One of the best ways to tune into the natural world is by spending time outdoors sitting in quiet awareness or by focusing in on a natural object, perhaps "seeing" it and its remarkable details for the first time with some effort.
A Sit Spot is a technique used at many forest and nature schools that allows a child to choose a place outdoors that appeals to them. They will visit that spot repeatedly to observe the natural world. It’s important that the Sit Spot is one chosen by the child and that it is free of dangers (such as anthills, dangerous heights etc), relatively comfortable (this is the outdoors after all) and preferably shaded. As the child visits the same place in nature many times, they eventually develop a relationship with nature. They notice the changes in the surroundings in all types of weather, times of day, different seasons. The Sit Spot is an excellent place for reading, nature journaling, nature sketching or just contemplation.
Your child can sit in their Sit Spot for anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour, depending on their age and comfort level outdoors. Many children today will have a difficult time sitting in one place for longer than a few minutes. That's normal and this is exactly why they need a Sit Spot! Have them start out by doing an activity in the Sit Spot and then gradually work up to longer periods of time and stretches of quiet contemplation.
Once your child has developed a comfort level with their Sit Spot, you can try out "Noticing the Details" writing. In this form of writing, the child's task is to take in as many details about an object in nature as possible, tuning in deeply into the characteristics of the object such as its shape, texture, smell, color and recording it in descriptive writing. This exercise helps children develop a descriptive writing technique as well as nature observation skills. Encourage your child to look deeply at the object, noticing details they might not have noticed before, or when they first selected the object. With extra effort, "Noticing the Details" writing will help your child develop more focus as well. Overall, it should be a refreshing experience for both of you to "see" a natural object, perhaps for the first time.
Noticing the Details Writing Prompt:
Describe in detail a specific object that you see in your immediate surroundings. Describe it thinking about the following questions: How big or small is it? What does it feel like? Is it sticky or smooth? Light or heavy? Whole or broken? What color is it? Where did it come from? What is surrounding it? What is it on top? Pine needles? Wood chips? Fallen leaves? If your object is a pinecone, acorn, or leaf that fell from a nearby tree describe the tree or trees. What does the tree look like? If it's a leaf, describe its veins and patterns.
Compare this object to other like objects. If you chose an acorn, pinecone, or flower, in what ways is it the same or different from other similar acorns, pinecones, or flowers? Is it bigger or smaller? A different color? More intact or broken?
Sketch your object, labeling the parts you noticed, shape, smell, texture, and other details.