Entertaining a group of kids of varying ages can feel intimidating. Such was our challenge one weekend in the mountains with friends, our collective broods ranging from 1 to 8 years old. But as it turned out, all we had to do was string up a long stretch of twine between two trees, then give each kid their own piece of twine and to a variety of nature treasures (e.g. sticks, flowers, greens, rocks, etc). Over an entire day, kids collected, selected and arranged objects, decorating his/her own strand of twine that, once all hung from the long stretch, become our nature curtain. The 1-year-old? She had a blast playing with (and taste testing) the rocks at the base of the curtain while watching her elders create.
As the weekend went on, the curtain remained a focal point of play, morphing into a stage for plays and talent shows and then, eventually a demolition site. Since that time in the mountains, we have made many a nature curtain. The making has run from an hour to over the course of a few days. Each curtain is unique and is put to different uses that reflect the kids' interests and imagination. We are never disappointed by how lovely they actually look and how much kids get into making and, often, playing with them.
Why is this activity great for kids?
Martha Stewart has nothing on Mother Nature. Truly, nature redecorates for her guests each day, changing up colors, objects and textures. But, busy as we are, it’s easy to miss nature’s unparalleled exterior design. A nature curtain allows you to find and look more closely at nature's amazing objects and sense the magic.
For kids ages 18 months to about 5 or 6, making a nature curtain also supports the development of three behavioral schema: connecting, trajectory and transporting.
A nature curtain can also be the jumping off point for rich imaginative play. Make a curtain, and you can turn a small corner of the outdoors into a fort, a stage, a fairy house or even a doorway into another magical world.
Likewise, nature curtains can also be a way for kids (ages 3 and up) to practice with patterns. Math students who have played with and explored patterns as young children typically have a stronger sense of numbers and functions that can help make learning higher level math easier and more enjoyable.
Finally, a nature curtain is, by design, something kids of different ages and abilities can do and something that reflects their own interests and sense of design, no matter how basic. So, if you ask about their contribution and demonstrate interest, you can stoke the fires of self esteem.