Not much has changed since last week, and as we have had Gary’s parents staying with us, we haven’t had the opportunity for a full study. I thought instead I would look back over the past ten months and reflect on those things that have worked to encourage the younger two to pond along side us.
- We try to include everyone, young and old (even Granny, if we can persuade her!). Everything is always more fun if it is done together. Also, if Daddy is there it means there is always one adult with the little ones and one with the older ones:
- I try to set the scene with some great introductory books. Being a bibliophile at heart, a good book improves almost any kind of study in my eyes, no matter the age:
- I make sure they are warm in the cold, cool in the heat and are well fed and watered (oh, and toileted)…(and napped) Yes, a grumpy, unhappy toddler can ruin the very best of times. Ask me how I know. We try to aim for happy, comfortable little children, who will enjoy their time down at the pond:
- I don’t go with any educational agenda. I know they will learn simply by being there. Joy can be killed if a child is forced to learn when she wants to play:
- They are encouraged to explore the wonders of the pond themselves, if at all possible. We have areas of our pond which can be deep at the edge. Here the little ones must hold an adults hand, but there are other areas which have a shallow shore line and therefore safe for young children to explore (under supervision). Obviously around water it is better to be safe than sorry, but I like to give my little ones as much freedom to explore as I possible can, whilst keeping them safe:
- If possible we allow them to use similar equipment to their older brother and sisters. We bought A5 a camera for her birthday, which is now the highlight for her during our pond visits:
- Making memories is always at the fore front of my mind. This means we have fun, enjoy each others company, eat, drink and be merry…..We have picnics, doughnuts, hot chocolates, late night visits, early morning visits, climb trees, wade in the pond, make daisy chains…. Variety spices up a study:
- I attempt to help them to see, not just look. I might point out the Canada goose who is pond dipping himself; the baby chicks sitting in their nest; how protective the mother birds are; the splashes of the fish as they flip up out of the water to catch some bugs; the heron sitting at the top of the tree. Excitement is contagious, I help them catch mine and keep it as a gift for life:
- And always they are encouraged to respond to what they are seeing. A5 loves to take photos, often not very good ones, but they are her expression of what she has discovered. A2 likes to point and squeal and she likes to have your attention whilst she is doing so. A5 will chat and ask questions. They go pond dipping, do tree rubbings, collect treasures, draw. I let them choose how to experience the wonders before them:
- If at all possible, they bring some of it home. Ownership makes everything more special for a young child, and having a snail to look after or tadpoles to raise to frogs, or even water to study under a microscope – it’s all new, all exciting and it’s ‘all mine, mummy!’ Here B2 is tadpole gazing, completely entranced by them:
- During this year we have found ourselves focusing our attentions on one aspect of the pond. Although we do water study, plant study and tree study, it is not those things that hold our attention. It is the bird life which all seven of us find fascinating. The little ones don’t look at a pond bird and say ‘duck’ (well, to be honest B2 might) but A5 knows her Mallard from her Moorhen; her Heron from her Manderin duck. We haven’t formally taught her, she has just picked it up from our visits:
- And finally, we extend their fun at home if they are interested in doing so. We’ve made sensory ponds, fishing games, pond puppets, pond based food, homemade pond games:
I tell you, there’s a lot of learning that goes on down at the pond, almost all of it requiring little to no effort on my behalf!