Bringing Outside, Inside

Looking back over the past few months, it has been a pretty decent winter. There was plenty of snow, and the weather has been super for tobogganing and skiing.

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On the other hand, this has been a downright miserable winter for our family. A series of illnesses, including pinkeye, two rounds of strep throat, numerous colds, flus, and GI bugs have kept us not only inside, but quarantined to our beds. (And I strongly believe Kindergarten teachers should get 2x the number of sick days as everyone else….but that’s another story). So, to be honest, this winter, our trips to the pharmacy outnumbered trips to the great outdoors by about ten to one.

That said, I am going to use this post to talk about some ways to bring nature inside. Whatever the reason: weather, quarantine, piles of paperwork, house arrest, bed-rest, a subscription to Netflix or laziness, people spend a great deal of time indoors. Therefore, it is worth thinking about how to connect with the natural world from the indoors.

  • Houseplants

They don’t take that much work, and they make such a big difference to a house. There are many low-maintenance options that can put up with anyone except those with the brownest of thumbs.  http://www.bhg.com/gardening/houseplants/no-fuss/easiest-houseplants-you-can-grow/

  • Terrariums

Along the same lines, I’m going to suggest Terrariums. If you can find the right balance, these can be fun little self-sustaining ecosystems. On the other hand, mine was an epic failure, despite following specific instructions. Not sure what I did wrong, but I had fun while it lasted. In fact, I had a great deal of fun convincing a surprising number of people this was a real lizard (actually from the dollar store).

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  • Pets

Research has shown remarkable effects of pets on things like stress levels and heart rate. This is the reason they have therapeutic pet programs. Even fish in an aquarium can provide significant calming effects (think dental offices….like in Finding Nemo). Humans have an innate desire to connect with other species and pets can help provide this connection. Pets also teach children about gentleness, love, responsibility and patience.

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  •  Butterfly Conservatory

This one may be cheating a bit, as it is not about my own house. However, we bought a membership to our local butterfly conservatory, and often visit the beautiful location throughout the worst weather. My son loves wandering through the lush garden, using a pamphlet to identify different birds and butterflies. No child (or adult) can help but be excited by having a butterfly land on their shoulder.

 

  • Bug Raising

Again, on a similar note, you can do things like raise Monarch butterflies (kits are available at the butterfly conservatory), or keep things like snails, caterpillars or start an ant farm. This will teach children (and adults) important things about animal habits, habitats, food and lifecycles. When our neighbour invited the neighbourhood kids over to watch their Monarchs emerging, it was a truly magical moment.

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  • Windows (not the computer kind)

Ok, this one sounds obvious, but windows can provide important…well…windows to the outside world. Research shows that hospital patients with green window views actually heal faster and show lower mortality rates. Unbelievable! As an added benefit, put a birdfeeder outside the window! (That will also entertain your cat.)

 

  • Reading, drawing and writing about nature

Whatever your hobby, many can incorporate the natural world. For example, reading, drawing or writing about the natural world (as I am doing now… as it pours rain on the slushy mess outside) can help further connect you and your family to the natural world. Choosing school projects that involve environmental topics is another option.

 

  • Planning trips and looking at photos

We just planned our annual Algonquin camping trip. Looking at the pictures to choose a site helped me really picture myself there. I get excited just thinking about it. Also, looking at photos of previous trips helps reinforce how important these activities and places are for our family.

 Did I miss any good ones? I’d love to hear them!

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4 Responses to Bringing Outside, Inside

  1. Valerie says:

    Hey Cathy
    really enjoying reading your blog! A woman after my own heart – Kbot is much happier and more centred if we spend time outside (even walking home from sitter’s) every day.
    For incorporating nature indoors – we have nature “stuff” for playing with inside – pine cones, seashells, pressed leaves, rocks etc.They can be talked about, handled, sorted, used as part of a craft (think glue/paint). We didn’t even do this deliberately; it’s a side-effect of “collecting” while we’re out an about.

  2. alicehanov says:

    You forgot planning your outside garden! This is the time of the year I steal my kids crayons and plan out my vegetable garden! Each of the girls has a small patch with a sign that’s all theirs. They can do a vegetable or a flower bed, whatever their hearts desire. But I’ve tracked my last three years of plants and know pretty well what will and will not grow, but have to decide which of the tree beds will house what. And just to liven things up we bought 3 pots last year, two long and one square, so I will try some invasive stuff this year without fear of losing the garden, and give tomatoes another go since a pot can be pulled into the sun as needed! I am actually planning a whole day off in April to get enough dirt from the garbage dump to refill our beds. The girls keep throwing it out when they look for worms!

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