Living seasonally (with a toddler)
September 3, 2019 7:34 AM   Subscribe

What are your practical tips for acknowledging the season in daily life? We live in a place with four distinct seasons and spend a lot of time outside but I would like to start acknowledging the season inside as well.

Examples we already do -
- Have a picture frame in my son’s room that rotates a different landscape for spring/summer/fall/winter
- eat warm food in winter, cold food in summer
- go apple picking, ice fishing, to the beach, etc

I’m looking for other ideas that would make us more mindful of the seasons. Thank you!
posted by pintapicasso to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
In the fall, collect different colour/shape leaves and glue onto paper to make a collage. You can also dip the leaves in paint and print with them.
Grow something edible if you have the space - different things sprout/ripen at different times of year.
Grow something like flower bulbs that are dormant through the winter and emerge suddenly in the spring.
Put up a bird nest box (again, if space permits) - look for birds using it for nesting in the spring.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:41 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Waldorf education uses a Nature Table for that very purpose. You can find lots of ideas googling that term.
posted by The Toad at 7:43 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ooh, I'm thinking back to things I did in kindergarten, fun!....I know you have a toddler, so you may need a hand in these, but some would probably be do-able for you.

* For fall: a simple art project we made was to gather pretty fall leaves, and then sandwich a few of them between two sheets of wax paper. The teacher would iron that wax-paper-and-leaf sandwich and it made a semi-transparent thing we could hang in a window.

* For winter: make "snowmen" out of styrofoam balls or pom-poms. You can get both at craft stores.

* One day in Kindergarten I remember us making pictures of butterflies via an inkblot method: get a big piece of paper, fold it in half, open it back up again and put a few blotches of paint near the fold in the center of the paper. Then refold it, and run your hand over the paper a few times to spread the paint out (moving your hand from the center out to the edges), then unfold the paper. Voila - butterfly!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

For winter: make "snowmen" out of styrofoam balls or pom-poms. You can get both at craft stores

Or glue cotton wool balls to paper.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:23 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

You could come up with family festivities/rituals for the traditional festivals of The Wheel of The Year: Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas, Mabon and Samhain. This gives a real feel of welcoming in the changing seasons.
posted by Balthamos at 8:33 AM on September 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

As much as I feel like families (or moms, really) don't need another household task to stay on top of, when I was growing up my mom had some cute indoor decor for several of the seasonal holidays and I have to admit that it really did help life feel fun and festive and was a nice reminder of the passage of time. Most of it was pretty low-key – I think she had a Valentine's Day wreath made of scraps of red/pink/white fabric, a little tabletop display of bunnies that got displayed on the buffet around Easter, things like that – but as a kid, I loved digging each one out of storage and setting them out, and it was always fun because you only got to see that stuff once a year.
posted by anderjen at 8:41 AM on September 3, 2019 [7 favorites]

We have a garden - my toddler especially loves planting edible things and then harvesting them and eating them. You can do this in small pots if you have even a little bit of outdoor space (like a balcony) even if don't have a yard! And you could probably grow sprouts and herbs inside, but that would be less directly seasonal.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:42 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Sing a Song of Seasons is a gorgeous collection of nature poems for each day of the year that I keep eyeing at our local bookstore. A speaker at our coop preschool suggested reading that day’s poem from it each night at dinner or bedtime.
posted by bananacabana at 8:47 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

Apple stuff for fall (make apple prints)
Leaf activities (collages, there are cute animal crafts using leaves)
General fall/Halloween/Thanksgiving stuff (make Indian corn with dried beans, paper plate turkeys, salt ghosts)
There are tons of winter crafts out there (snowmen using coffee filters, making crystal snowflakes with pipe cleaners and borax solution)
Spring flower crafts (egg carton flowers, coffee filter flowers)
Rainbow crafts
Butterfly crafts

I'm trying to remember stuff I did with my preschool class last year. I have folders full of stuff. Most of it I found googling "season craft preschool" (sub toddler, but don't discount preschool stuff it can often be modified for toddlers)

These are all craft type things. One thing I do in my classroom is get the holiday decorations from the dollar store and hang them up. I've also done vases of seasonal fake flowers, though you could do fresh too. Cook using seasonal ingredients. Apple season is upon us, tons and tons and tons of recipes out there.
posted by kathrynm at 8:59 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

That book looks incredible bananacabana. I wish it weren't so expensive. I don't get reimbursed for a lot of stuff, or I'd be ordering it right now.
posted by kathrynm at 9:00 AM on September 3, 2019

Cut out paper snowflakes for the windows in winter. My wife and kids always did this as our major seasonal-transition activity.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:16 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

eat warm food in winter, cold food in summer

Take this a step further. Learn what produce is in season in your area. Eat that.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:29 AM on September 3, 2019 [6 favorites]

Do you have AC? Turn it off when it's not needed and open the windows. I feel so much more connected to nature with the windows open. I have a much wider range of comfort because I don't live in a set temperature in summer, and keep it cool in winter.

Celebrate the Equinoxes and Solstices, which are 4 of the holidays Balthamos lists, and it's no accident that Easter, Halloween, and MayDay are where they are, as those holidays were incorporated into a newer religion. Celebrate Full Moons; when you live in a town the moon is nice but if you go someplace dark, the moon is stunning. I got to watch the Milky Way the other night, a great treat. There are meteor showers - the Perseids in mid-August are easy to view because it's warm out, with shooting stars as frequently as every minute or so(if you're quite lucky), but also the Leonids in November.

Go for walks, and notice when local wildflowers and trees bud, bloom, drop leaves, etc. In Fall, get real waxed paper, collect bright leaves and put leaves between waxed paper, between newspaper, and iron them. They get waxed and last ages.

In winter, look at snow crystals. If it is very cold, near 0F, boil water, take it outside in a mug, and fling the boiling water up in the cold air where it will whoosh directly into ice. I have not done this, but you can blow bubbles with ordinary bubble liquid,and they will freeze. The full moon on snow is really bright, and you can easily read by it, fun to demonstrate.

To apple picking, ice fishing, to the beach, add a bit of gardening. A potted tomato, parsley from seeds, are easy and useful, and sunflowers are magic.
Keep a calendar, note day length, daily high and low temps, when the child is a bit older, maybe a little weather station.
The Library will have seasonal books to borrow.
I love this question.
posted by theora55 at 10:14 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

To welcome spring, you can put together a creepy Marzanna doll and optionally drown it in moving water. This works better if your area has spring floods once the iced-over rivers start moving! Otherwise just do it on March 21st.

I also love the Japanese concept of microseasons, adaptable for most four-season areas. Liza Dalby did a great memoir-ish interpretation of the microseason lists in East Wind Melts the Ice. Maybe challenge your child to come up with local microseasons corresponding to that list?
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:29 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cut out paper snowflakes for the windows in winter.

This, but for all seasons. My kids LOVE cutting out hearts for Valentine's Day, flowers for spring, leaves for fall...I don't like most arts and crafts projects at all, but I can do this all day long. I always smile walking up to our house and seeing the front window covered in their handiwork.

Oh, and I Love You All Year Long is a beautiful kids book celebrating all the seasonal things families can do together. I always feel so cozy and happy whenever I look at it.
posted by anderjen at 10:37 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of this is around things that happen on the calendar. Your toddler isn't in regular school yet, but you could start to talk about "back to school time!" and the attendant rituals. Most months have a long weekend which become related to the season. In the US for example, we sometimes think of summer beginning with a Memorial Day picnic and ending with a Labor Day picnic. 4th of July clearly has rituals far more related to the summer.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, your winter celebration of choice: these are all holidays that have become entwined with the season of the year.

You could also talk about the sun setting earlier (though your toddler might be going to bed while it's still light out now) and call attention to shorter days. Do you have a cozy blanket you put on the couch in the winter? A wreath for your front door? Sandals that get packed away in the fall and sweaters and boots that come out for the winter? You may be doing more of this than you realize already.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:00 PM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

When it comes to spending time outside, it helps if you have a standard route to follow, since it'll demonstrate changes over time more readily than a new route. If you normally walk as transport, say to preschool or the store, this happens pretty naturally.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:01 PM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Whole Family Rhythms website has quite a few articles about seasonal living with kids that I've taken inspiration from - for example organising children's books by season, a story for early autumn, creating a summer rhythm, seasonal mealtime blessing verses, and creating an autumn rhythm. Raising Little Shoots is another interesting blog and Instagram about exploring nature with kids and celebrating the seasons.
posted by fever-trees at 4:58 PM on September 3, 2019

Learn what produce is in season in your area. Eat that.

This -- if you're in California, I would especially emphasize the Cherries in early Summer, Strawberries all Summer long; Tomatoes, Sweet Corn and Peaches in late Summer and Fall; and Naval Oranges from mid-Winter to early Spring.
posted by Rash at 6:44 PM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Buy sets of seasonal window clings and put them up on a window in your house as indoor seasonal decor and rotate them every month or two. You can buy sets for specific holidays like Valentine's day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc. Or more generic seasonal ones like flowers, autumn leaves, snowflakes, apples, etc. My kids loved helping to put up window clings on our family room window for each season starting when they were toddlers.
posted by Mallenroh at 11:14 PM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Look out the window of your house.
Note how the sun sets over the neighbor's roof in summer... and on the other side of the chimney in the winter. This also works with the moon, which follows the same path in the sky.

Hang a prism so that the sun's light makes rainbows on different parts of the wall. Mark where the rainbow appears with a post-in note, and put the prism away. Next month try again at the same time, and mark the different location on the wall.

Note when the sun rises and sets on Midsummer and Midwinter days (the Solstices) and try balancing an egg on its end on the first days of spring and autumn (the Equinoxes).

Get a star guide and note the Big and Little Dippers (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor). Follow the stars that "pour out" of the Big Dipper's cup (Merak and Dubhe) on a line to the the North Star (Polaris) on the Little Dipper's handle. Then follow it about the same distance to a constellation shaped like an M, E, W, or 3 -- Cassiopeia. Cepheus and Draco are also visible year round in the same section of the night sky in the northern hemisphere.
Note that Scorpius is visible in the summer and Orion is seen in the winter.

If you have a secure area outside a window, put out a Galileo thermometer and watch the floating balls sink or float inside the water-filled tube, according to the temperature.
posted by TrishaU at 12:31 AM on September 4, 2019

We have a coat rack in a conspicuous place. You can usually tell the season at a glance.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:48 AM on September 4, 2019

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