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WOW for family fun!

Updated: Jan 15

Wonders Outside Windows is back for 2024. May your path this year be twisty and adventurous.

Soft Eyes Next Week: Winter Birds

January 15, 2024


Soft eyes is a way of seeing the world that widens your view so you can take in so much more in nature. Everyone in the family can practice this, especially adults who are guiding children's experiences outdoors. This will help you catch winter birds in action too.

Why ❓

When your child is outdoors, do you see them becoming more active, louder, more boisterous? This can be what we transmit to them. They are free, so run and tire them out, right? Well, nature can also be a salve for frayed nerves, a tonic when coping with difficult feelings we are working through. Lead your child into a relationship with nature that is fluid. Sometimes they can be wild, making themselves ruler of the wilds. Other times they can be the watcher, and nature can be the doer. Sometimes we need to allow nature to captivate like a waterfall rather than grab attention like a video game. (Read Richard Louv)

How 🌲

Head out on a walk with some wooden clothes pegs in your pocket. Starting with a hide-and-seek or camoflauge game can set the tone, heightening awareness of surroundings. Now, turn your child(ren) into an owl, perched high in their nest, eyes fixed forward. Your become the prey. As you move from in front to around the side of them, hold up fingers and see if they can tell you how many WITHOUT moving their head, just their eyes. You can even try this yourself, by extending arms, raising or wiggling fingers to and test how wide your peripheral vision is. This range of sight is rarely used as we focus on the ground right in front of us or our phones as we walk! Explain this wide view as using their 'soft eyes' to see the world. Try it while taking a little walk and talk about what you notice in the margins of sight. Praise children for noticing new growth or movement using this wide angle lens.

Now start the game. Ask for eyes closed while you scoot ahead and place your plain wooden pegs along the planned walk, off to the side of the trail out of plain sight. Come back and have your child(ren) take on an animal form, I like to use the stealthy fox. Then head off together using soft eyes to creep along and look for hidden pegs. Sometimes adding a number, symbol, or letter which spells a word (like a forest animal) adds to the hunt and ensures you find all your pegs. Try this several times to practice these keen observer skills. This needs practice, so remind yourself to use 'soft eyes' when out walking to keep connected with the nature around you. Birders use 'soft eyes' when out observing. Find a bird feeder in your neighbourhood and gather to watch the action. Gently remind, 'let's use our 'soft eyes to spot birds around the feeder, coming and going, or those watching us from the trees'. Play a bird eye spy game, using counting to track the birds you see in this big window. Praise for those sightings which are not immediately at the feeder, even those busy squirrel in treetops.

Where/When 🏞️

Use your local park or walk around town. This activity is great when the weather is calm and minds can focus on active looking.

Next Step🪜

Have your child plan the route and hide the pegs. Check in with yourself and children on future walks to see if they are using their 'soft eyes' to catch signs of animals or glimpses of movement; wings, branch jumps or running feet. It's a new window on the world.


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