I’ve noticed that families with young children tend to embrace the seasons. Depending on the time of year, they’ll come in looking for books about spring, summer, fall and winter. Certain holidays are also popular for sought-after books, so here in the children’s department we try to accommodate patron preference by offering displays of books that pertain to each specific season and any holidays or celebrations that may fall within those times of the year. 

Books are obviously a fantastic way to delve into different times of the year, but the seasons are also an opportunity to get outside with your child and explore nature. One way to do this is focusing on the five senses. Here are some ideas and suggestions to get you started. 


Take a walk with your child and talk about the changes that are happening to the various plants and trees. Ask your child what kinds of things they are noticing. In the fall it might be that the leaves are changing color. In the summer, maybe they’ll comment on how green the leaves are. In the spring your child might point out the various kinds of blossoms appearing on the trees. If you see something interesting, be sure to bring your child’s attention to it. Sometimes you may have to get down to their level so that you both have the same perspective. 


Birds tend to be more active in the morning, so an early walk is a lovely time to listen to bird calls. See if you and your child can pick out the different songs of the various birds living in your neighborhood. To take it one step further, there is a free birding app sponsored by Cornell university called Merlin. One of my favorite features of this app is that it can identify the bird and its song in real time. For instance, it will tell you if it’s a Robin or a Black-headed Grosbeak that you might be hearing. 


One of my favorite things when I was little was to find catkins and feel how soft they were. It always fascinated me to see how different they became as flowers. Any time of year is perfect for exploring nature through touch. Tree bark, flower petals, leaves, moss, grass, you name it; if it is of the natural world, it will be interesting to touch. Beware of prickly plants and wild animals though — it’s their world we are entering, so they need to be treated with respect and caution. 


Have you ever noticed how a spring morning or sunny autumn afternoon smells? Every season has its own smell. While out exploring with your child, ask them to take a couple of deep breaths. Spend a few moments just quietly breathing together, then ask them what they smell, if it reminds them of anything, or if it has a name. To me, spring mornings remind of earthworms and freshly-tilled earth. 


As someone who enjoys cooking, it’s fun to think of seasonal foods. I always look forward to fresh melon in the summer and the new crop of apples in the fall. Every season has something to offer, so take some time to create a seasonal snack or meal with your child. Chat about the time of year and what things they might like to try. It can be as simple as apple slices and cinnamon in the fall, or fresh strawberries and goat cheese in the spring. 

One of the most fundamental things about enjoying the seasons with your child is to get outdoors. Then it’s as simple as bringing your child’s attention to what’s happening outside. Here’s a list of truly wonderful stories and books about other ways to enjoy nature with children: https://catalog.jcls.org/MyAccount/MyList/18948.

Life moves so fast these days, so taking the time to slow down and enjoy those precious moments with your child (whether it’s exploring outside or snuggled up on the couch reading) will be memories that last forever.