If you have never watched a few Squirrels forage, then you are missing out on some seriously fun and free entertainment!
If you have never watched a few Squirrels forage, then you are missing out on some seriously fun and free entertainment! These critters can spiral up and down a tree at lightning speed, hang precariously upside down from a tree, clothesline or bird feeder, and make some interesting noises while their entire body vibrates!!
One of my favorite things to do when watching squirrels is make up stories about what they are doing. This imaginative play sometimes leads to stories about the weather and what is happening around me and other times it leads to a story about friends or siblings and their interactions.
Squirrels are prolific in most neighbourhoods, can often be seen from apartments and live in many forests and urban green spaces too. Being found in so many places makes them an easy topic that all can relate to when wanting to deepen our relationship with Nature, all we have to do is pause and watch.
As the seasons change from Winter to Spring and we leave Imbolc (Brigid’s Day) behind to head to Ostara (Spring Equinox, Easter) I like to talk about squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits as a way to stay in tune with the many changes taking place in the natural world.
I use a book called Take Along Guide to Rabbits Squirrels & Chipmunks by Mel Boring (Author), Linda Garrow (Illustrator). This book has interesting facts about the different species, habitats, and diets of these particular animals. I choose this book specifically at this time of year because squirrels are visible year-round but their behaviour changes, chipmunks are hidden until it warms up, and rabbits’ coats change colour and are associated with Easter!
I use this book as a guide to inspire me on what to look for and then I use its information to be age-appropriate in my delivery with children. When I have a very young child, the focus is on colours and how many I can see. Slowly with age and interest, the conversations evolve into parts of a tree, tree identification, what the animal eats, where the animal lives, and more talk of the true seasons.
Eventually, we move into directions, and what eats the animals we are looking at. If I have older children tagging along I encourage them to discover the ecology of the place, meaning the relationship between the animal, the tree, the plants, the water and the predators in a chain or ask them to remember more trivia or scientific information. The older kids can learn parts of the world the animal is found in and also explore latin names and genus. The learning from these 3 animals alone could take up an entire summer if you wanted!
While academics are important, I am also a big fan of story and folklore. The other reason I love this book is because of the rabbit and its connection to Easter! The science of nature tells us that rabbits pro-create in the spring and chickens begin to lay more eggs, but how do we get to an Easter Bunny handing out eggs? The ancient druids explore how a Hare steals the nest of a Lapwing bird and thus is seen with eggs. My favorite trail to follow is to research the Saxon Goddess Ostara herself for stories of rescuing a frozen bird and turning him into a Rabbit. I tend to research my own stories and pick my favorites then, I do my best to retell them in child-friendly terms.
The legends of Easter can take you into an entire educational journey of world religions and ancient traditions if you let it, but it all starts by getting curious about a Rabbit!
Can you learn a new legend, study a new species, spend some time in quiet reflection examining the antics of squirrels? Where can the word balance open up your life to being one foot in man’s world and one with nature? I find children are the best teachers at getting back into mystery but we can take some steps ourselves if we only remain curious enough to try. Happy Easter!