[Photo - Nirmala Patil]
It’s the first day of phalguna, the last month in the Hindu lunar calendar. she comes running to me in the kitchen and taking me by my hand, she ushers me to the balcony and exclaims excitedly pointing her finger towards a lone mango tree faraway on the hill, ‘ma look, there are new leaves being born on that mango tree! It means it’s soon going to be spring, isn’t it?’ Such a small observation, but when my little girl of four makes it, I’m filled with joy and sweet pride. Because this is the kind of relationship with nature I’ve always hoped to cultivate in my daughter. The kind where she can learn to understand it’s language and realise that life is most beautiful when lived embracing nature. Especially in our present world that desperately needs us to care and retrace our unmindful ways.
And as we attempt to mend our damaging habits with simple sustainable practices, it is deeply essential that we raise our children with the same thoughtful awareness. And this, I believe, is only possible by encouraging and nurturing a genuine love for nature in the heart of our little ones. As an urban family living in the thick of high rises (as I think would be the case of many families dwelling in cities), bringing in nature inside our home and lifestyle has been the most organic way of sowing that seed of love into the core of my daughter’s being.
Even if only limited to visiting a society garden, or simply wandering the tree-lined streets in the locality, here are a few gentle rituals we’ve included in our everyday that helps engage our little girl with nature.
Making regular trips to the playground and letting her play and frolic among the green and growing things is an intrinsic part of a her small world. The wind in her hair, the grass under her feet and mud between her fingernails are not only health boosting and a fun way of introducing good bacteria into my child’s system, but is also the most organic way of nurturing a growing friendship between her and the natural world.
Going on slow seasonal walks is both educating and therapeutic to a child’s mind. We go in search of frogs and moss in the rains, and look for pale new shoots sprouting through the earth during springtime. As my little girl observes and takes note of all the changing details, her inherent curiosity is beautifully exercised too. Carrying a basket or a cloth bag on our walks to gather and bring home an abundance of nature treasure is always an additional delight. Older children can also be encouraged to bring along a camera or book to document/journal findings.
Creating a small dedicated place either by a corner, windowsill or a table space can be a lovely way of letting our children display their gathered nature treasures and engage in creativity. An assortment of pebbles, seed pods, feathers and fallen leaves arranged by little hands makes for a happy, colourful art on our nature window. And it inspires hours of imaginative play indoors.
For our little ones, having a tiny garden of their own to tend to is something quite special. Be it a small patch on the balcony, a dedicated container/tray growing a few easy to tend plants, or only a single pot, it a most intimate and tender way of teaching them to care. We recently gifted our daughter a succulent. And every time watching her excitedly watering and holding conversations with it, is a thing of joy.
Learning to create with natural things and giving it as gifts to others will perhaps be the fundamental of all the environmental friendly things our children will grow up to do all throughout their lives. Leaf and rock painting, weaving floral garlands and wreaths, making pressed flower cards for friends and family, however imperfect are all small acts of thoughtful creating and giving. Encouraging this, gives them the right roots early on.
Outside on the hill, as those new born leaves herald spring and a sweet anticipation for the coming mango season, inside our home, and I hope in every home, our little ones are blossoming into nature lovers and learning to live an echo-rich life.