Herbalist and mom of two Bevin Clare shares a nature observation exercise she and her children are enjoying as spring begins to arrive.

close-up of lilac buds forming on the end of a branch

Photo © Michal Lumsden. Used with permission.

Sometimes the joy is in the little things. At our house, we wanted to find a way to focus on little changes of spring and hone our observation skills.

There is magic everywhere in the spring, and even if we can’t travel far from our homes at this moment in time, we can watch it emerge day by day. I am a mother, and an herbalist, nutritionist, and professor working online, so I appreciate the opportunity to get up from my desk (if the kids even let me sit there in the first place!) and to drink in the arrival of spring in a way that is intentional and focused.

This is a simple nature observation activity we’ve adopted in these early days of spring, and it’s one you can use with your kids to create a deeper experience with nature without having to venture beyond your yard or sidewalk. (We even made a video to share! You can watch it below.) The plant world offers so much, and many of the plants you will find right where you live have uses and applications in human health and nutrition. Some plants are very easy to identify and safe to use or consume, so you might have a source of food or medicine growing right outside your door! This project gives us something to look forward to, and provides a healthy, active distraction from some of the more intense moments of life right now.

What to do:

  1. Select one or more “plots” of land to observe over the coming days and weeks. It doesn’t need to be pristine or fancy. There is nature everywhere! If you have a sidewalk area in front of your building with a weedy patch, use that. If you can’t go outside, you can even do this from a window by picking an area in your view. If you do have land to roam, try selecting different ecosystems such as weedy grassland, forest, field, or damp area. You can mark off your plots with yarn or string, if it helps you remember where they are. We chose plots that were about 6 feet by 6 feet, but anything works!
  2. Give your plot a name, snap a photo of it, and look for things like dried plants from last year and any new, fresh growth from this year (Look closely for flowers — some of them are tiny!). Do you see animals or evidence of animals, such as insects, insect casings, cobwebs, droppings? Notice what the soil looks, feels, and smells like.
  3. Write down your observations in a journal or notebook and be sure to record the date.
  4. Visit your plot(s) every few days to note any changes. If you take photos of your plot(s) through the days, try to take them of same view each time.
  5. Find wonder in the littlest things. These tiny worlds can hold much more than we realize!

Bevin Clare

Bevin Clare is the author of Spice Apothecary. She is a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist, a professor of clinical herbalism at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, and… See Bio

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