Monday, January 23, 2012

Urban Nature Spotting With Kids

When you live in a concrete-filled city like Los Angeles, sometimes connecting with nature can seem … a little challenging.

Then again, sometimes you just have to slow down and take a closer look.

How exactly do you do that? Lucky for you, we’ve developed a few skills that come in quite handy when you’re trying to connect with nature when you’re not actually in nature.

Develop a ‘nature radar.’
Okay, I made that up! But I think this is probably one of the most important things you need to do to appreciate nature in an urban setting. A “nature radar” allows you to connect with nature even if you’re somewhere you wouldn’t expect to be inspired.

Case in point: Last week while picking up The Little Explorer from preschool, I noticed there was a gorgeous sunset in the making. On our way back to the car, the kids and I stopped to stare up at the sky for a minute and spotted the most wonderful tree – bare save a single nest.

Set against the dusk, it was a beautiful sight. And a wonderful few moments for us to share.

Don’t count out the concrete.
The other day we spotted a row of dandelions growing right alongside the curb where my car was parked. Before getting inside the car, we spent a few minutes looking at the flowers, stems and leaves growing out of apparently thin air.

Use your commute time to your advantage.
Have you ever noticed what’s going on in nature right outside your car window? We’ve pulled over more times than I can count because one of us spotted something worth watching. Cool cloud formations, gorgeous sunsets and make-you-smile rainbows. And the birds – oh, the birds – they never disappoint!

Get to know your local critters.
We talk to the crows that live in and around our house. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that The Big Explorer gives me regular updates about the bird activities he sees while he’s at school. Stuff like which direction the birds are flying, how many of them are gathered and whether they’re quiet or noisy.

Take a closer look at the things you see every day.
Like the roses outside our front door, which one afternoon housed a critter that sent The Big Explorer over the moon with excitement.

Last fall, we spotted all kinds of cool spiders and webs in the shrubbery right in our driveway. Don't forget to take a second look now and again at the things right under your nose. You never know what you might discover!

How do you like to discover nature in an urban setting?

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