Tuning in to the moon can give kids the chance to slow down, look up and really connect with the wonder of the light that shines above us. In this activity, inspired by a story about the Chinese mid-Autumn moon festival, we share ways that kids can connect with and show gratitude for the light of the moon.
This activity is featured in our November calendar. If you do not yet have your free copy, get it here.
Read a moon book:
Read, watch or listen to Thanking the Moon by Grace Lin, a story about a Chinese American family celebrating the mid-Autumn moon festival. Talk about the moon and wonder together how you could thank the moon for the light it provides.
Go for a moon walk:
Grab a lantern or flashlight (or make your own fall lantern) and head out for an evening walk in search of the moon. Since the world gets dark earlier in fall, it’s the perfect time to introduce kids to the moon, make memories, and still not miss bedtime by too much. As you behold the moon, share what you notice and appreciate about our moon. Read more about this activity here.
Serenade the moon:
Pick a song (or two or three) to sing to the moon! We love to learn a few moon songs, then sing to the moon as we walk—or bring the phone and sing along under the night sky. Find some of our favorite moon songs here.
Bundle up and pack a bag with blankets, snacks or warm tea and enjoy a picnic under the glowing moonlight. Take a moment to share thanks to the moon for providing its special glow for your nighttime feast.
In Grace Lin’s story, the family makes mooncakes, a sweet or savory snack made into a round shape to reflect the shape of the moon.Invite kids to make their own nature-inspired mooncakes out of mud or forest putty. Kids can press nature treasures into their round forest putty cakes to create patterns and designs. Kids can also shape their mooncakes into crescents and half-moon shapes to reflect the changing phases of the moon.
Eggs are often included in the moonlit picnic celebration during the Chinese mid-Autumn moon festival as they represent the roundness of the moon. Try out these ideas for dying eggs with ingredients found in nature.
Read here for more ideas on how to help kids connect with the moon and the changes we see in the world around us.
Why is this activity great for kids?
For kids, there is nothing more magical than the moon. The earlier darkness we experience in the fall is a perfect time to help kids fall in love with the moon and teach kids about change, transition and the natural world. Tuning in to the moon and the changes we see in the world around us is also a super way to bring kids into the present and feel centered and focused.
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We think of self control as a child’s ability to focus on something in such a way that maximizes learning. In order to do that, they first need to direct their attention and focus on a single thing. They also need to discern which information around them is most important and deserving of their attention. Thirdly, they need something called “inhibition.” Think of inhibition as the ability to control impulses, block out distractions and continue attending to the same thing. Focus, discerning and inhibition all require rather fancy brain work and are thought to be part of the “executive functions” or the set of cognitive processes involving the prefrontal cortex that help us manage ourselves and the environment to achieve a goal.
Why does it matter?
Our world is full of distractions, more today than ever. Kids who are in any learning situation need the ability to control their impulses, block out noise and attend to the person, objects, events, or discussions that are central to learning. As classroom teachers, we saw that kids who did this ruled the classroom. As outdoor educators and parents, we know the same holds true outside of school.
But don’t take our word for it; the research is impressive. It turns out that these executive function skills are closely tied to success in the classroom, higher level education and life beyond school. Experts like Adele Diamond of the University of British Columbia have shown that, “If you look at what predicts how well children will do later in school, more and more evidence is showing that executive functions—working memory and inhibition—actually predict success better than IQ tests.” Although these skills are difficult for young children and don’t crystallize until adulthood, the more kids practice them, the better at them kids become.
What is a Naturalist?
The oldest and simplest definition, “student of plants and animals,” dates back to 1600. The term has evolved over time, it's importance changing as the values of dominant culture have changed. 400 years after that old definition, Howard Gardner, the paradigm-shifting education theorist, added “naturalist” to his list of “multiple intelligences.” Gardner challenged the notion that intelligence is a single entity that results from a single capability. Instead, he recognizes eight types of intelligence, all of which enable individuals to think, solve problems or to create things of value. To Gardner, the Naturalist intelligence enables human beings to recognize, categorize and draw upon certain features of the environment.
A true naturalist has not simply Googled and learned the names of plants, animals, rocks, etc. Rather, he or she has had direct experience with them, coming to know about them and using all senses to develop this intelligence. A naturalist also has a reverence for nature, valuing and caring for living things from the smallest mite to the tallest tree. A naturalist comes to not only knowing the creatures and features of his or her environment, but treasuring them in thought and action.
Why does it matter?
In the process of becoming a naturalist, children become stewards of nature, a connection that is associated with a range of benefits, including greater emotional well-being, physical health and sensory development (not to mention the benefits to nature itself!). In a world in which primary experience of nature is being replaced by the limited, directed stimulation of electronic media, kids senses are being dulled and many believe their depth of both their interest in and capacity to understand complicated phenomena are being eroded. To contrast, the naturalist learns about the key features of their natural environment by using all of his senses and be interpreting open-ended and ever-changing stimuli.
What is Sensory Development?
Although some scientists classify as many as 20 senses, when childhood educators talk about "developing the senses," we typically mean developing the five standard senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. In addition to honing these senses, educators care about sensory integration, which is the ability to take in, sort out, process and make use of information gathered from the world around us via the senses.
Why does it matter?
The better kids are able to tune and integrate their senses, the more they can learn. First, if their senses are sharper, the information kids can gather should be of greater quantity and quality, making their understanding of the world more sophisticated. Further, until the lower levels of the brain can efficiently and accurately sort out information gathered through the senses, the higher levels cannot begin to develop thinking and organization skills kids need to succeed. Senses also have a powerful connection to memory. Children (and adults) often retain new learning when the senses are an active part of the learning.
So, if kids have more sensory experiences, they will learn more, retain better and be better able to think at a higher level. Makes the days they get all wet and dirty in the sandbox seem better, doesn't it?