Black swallowtail drying after emerging from chrysalis
Developing Your Children’s Observation Skills
As you work and play around your yard, have a camera at the ready and take pictures when you see something that might interest your young children, even if it isn’t interesting to you. It will sharpen their observation skills, useful for all of life.
For years, we have been on the ready to capture images of beautiful and unusual things on film and to study them. In this age of digital, it is so much easier. We stop what we are doing…we get all excited!
Last week when my husband and I were working together on the blackberry patch behind the garden, I noticed a black swallowtail butterfly resting after coming out of its chrysalis.
I grabbed my compact camera, a Nikon S8100 Cool Pik, and began taking note of what I saw. This butterfly’s wings were still slightly wet and not yet full size. Notice the greenish tint to the veins in the wings.
This beautiful, but damp, adult had already emerged and was pumping a liquid called hemo-lymph into the veins to inflate the wings. At this time as they are very vulnerable to predators.
Host plants of the black swallowtail include members of the parsley family: carrot, parsley, dill, and Queen Anne’s lace. One of the reasons (besides food value) of growing dill and parsley annually is to witness the yearly attraction of the black swallowtail to our little potager. I see them floating above the plants many days right outside the kitchen window. As the summer progresses, you will most certainly find caterpillars.
You can construct a simple butterfly house and feed it fresh host plant every day; it is likely to make a chrysalis, and later emerge completing its life cycle.
This 1″ (young) caterpillar is on my parsley – eating away. I have enough to spare for him and a few buddies 🙂
I saw it happen! I heard it! This flash of yellow and a dull thump on the glass! A tiny little palm warbler dropped to the concrete of our back porch. Oh, it made my stomach churn, but I grabbed my camera and rushed out anyway to see if I could help. She just lay there, totally still, with her feet tucked up under her tummy. Her eyes rolled up and opened again. She was probably dazed and not afraid of me.
It was a sunny, chilly, and very windy day. My daughter was right there beside me to hold the camera, and we took a 1 minute video to share. I will then tell you what happened.
After we set her down in a little hidden spot among the cobalt blue bugle weed, we watched off and on the whole afternoon and into chilly dusk. She became more alert, but didn’t fly away. The area of my garden is fenced, so there would be no threat of a cat, thankfully. In the morning our dear little friend had left. No sign of struggle, no feathers. She had shown signs of moving, so we decided to leave her in the hands of our Lord who knows…she would have certainly died in ours.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” ~Matthew 10: 29
Mamas, authentic excitement is catching! And truly, more is caught than taught…
It may be that you have a budding scientist (or nature writer or artist or photographer) in your home, and he or she may just need their eyes to be opened 🙂 After all, that is half the pleasure and purpose of teaching our children…to direct them to excellent things, discover their God-given passions, and develop them to the fullest. Here are some practical ways to develop your child’s observation skills:
- Take your children on walks in parks, on a nearby farm or orchard, or on your own property. Tell them that you want them to find 5 beautiful examples of God’s creation, such as an acorn, a leaf, a butterfly, a bird’s nest, or a plant. If possible, have your children draw what they found in a notebook and label it.
- If you have older children, allow them time to use a camera to take photos of nature. You can help your child start and maintain a small photo journal of their finds.
- If you come across some neat insect or plant while by yourself, take it and show your children. Ask them to help you identify it.
- If you see a beautiful bird, scary snake, or other animal/insect, pull out an identification guide and look up the animal. Read about the creature, find out if it is poisonous, where it lives, its habitat and what it eats.
- If you find unique things growing on a leaf or a small insect, grab your magnifying glass and show your children the intricacies of God’s creation.
- Sometime when it’s snowing outside, put on gloves and let snowflakes fall into your hands. Take a magnifying glass and look at the design closely. Read more about the snowflake here.
Observing even the tiniest intricacies of nature builds in us a thankful attitude for the marvelous creation all around us, and it creates a mind eager and ready to observe in all areas of life.
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Thanks for reading!