What is it about digging around in the dirt, looking for bugs that just draws you in? I have never really been an outdoors type of person. I love nature, gardening, swinging, reading a good book in the sunshine, an ice-cold drink on a hot day, the way your breath looks when it’s frigid…well at least I love the thought of those things! I want to like being outside, but the reality of the outdoors includes bugs, sweat, and taking too long to find the right shoes for all of the children. So we don’t spend as much time outside as I would really like. There is so much good stuff to learn by being outside though, so sometimes you have to just get over it or find a way to make it work.
Last week Punky was studying things close to the ground like bugs, slugs, mushrooms, moles, and the like, so it made sense for us to do some outdoor exploring. Both of the older kids love to go on bug hunts anyway, so it wasn’t hard to convince them. I put it off as long as I could but finally we just had to do it! We waited until later in the evening so it wouldn’t be so brutally hot out and set out to the edge of the woods in my parents’ backyard. We were aiming to collect a core of soil and some leaf litter with the hopes of scooping up some little critters in the process. It was mostly successful, other than the dozens of mosquito bites. (I didn’t even think about bug spray – oops!) Since we didn’t want to continue to be mosquito dinner, we collected our samples and hurried back inside. My sweet Mama didn’t bat an eye when I scooted her things over to clear a spot at the table so we could dump out our leaf litter to investigate! I love that woman so dearly!! I did think to use some paper plates to try to contain the mess. Bay must have missed the memo on the purpose of the plate though. It didn’t take long for there to be sand and dried up leaves on the table, chairs, and floor. Have I mentioned that I love my Mama?!
Have you ever heard, “God made dirt, so dirt don’t hurt.”? Growing up, my sister and I got dirty! Sissy liked collecting lizards and little frogs from the woods. I loved to make mud pies. Mama never got upset about us being dirty. She might have us rinse off outside with the hose before we could come in, but I don’t remember her ever fussing about us ruining our “good clothes” or worrying over sand tracked in on the carpet. Dirt is just part of growing up, and being dirty is part of being a kid. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t stay dirty. We marched our happy little behinds to the bathroom to get cleaned up. We weren’t going to have “tater beds” caked around our necks for long, and we sure weren’t going to have dirt between our toes or under our fingernails!
There’s something to be said for getting dirty, especially for kids. Loads of people will tell you that getting dirty actually helps your immune system. And there’s nothing quite as interesting as watching nature at work. So much learning happens when we just take a while to observe God’s creation – the way the ants work together without talking, the transformation of a tadpole to a frog in a little creek or pond, the music of a thousand cicadas at night, the endless work of an earthworm slowly and steadily turning the earth. And isn’t it all incredible?! How DO the ants know who is supposed to do which jobs? How DO the frogs change so drastically in such a small period of time? How DO the cicadas know which song is the one of their mate? How DO the earthworms know which way is up?
The great outdoors is calling you! It’s calling to your kiddos. There is no better teacher than nature. It will teach you to wonder and without a doubt, point you in the direction of its Creator. My kiddos had a blast trying to find just the right spot to dig, then slowly sifting through the samples, collecting pieces of interest to put under the microscope later. It took all of 5 minutes to collect them and then they were busy investigating and questioning for another 30! I’d say that alone was worth the bug bites. Knowing they were learning about not only the earth, but the One who planned it all out, designed it down to the tiniest detail, will get my tail off the couch and outside. So go outside – enjoy, play, grow, learn – just don’t forget the bug spray!