Connecting our Kids to Nature

I’m not a nature person, if anything  i’m more of a city person or better yet, who am I kidding… i’m a lazy suburban person, yup that’s more like it! The way I see it I have two alter egos, these are reflected in my cars; The Toyota Prius or the Toyota Sienna (minivan y’all for the single women out there)

The Prius side of me is cool, environmentally savy ( this means I basically Recycle, thats it) and creative…did I mention i have a blog?

The Sienna is like the comfortable pair of pajamas that I like to lounge in but would change if someone was to come over, I love the mini van its so easy to access the kids car seats, their stuff and is a smooth ride.

But  I want to get away from the lazy suburban side and push myself to be more connected with the outdoors. I want my kids to love and appreciate nature and inshallah with that they will learn about Allah and his creations. I was watching the MBC documentary on Umar (RA –  The third caliph) in which I learned that he was a shepard and enjoyed the countryside. I  thought of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and of the times he spent where he disconnected himself from modern conveniences and went into the Cave of Hira to have moments of clarity and reflection. Also I was reminded of the prophet Ibrahim and his observation of the moon and the sun which led him to Allah.

We live in such artificial environments with temperature controls and technology that it is difficult for me to disconnect and just get away from the cycle of these environments. I always am thinking of the load of laundry that I can put in or the dishes that are waiting in the sink, but I’ve decided that inshallah I will make spending time outside a priority and will try to incorporate reading Asr (afternoon prayer) out on my deck.

I’m in awe of people who take time to garden and who live active lifestyles and for leisure go hiking and biking, I want to get to that point, but im going to take small steps first! Such as sitting on  the deck and the backyard and appreciating the wonders of the sky and breathing in the evening air.

If I don’t do it then the kids won’t either. It’s easier to let the kids learn about nature in front of the television but that will not help them build a connection. I want them to run barefoot in the grass, touch the dirt, pick up leaves, and use their imaginations. So far its been great we’ve been spending time outside and Humza brings me little flowers (a sweet thing his aunt Cate taught him to do.)

I am scared of bugs and and I had passed that fear to Humza too, but yesterday Humza called me and said he wanted to show me something and I followed him to the window where he bent down and said, “See Momma a spider and its web.” I asked him if he was scared and he replied back saying that no the spider was his friend. I was so pleased and I thought to myself that I will have to tell him the story of the spider and the spider web that hid the Prophet Muhammad from the Quryash.

These are exactly the types of discoveries and friends that I want my kids to have. I want to replace Big Bird on Sesame street with the red robin that comes to our tree. Replace the purple dinosaurs with the green little lizards and hopefully engage in discussions and play which are educational and fun. Hey maybe next year I’ll even start a garden like my friend Ruku!



Gardening With Ruku: Discover the fun in your backyard!

[This guest post was written by Ruku Kazia. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their three daughters. She enjoys reading, coffee and spending time with her family.]

A few months ago (February), I decided to start our very own vegetable garden. With three little daughters, I wanted to do something that would get the entire family involved and what could be better than being outside, digging away in our very own backyard?

I really knew nothing about this particular activity that I’d decided to undertake, but after eating the delicious produce from my neighbor’s garden in New Jersey I thought, “how hard can it really be?”

Squash in Ruku’s garden

Turns out, not too hard but not quite as simple as I’d thought either. Growing up I’d see my parents plant fenugreek and flowers out in our balcony. Not an easy task in hot, humid Dubai. I also remember my grandmother’s splendid yard in India, where she lovingly planted a variety of fruit trees and plants.

Hoping some of their genius and green thumb ran in my blood, I started by talking to my gardener who assured he’ll help me every step of the way. He dug out a small patch in our backyard and added, “You can dig too if you like Miss, good exercise!” Then he put in some garden soil and by the end of April we were in business.

Jalepenos in Ruku’s garden

Here are some ideas on how to get started :

1. Read up and talk to the people at your local nurseries (Yes you can do it! – and they really will help).

2. If you’re skeptical try with a couple of pots of herbs first. I’ve found fenugreek and cilantro are the easiest. (Put some soil in a pot , line with seeds, top with more soil, water daily and voila!)

3. If you’re not sure whether to dig a hole in your backyard, start out with a raised bed garden.

4. Find out what vegetables and fruit should be planted for your area/season.

5. Set a time daily to water your garden – preferably early morning and evening when the soil is less likely to dry out

6. Weed, Weed, Weed – the happier your plants are, the better they grow.

7. Get the whole family involved – My cousin helped us plant the veggies. My kids love to water the plants. And overnight my husband has turned into a master gardener.

Beautiful fenugreek on Ruku’s deck

Our little patch now boasts tomatoes, chillies, fajita peppers, eggplants, okra, squash, cilantro and oregano. We also have pots of mint, strawberries and fenugreek out on the deck. Picking and cooking these garden delights have turned into a priceless adventure for us.

From watching the joy on the baby’s face while she sucks on her first strawberry and chuckling at the funny comments made by my 4 year old (What do you mean the eggplants don’t grow eggs?) to hearing the wonder in my 7 year old’s voice (Wow I never knew squash tasted this good!) this little exercise has literally bore fruit.

One of the very first recipes we tried was Golden fried squash. Here’s our recipie:

Golden Fried Squash

Yummy Golden fried squash

Wash and cut 2 squash in quarter inch pieces.
Mix two beaten eggs with salt, pepper and ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning.
Dip each slice of squash in the egg mixture.
Roll in breadcrumbs and fry till golden brown.
Serve hot with marinara sauce.

Get started with your garden today and have fun making memories with your children. I know I certainly did!