Welcome to the June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Years ago, long before my daughter was born, I got garden-fever. I lived in Atlanta, in a house in Midtown, and I had a successful compost pile, and a squash, cucumber, and flower garden. I grew peas and peppers inside (which were sorta failures, but I learned a lot from my mistakes).
Right after my first grow, I had to move to Tampa, where I committed basil genocide. I have a theory that creativity, whether maternal or green or otherwise, tends to centralize in a specific outlet. Garden-fever turned into baby-fever. And then I got pregnant and moved across the country twice.
Now, we live in Virginia Beach. We just moved into a new apartment with a back and front yard, and with my eight-month-old superstar baby, I’ve started the garden again. This time, I bought a few already grown plants and started some seeds. And I’ve started a compost pile.
These activities are super fun to do with your kid, and I feel all giddy and enriched when my seedies sprout. While I’m weeding, planting, pulling, the Snoot sits beside me banging her own shovel against a little pot, and she babbles, telling me and our dog stories about her own life as a seed (at least, that’s what I imagine she’s telling us about). Letting her play with the same objects I’m working with aligns with a piece of Montessori Method that I loosely adhere to, “Fewer toys, more real life objects, promoting the idea that children should learn how to handle real objects, rather than pretend ones.”
A lot of times she ends up playing with dirt, which is cool with me too, and good for her immune system!
Aside from being a good, cheap outdoor activity, seeing plants grow makes me feel good. I’ve currently become obsessed with edible flowers:
Marigolds: Sorta spicy/ bitter. I like them in a salad with similar-tasting arugula, pears, and a sweet vinigarette (like raspberry or champagne)
Blue Borage: Cucumber-like flavor, beautiful. And the leaves can be used as a savory herb.
Chive Flowers: Garlicy flavor. Lovely addition to almost any salad or baked potato.
Squash Blossom: Can be sweet, nectar-ish flavor. Great stuffed with goat cheese or any kind of homemade nut cheese.
And there are so many more…but those are the four I’ve started with.
And then there’s the ecological benefit of composting:
“Yard and food wastes make up approximately 30% of the waste stream in the United States. Composting most of these waste streams would reduce the amount of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) requiring disposal by almost one fourth, while at the same time provide a nutrient-rich soil amendment. Compost added to gardens improves soil structure, texture, aeration, and water retention. When mixed with compost, clay soils are lightened, and sandy soils retain water better. Mixing compost with soil also contributes to erosion control, soil fertility, proper pH balance, and healthy root development in plants.” (Find source here, a great website for composting references.)
There are all kinds of fancy products to facilitate composting: nutrient-rich teas, barrels, machines. I’m old fashioned: we collect our organic products from our kitchen in a bowl, pile it in the back of our backyard, and use a shovel to move it around.
Starting A Pile:
- Start on the ground, grass or soil. You do not need a barrier, but first lay a few inches of straw or twigs for aeration and drainage.
- Add stuff in layers: green then brown, wet then dry. Green manuer helps speed up the process.
- Cover with plastic or carpet or whatever you want.
- Keep moist, but do not soak.
- Turn every week or two with shovel.
These things can be added to your compost:
“Green Stuff” (Nitrogen)
- tea bags
- veggie and fruit scraps (uncooked)
- fruit rinds
- coffee grounds
- old flowers
- dead plants (NOT DISEASED PLANTS!!)
- coffee filters
- cut grass and weeds
- seaweed and kelp
- chicken poop
“Brown Stuff” (Carbon)
- Fallen leaves
- Twigs and branches
- Torn up cardboard
- wood ash
- dryer lint
- corn husks
*Keep the Green Stuff and the Brown at a 1:1 ratio.
*Add soil or cover any new additions with grass clippings to mask scent.
* Add lots of straw between layers to reduce need for “turning”
*Layer grass on top to reduce flies.
Do NOT add this stuff, EVER:
- Meat, dairy, or whole eggs
- Weeds with seed heads
- Dog or Cat poop
- Cooked ANYTHING
Temp and Water Content:
After it’s established, the compost should feel like a damp towel and remain between 90 and 135 degrees (which is why it’s easiest to start in the summer). It takes 2-4 weeks to establish, and, once it’s established, you’ll notice bugs and worms infiltrating it.
Compost is a good addition to soil. It is not soil itself! But if you are growing a potted garden, like me, it is good, solid plant food.
As far as outdoor activities go, gardening is my favorite: After planting and growing and composting, the veggies and herbs can be used for dinner. And if you plant things you’ve never cooked before, they will inspire new recipes. Plus, kids who don’t like eating veggies may have a little more fun if they helped grow it…or if they’re eating flowers!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- Garden Treats — Asha at Mom Costume has once again been bitten by the gardening bug — and this time her baby’s tagging along for some fresh air and dirt exploration. (@titbagsandsnoot)
- Outdoor Free Roam — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting follows her daughter’s lead whenever they go outside. (@mamapoekie)
- Summer fun in Austin with a toddler — Jessica at This Is Worthwhile is brainstorming ways to beat the heat in Texas. (@tisworthwhile)
- summer fun… — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children is looking forward to spending the summer outside with her children the way she used to spend summers with her mother.
- Outdoor Fun for Pre-Walkers — Maman A Droit has figured out ways to let her pre-walker enjoy the outdoors. (@MamanADroit)
- Summer Homeschool Fun at Camp Review — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now discusses how Camp Review motivated and captivated her homeschooling family. (@DebChitwood)
- Digging, Tree Climbing and Puddle Jumping — Laura at Laura’s Blog bemoans the loss of her girls’ climbing tree but knows they’ll find something else just as naturally tempting.
- The Sweet Smells of Summer — Erin at A Beatnik’s Beat on Life is looking forward to the many smells of summer she and her daughters enjoy and identify. (@babybeatnik)
- June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor Fun — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker is a confirmed couch potato who can’t help but be inspired by the outdoor opportunities Seattle offers her family. (@sybilryan)
- Take a Hike — Michelle at The Parent Vortex connects with her family and the Earth on frequent hikes in their Pacific wilderness. (@TheParentVortex)
- Following Paul — Julie at Simple Life gives her kids unstructured time to dig in the dirt and pick mulberries. (@homemakerjulie)
- Instilling a Love of the Outdoors in Your Baby/Toddler — Tessasdad at Stay At Home Dad in Lansing offers a photo book of tips for helping your little ones enjoy the outdoors. (@tessasdad)
- Camping, baby! — Jen at Grow With Graces has easy tips for tent camping with a little one. (@growwithgraces)
- Think Outside the Easel for Summertime Fun — Acacia at Be Present Mama finds several ways to bring art fun to the outdoors.
- Outdoor Learning in our Urban Environment — Andrea at Ella-Bean & Co. has found ways to get grass between her daughter’s toes, even in the city.
- Outdoor Education — Alison at BluebirdMama offers parents tips and resources for making each outdoor excursion a learning experience. (@childbearing)
- Turning Inside Out — Christie of Childhood 101 finds kids get a kick out of taking indoor toys outside. (@Childhood101)
- Watching Peas Sprout — Deb at Science@home combines fun with purpose in this educational outdoor activity. (@ScienceMum)
- How To Create a Pirate Treasure Hunt & Other Easy Outdoor Pirate Activities (June Carnival of Natural Parenting) — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has pirate-themed play ideas for ye scurvy landlubbers. (@CodeNameMama)
- What We Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has managed to expose her 8-month-old to a wide variety of outdoor fun, even with the notoriously dreary UK weather. (@diaryfirstchild)
- Summer Fun — Darcel at The Mahogany Way finds her family’s visits to the beach refreshing in so many ways. (@MahoganyWayMama)
- Playing outside without a backyard — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes doesn’t let the lack of a backyard stop her family from enjoying the outdoors. There are plenty of things to do outside of your yard! (@sheryljesin)
- Having Fun Outdoors, Playset Free — Guavalicious at They Are So Cute When They Are Sleeping has resisted a backyard playset in favor of the regular backyard. (@guavalicious)
- Moon Gazing with your Toddler — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries is keeping her toddler up at night, but it’s for a good reason: to share the wonders of the night sky! (@babydust)
- the great outdoors — The grumbles at grumbles and grunts wonders whether her urban child can experience the same free-range childhood she enjoyed. (@thegrumbles)
- Let’s Take It Outside! — NavelgazingBajan at Navelgazing is looking for ideas: how can she spend time with her pre-walker outside this summer? (@BlkWmnDoBF)
- A home by the sea: June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun — Lauren at Hobo Mama is living her dream of a home near the beach, and taking full advantage of it. (@Hobo_Mama)
- An Outside Girl — Zoey at Good Goog moved her family to (almost) the middle of nowhere so that her outdoor-loving girl could have more grass and less concrete. (@zoeyspeak)
- Neighborhood Nature — Kelly at Kelly Naturally has learned to connect with the nature she has instead of mourning the nature she misses. (@kellynaturally)
- Building Lovely Memories of Swimming, Spiders and Gravestones — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch and her family are simply outdoorsy people. (@kitchenwitch)
- “Buh-Bye” Season — Danielle at born.in.japan must leave laundry behind and follow her son’s call to the outdoors. (@borninjp)
- Backyard Camping — Becoming Mamas took her family camping very close to home! (@becomingmamas)
- The Color of Dreams — Seeking Mother at Woman Seeking Mother makes gardening magical by teaching her son that each flower is a faery. (@seekingmother)