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Want to Be A Nature Mentor for Your Child? Step Back. - Wild Roots
Mae and I went out to Rancocas Nature Center for a walk on one of those warmer winter days that tricks us into thinking spring is near. We checked out the nature center building, where she blew kisses to the stuffed owls and swimming turtles and birds inside, and I picked up a new bag of bird seed and a handy little laminated Native Plants and Trees of New Jersey guide. Most of our time was spent on the trails outside, though, enjoying the sun and fresh air. If this was three years ago, I would also have been trying to get some exercise. That’s not what’s happening anymore, because, see, on walks with an 18-month-old, the pace is slow. We stop. We walk a few steps. We turn around and walk back a few steps. If the thing we’re walking on is a bridge or resembles a bridge, we might do this for a very long time. It’s a new kind of hike I’m embracing, one in which the most joy comes from watching Mae’s discoveries. We spent a significant amount of time picking up and looking at “spikeys,” some big, some “baby,” some covered in mud, some “ouch!” The truth is I had no idea what spikeys are actually called. The results of my quick Internet search led me to discover that they are the fruit of a Sweetgum, and have lots of funny names. When a bug flew out of one, I suggested they are tiny homes for bugs without really knowing. She also loved finding and picking up bright red berries scattered across the trail. She remembered what her father had told her about bright red berries that we see on our walks, and picked up red berry after red berry, telling me, “birds eat this” each time. As Mae picked up the little red berries ? “birds eat this” ? I agreed, pleased with my little lesson only to find out later that they weren’t from common winterberry as I thought, but actually the berries of an invasive plant called Japanese barberry. (Japanese barberry has a more oval-shaped berry and thorns on the branches; whereas winterberry berries are round and thornless. There were berries everywhere, because the birds were not interested in eating them.) Here’s the thing: At this point and for a long time, it doesn’t matter that “spikeys” are whatevers and that birds…