization, he is also credited with both enslavement of Native Americans and spreading diseases to the new world.
However, when teaching the story of Columbus to very young children, our focus is often centered on elements of directionality, sink and float, making discoveries, self-reliance, and persistence. We also hope to convey the “spirit” of exploration with children and encourage them to make their own discoveries. In the spirit of Columbus, why not make some discoveries right in your own backyard?! It is important to let our kiddos know that adventure and discovery do not have to take place in a faraway land but can happen right at home if we allow adequate time, open ended questioning, and a little risk taking. Our yearlong theme of LANK Learns Nature-ally is the perfect segue to making discoveries both at school and at home. Here are five ideas to get your preschooler started on his/her own backyard adventure.
Dig a Hole
Children get to see what is on top of the ground, but why not have a few select spaces for discovery about what lies below the earth?
Follow the Ants
Find an ant pile in your yard, and add a few interesting twists and turns. Perhaps you can leave some sugar cubes or obstacles for the ants to encounter. Allow your child to discover the possibilities and track their movements.
Create Your Own Natural Environmental Print Logo Sheet
Children recognize Target, McDonalds’s, and Pizza Hut, but wouldn’t it be great if they could also recognize Cypress, Oaks, Hummingbirds, and Woodpeckers? Let your child track and become familiar with plants and animals that might appear in their own backyard.
Have your child discover the shapes, sizes and types of rocks in their own backyard. Let your child’s creative spirit be unleashed by designing a rock garden somewhere in the yard.
Starry, Starry Night
Sleep out underneath the stars in your own backyard. If this seems a bit too adventurous, then opt for a star count over a period of nights. Another possibility is to make a list of sounds heard during the day and compare them to nighttime sounds.
The beautiful autumn temperatures make this the ideal time to get started on your very own adventure and discovery in your own backyard!