Now that I am a parent, I see how learning about history and nature enhanced my life, and I want the same for my children. I want them to discover the lessons that history and nature can teach. I believe that when we take the time to share our family history and even learn history at large, we become grounded as a people. And I believe that nature is a classroom where children (and adults, too!) can find peace and learn valuable lessons about themselves, life and the world around us.
The best way to share our family history with our children is simple: tell stories. Take advantage of opportunities in conversations to share about your childhood memories or pass down stories you were told. At back-to-school time, tell them about your school experiences. I remember my Gramps telling us that when he went back to school, all of the kids in the family lined up and swallowed spoonfuls of different homemade remedies full of things like Cod Liver Oil to help them “stay strong.” That left a big impression on me, needless to say! Holidays and birthdays are a perfect time to share your stories and to encourage your parents and grandparents to share their stories with your children, as well. Sharing stories can build the relationships in your family, helps children learn family history, and creates a strong sense of self.
Check Out Nature
As for nature…nature abounds on our beautiful First Coast! Pick a spot in the sunshine and take your kids there—it’s as simple as that! From the Beach to the River, to your own backyard—they all hold opportunities for exploration and play! Don’t worry about having Pinterest-worthy activities or crafts ready (although those can be fun), let your children lead the way. Let them play in the dirt, catch bugs, and most importantly, use their imagination. When my kiddos are playing outside or we’re taking a walk around the neighborhood, I sometimes point out the plants and animals we see and then ask them open-ended questions about them. This gets them thinking, talking and learning. My kids also love to play the “Alphabet Game,” where you try to find something that begins with the letter “A,” then “B,” etc. Mr. Three is proud that he knows his colors and he likes to play “I-Spy,” with colors to show off his skills.
Another fun way for your children to enjoy the outdoors is gardening. This is also a great way to get them to eat their veggies, they are more likely to eat what they grow. You can start simple and plant things like tomatoes, cucumbers, or bell peppers in 3 or 5-gallon buckets or go all out and buy a raised bed kit from your local hardware store. You can also grow a butterfly garden—a few Milkweed and some Pentas and you will have Monarch caterpillars and butterflies in no time! It is such a rewarding experience to watch the life cycle of the butterfly. Your children will love it! And, who knows, maybe one day they’ll be telling their children about their own childhood memories in the garden.
The important thing is to be present in the moment with your kids (phones off) and to be looking around at nature, asking questions, having fun and making memories.
About The Author
Jennifer Andreu-Yarbrough is the Minorcan Mama and blogs about instilling a love of history and nature in her kiddos. She is and always has been proud to be a St. Augustine Minorcan. Minorcans came to New Smyrna Beach, Florida in 1768 as indentured servants. They were treated cruelly by their overseers, so, in 1777, they escaped and walked many miles north to St. Augustine where they were granted asylum by Governor Patrick Tonyn. As a child, I learned of these brave men and women on my grandparents’ front porch. Her Gramps told her stories of growing up in St. Augustine when it was a sleepy little fishing village and US Highway One looked totally different. Sitting on the porch, sipping Grammy’s sweet iced tea and listening to these stories of the brave, funny, and resilient men and women in her family shaped and inspired her. When faced with life’s problems, she often thinks of those Minorcans, who lived an ocean and a continent away from family and friends and finds the resolve to keep pushing through her struggles. Her growing-up years were also filled with lots of outdoor play and adventures. She has many memories of the beach, the St. Johns River, the Intracoastal, the woods, and her own backyard. Looking back, this time of play and fun family outings in nature fostered creativity, problem-solving, patience, and a love of the natural world.