The Covid-19 epidemic, and subsequent stay at home orders, are testing our resolve and family dynamics. However, there is a place where almost anyone can find refuge from the monotony by simply stepping outside. Just on the heels of Easter, yesterday was National Gardening Day, marking a beautiful time when we are reminded of the gifts of Spring. During this trying time, many parents can attest to restless children complaining of boredom or being glued to a game screen, zombielike in their glazed stare. As Spring weather warms the earth, and nature starts to raise it head from Winter, there are many things that can both keep children busy as well as remind them of the music of nature:
- Time for planting! If you have a garden each year, it’s time to start working the soil in preparation for Spring planting in the Northern Hemisphere. Waiting anxiously for the last frost, many gardeners and farmers across the world are preparing the ground and growing seedlings in anticipation. Gardening is a great way to teach children about the harmony of nature. Whether you have a green thumb or are just a beginner, plant something with your child to teach them how the soil, sun, and rain work together to help things grow. While working soil, whether it’s in a garden, raised bed, or flower box, children learn how just as in music, a blend of different parts can combine into something greater. Starting seedlings inside demonstrates how nurturing can allow things to grow. For younger children, something as simple as grass seed planted in eggshells can be a fun indoor activity. Ask them to paint faces on the eggs, and see their joy as their egg people grow green hair! Even our urban neighbors can think of creative ways to plant a beautiful, fragrant, and tasty herb garden in a window box or flower pot.
- Music to the ears – Spring is a time when many things are happening in nature at once, a beautiful symphony of sights, sounds, and smells. It is a great time to teach children to sit still and listen. Find a place in your backyard, garden, or nearby woods, ask a child to sit down and close their eyes, and simply listen. Their surroundings will seem to erupt in sounds. In the Spring, birdsong fills the air as all varieties and color of our winged vocalists call for mates to find nesting places. Together, try to identify the distinct songs that each species in your area produces. Ask children to listen for the breeze as it rustles through the newly sprouting leaves on the trees, or the gurgle and babble of a nearby creek. While indoors, listening to a rain shower can teach calm and even how seemingly scary thunderstorms bring important life-giving rain to nature. All the while, this is a great opportunity to discuss just as music is made of different components, nature works together in harmony to create and sustain life.
- Sing about Spring! – Spring has always been an inspiring time for musicians and composers, and it’s a great time to introduce children to these beautiful pieces. One of the most recognizable pieces of classical music is Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Delius’ tone poem On Hearing The First Cuckoo in Spring perfectly mimics the call of a cuckoo before building organically into a gentle cacophony of tweeting birds, while Copeland’s Appalachian Spring seems to set idyllic scenes of nature in each section. More modern songwriters have also been inspired by Spring, from Cat Steven’s Morning Has Broken to the Beatles Here Comes the Sun. Introducing these songs to children will give them a depth of musical variation based on a common theme. Finally, there are a multitude of children’s songs that celebrate the season and natural world. From traditional songs such as Walking in the Green Grass and Itsy Bitsy Spider, to the more recent Springtime Dance or Farmer Plants the Seeds. Some early childhood music programs utilize a selection of these pieces and others in dedicating curricula that celebrates the seasons and our musical connection to the natural world.
At a time when society is asked to practice social distancing, the outdoors provides a great open space for parents to enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of Spring with their children. Whether sitting still and simply listening, singing about the wonders of Spring, or finding an early childhood music program that embraces nature, the outdoors presents a great opportunity to connect our kids with nature.