Exploring Nature in Winter

Go outside, stay inside, make something, soak in the quiet joy of this season.

Thank you, Katie, for these inspired ways to enjoy the season!

As parents, we are busy. We keep our children dressed, fed, nurtured, protected, and entertained. If we’re really having a good day, then we do all of that for ourselves too. We work, we grocery shop, we drive around. The busyness goes on wether we feel ready for it or not. It is common that we forget where we are, where we really are, right here, right now. Right here, right now I’m sitting next to a warm and sunny window, in the middle of winter, and I’m thinking about this earth that we call home.

Connecting to the earth is something that many people desire in their lives, but that often loses out to other priorities, or perhaps even goes unnoticed. For parents, inviting nature into our lives can be as simple as paying attention to our children. Really watching how they walk, or crawl, in the world. How their faces light up. How every discovery, common or not, can be magic. Their new eyes on the world are joy and wonder in the most natural sense there is.

David Sobel says, ”If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.” May they also teach us to love the earth, and what better time to start than in the quiet joys of winter. Winter can be seen as cold, dreary, and a difficult season to muddle through. What would life be like if we instead treated it as a time to slow down, dig deep, and really soak up the quiet joy surrounding us?

Exploring our Winter World: Inside, Outside, and With our Hands

It’s winter. Wether you want to take your family romping through the sleeping woods, snuggle up and gaze out the window, or do a craft together, there are many ways to enjoy this season.

Get Outside

Getting our children outside, especially if we don’t ordinarily do so, can seem like an overwhelming challenge. The good news is, if you leave your house on a daily basis you’re already getting outside. Good work!

child picking up stick in woods

Bundle up and go for a walk. Romping through the cold, or sometimes quite warm, world of winter rest is not on everybody’s short list. However, I bet your children will be happy to lead you out of doors. Here are a couple of rules to take, or leave, with you on a slow winter walk. Rule #1: Make sure you'll be warm enough. Rule #2: Don’t have an agenda. Just go for a walk. Rule #3: Stop and look at every single thing that your child calls your attention to. Every single thing. Open your eyes and heart to what they see. You might not make it out of your yard, which can be pretty spectacular. You'll need to find another time to exercise, because this is probably not it.

If you want to go on a ramble with other families, and you’re here in Durham, consider going out with the Ellerbe Creek Family Explorers Club. They meet once a month for nature activities along the Ellerbe Creek here in the heart of Durham. Each walk has a theme. You can participate to you and your children’s level of interest, and you can walk as far as you care to.

Nature TV

If you’d prefer to stay cozy and snug inside on any given day consider the windows in your home. Find your lowest window, so your children can reach it, snuggle up in front of it and peer out into the world. In my house we call this Nature TV. Outside my front window there are two bird feeders, a tiny pond, and a giant old willow oak. My son and I watch the birds, squirrels, dogs, people, and trucks that pass by every day. We are regularly two feet from woodpeckers, bluebirds, cedar waxwings and many other beautiful bird friends. We follow them with our eyes around the yard, up the tree and out of sight. It’s a joyful addition to our days. If you get really into watching the birds, consider participating in The Great Backyard Bird Count in February.

Winter crafts

child holding pinecones


The birds are hungry, so get your hands dirty. You’ll need pine cones or oranges, yarn, a bowl, bird seed, and a sticky medium to mix with the seed (sunbutter, lard, peanut butter, other nut butters). Tye a loop of yarn to a pine cone, or a hollowed out orange half, so that you’ll be able to hang it over a branch in your yard. In a bowl mix birdseed with your sticky medium of choice. Use your hands, or a spoon, to mix it up, and make a huge and fun mess. Smear the birdseed mixture onto the pine cones or stuff into the orange halves. Hang them from their yarn loops on branches or tuck them into nooks and crannies around your yard.

Enjoy the quiet joy of the winter season!

Resources

Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association: http://www.ellerbecreek.org/

The Great Backyard Bird Count: http://gbbc.birdcount.org/

Bird Feeder Directions: http://www.discoverwildlife.com/british-wildlife/your-garden/how-make-orange-birdfeeder