Buggin' Out

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For the third time in a week, Ellie is begging me to let her concoct something in the kitchen. Something with lots of baking soda. Something that will explode. This time I don't stall her with lame excuses, because I'm ready with my own sloppy recipe.

While reading LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS (in which author Richard Louv makes an irresistible case for why children need regular contact with nature), I came across instructions for goopy stuff that's supposed to attract moths when it's painted on trees at nightfall.

It's mentioned as a way to lure your kids outside and get them tuned into the creatures out there. Ellie is more into messes than insects, so I wasn't convinced this would be a hit.

It was. She and her two sisters plus another friend eagerly dove in after school one day. They took turns pouring Natural Light beer, corn syrup, and fruit remnants from the compost bin into the blender until they had the mix just right. They pureed thoroughly. Except for the smell, Rachael Ray would have been proud.

When the bug brew was ready, I armed each girl with a plastic cup of the slop and a kid's paint brush. They spent awhile deciding which trees to cover, applied their goo, and then messed about in the woods at the edge of our yard for some time. At this point, I thought "mission accomplished" and went in to wash the blender.

That evening, it was Caitlin who remembered to check the trees. The first two were nothing but bark, but even at dusk we could see that the third was teeming with teeny ants and a swarm of mosquitoes. Caitlin and I watched them mill about for a few minutes and went to check another tree.

We found Natalie's paintbrush underfoot, and then started to notice all sorts of greens poking their tender heads through the leaves. I showed Cait how some of the fiddlehead ferns were still curled tight, while others were tentatively half-unfurled. She showed me a delicate white flower we'd never seen before — a fairy-size upside-down tulip on the slenderest of stalks.

We're outside all the time, but it took a stinky bug feast to awaken us to these tiny wonders just outside our door. Maybe we should get messy more often.

How do you get your kids to appreciate nature? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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Buggin' Out

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