Children and Nature

Tick and Poison Ivy Season

Memorial-Day-BloomsWe’ve experienced several exciting firsts of the season this past week: our first all-you-can-eat asparagus dinner, our first tulips, our first cilantro, our first thunderstorm, our first creemie (what we call soft serve in Vermont), and my first tick.  I’ve also removed several ticks from our cat, who spends much of his outdoor time stalking mice and voles in the long grass.

Poison-ParsnipThere are many possible dangers associated with all the activities we do every day, including playing and working outside.  I strongly believe, however, that the benefits of time spent outside far outweigh the risks.  Take a moment to learn to identify any poisonous plants in your region.  If you are outside with kids, check out my Poison Plant Guide Activity for young naturalists.  Once you know to identify any irritating plant neighbors, it’s easy to avoid them and enjoy your time outside without itchy or stingy consequences.


If ticks are increasingly common in your area, I encourage you to read my post on Ticks and Outdoor Play.  This five minute read covers the basics of tick identification, avoidance and removal.  Ticks are now part of our outdoor environment in Vermont and Lyme Disease is well worth avoiding.  When you know what to do when you find a tick, it is easier to be carefree as you enjoy outdoor explorations and adventures.

With bright blue skies, warm sun, bird song choruses, green grass, and bright new leaves, I know I don’t want anything dampening the joy and contentment I feel in nature at this time of year.  I hope you have fun outside!



Children and Nature

Meeting My Bird Neighbors

In the city I got the reputation of being able to identify anything nature-y or food-y.  When encountering mystery trees, vegetables, or spices, my friends often came to me for help.  They were often surprised when I didn’t know very many bird songs or birds.  Now that I’m in Vermont and it’s spring, I’ve decided to fill in this gap!


There’s no shortage of practice material – when I walk out my front door at this time of year, I’m greeted with a chorus of birdsong.  Going on bird walks with local experts can really help break the ice.  Local Audubon Societies are great – ours came to our after school program with four adult volunteers and 12 sets of binoculars!!  The kids loved learning to use binoculars and were excited to identify the birds they saw.  I find it hard, however, to absorb much new information on bird walks.  Each time I learn about one or two new birds, but often leave feeling like most of the information went in one ear and our the other.

As with most memorization projects, what I needed was time.  First, I reviewed birdsongs of species I know are common around my house.  There’s a list of mnemonics here and a huge directory of songs to listen to at “All About Birds.”

When I go for walks down our back dirt roads or hikes in the forest, I now listen carefully.  As I walk, I try to translate what I hear: “Cherrio, cheery me, cheery me,” for example. When I arrive home, I try to identify one or two of the songs I remember (that was an American Robin!) using the lists of mnemonics  or recorded birdsong directories online.  Of course it helps if I get to see the bird.  Slowly but surely I’m able to identify more and more songs in the outdoor chorus on my own.  I’m excited to be adding this aural awareness to my natural lexicon! Bird-Walk-Rock-Point