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.
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.
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/
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).
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.
- 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.
- 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!