Our new house in the North Shore of Massachusetts comes complete with a beautiful garden! Wonderful for someone like me who really doesn't know much about gardening and just feels appreciative that the yard is vibrant and fragrant. My dad enjoyed gardening and I enjoyed being with him as he dug in the soil and planted the most colorful flowers. My mom and I would usually be pulling weeds while he planted, but that didn't matter. This rich image of being out in nature with my family stays with me to this day.
Nowadays it seems that being out in nature is tougher than it was when I was a child. Perhaps it's the "rush about" mentality that many of us have fallen into where we can't seem to just slow down and embrace what we have in the moment. I fall victim to this way of thinking constantly and struggle with how to maintain a balance of work and family. I know that I want Emmy to experience the wonders in nature as much as possible. I wish for her to have dirt under her fingernails and a multitude of messy treasures in her pockets.
With all of this in mind, it was a complete joy to come across the book, A Child's Garden by Molly Dannemaier, in a small bookstore in New Hampshire. This is a gorgeous piece of work that focuses on how to bring the out-of-doors back into the lives of children. Dannenmaier begins with an explanation of what children really do when they step outside, which is not always what adults think they do or want them to do - think tree climbing and bug digging and hideaways. When our children clamor to go outside, we build swing sets and slides, sign them up for team sports, take them to zoos and adventure parks, but rarely have them explore their own backyard. With beautiful photographs, Dannenmaier shows wonderful examples of the most exquisite backyards and parks throughout the world that will inspire you to shape a part of your yard as a place of delight and interest for your children.
Heading up a national movement for outdoor play is Richard Louv. If you would like to learn more about the importance of being out in nature every day, check out his latest book Last Child in the Woods as well as his website.
Now for the perfect gardening book to share with your child, try How Groundhog's Garden Grew by Lynne Cherry. With lush illustrations, Little Groundhog learns from Squirrel's teachings how to grow his very own garden. With subtle environmental messages such as, when Wren and Praying Mantis strike a deal with Little Groundhog: "If you promise not to harm us with bug spray, we birds and insects will help you with your garden. We will eat the harmful insects that hurt your plants." Cherry teaches us the importance of living in harmony with nature. Ever present in a book by Lynne Cherry, you will find realistic drawings, labels and information galore. Keep this book in mind for the Thanksgiving season as it ends with a grand feast of all the food harvested from Groundhog's garden and shared with his friends.