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Senses in Nature

One of our little girls has been so busy this year growing and learning. She is 2 years-old now and will be 3 this summer. She loves playing and pretending, and over the course of this past year her favorite things to pretend have been a puppy, a honey badger named Stoffel, and Kayan from the Lion Guard. She loves to ride her scooter or her balance bike on our walks around the neighborhood. She loves the water and the beach. She’s fun and also quirky- all herself rolled up into one little body.

This past week when the kids and I were out together on our Friday Nature Hike, we went to a preserve close to our home to check out what Sugar Maples look like as they start to flower and grow their fruit in the Spring. We took our time and walked 2 1/2 miles around the woods finding treasures, pretending and playing on the trail. I brought our wagon to push the baby in and to help our two other girls along the way.

When we started to round the last stretch of the trail to go back to the Sugar Maples and then our car, my 2 year-old started to scream in terror. All of a sudden, her senses were on overdrive and she was in a heightened sensory state, kicking and screaming, gripped in fear. At first, I couldn’t figure out what was going on because it happened so suddenly. And then I realized that it was the little bugs in the air that were causing this response. When we had started on the trail earlier that afternoon, the wind had kept the insects at bay, but on the way back- they were flying around and it was too much for her.

My 1 year-old was also getting tired and I had been carrying her for a bit, and when she saw her sister, she also started to become afraid and cry. So, as you can imagine, I had two little girls in tears, both fearful but one who was in a completely heightened state, a wagon, and two older children who were watching this, having no idea how to help or what was going on. I tried to calm my daughter down, but she didn’t seem to hear me or understand anything past what she was feeling. I shouted to her to stop, that they were only bugs, but walking any further was impossible. She was completely overtaken by her senses. After a few minutes of trying to help her and make her see it was okay, I was finally able to stick her in the wagon and put a blanket over her so that she couldn’t see the bugs and could calm down. We walked past the marshy area and found a grassy field to let her calm down and she fell asleep under the blanket while we recovered from the episode.

One of the reasons that we love Nature Study as a family is because it gets us outside, using all of our senses. There are many times that we have been out on a trail and we have barely made it through because someone is having a bad attitude, wearing the wrong shoes, tired, sore… the list would be endless if I focused on all of the obstacles of getting outside and enjoying nature together. This was the first time one of us had this kind of sensory response outside and I know, especially with our little girl, it won’t be the last.

Even after our Friday hike, she continued to struggle and showed the same response of fear to bugs in the air, and then even dust that she saw floating around in the house. Finally, we realized that she was seeing things in the air and also feeling her hair tickling her face. I’ve given her one of our baby muslin blankets that she can use if she is feeling too scared by what she sees. And we have been talking about her fears all day, praying about them, and encouraging her to pray about them. Today, we didn’t keep her inside, but instead took her to the park on a walk in order to ride her bike and play with some bubbles on the grass- helping her to understand her environment, the different changes in nature this Spring, and to learn how to not be afraid of small bugs. It’s not the end of this journey with her, because the bugs have only begun and she may have this response with other things as she grows. But we have been encouraged by the progress we have seen in her as we patiently help her understand her sensory system, and learn about it ourselves.

I’ll have to share more of this journey as it unfolds. Until then, get outside despite the obstacles! <3 Kate

Check out our homeschool curriculum: A Gentle Feast