As I look out over our woods, I think back to the many walks I have enjoyed with my grandchild. In the last year, she has learned to identify trees and become a budding naturalist (no pun intended).
Last March, when she was not yet two, we took walks in the woods, and I (or her grandfather) pointed out things we observed along the path. The trees were always there, so we repeatedly pointed out certain species of interest. I know that young children use their senses to explore the world, so I pointed to a tree and invited her to touch it. She recoiled at the thought, so I did not press it. Rather I tried to encourage her to touch it by touching and marveling at the feel of it myself. "It is really bumpy," I said. Still she would not touch it. As we walked the trail, I stopped at other "bumpy" trees to feel the bark.
Fast forward to this December. At just two and a half years of age, we walked the same path. It was she who pointed out the trees. "Look, bumpy trees," she said. She eagerly ran to the tree to touch it. As we continued, she ran to more and more "bumpy trees", each time touching the bark. These trees are hackberries, and she could identify them perfectly!
I smile to think how much she had grown in nature in such a short time. She is a budding naturalist for sure!
Next time we go on our walks, we will have to find another texture...maybe we'll explore the shagbark hickories. Will she call them flaky trees or shaggy trees? I know that one day she will learn the real common names for these species. For now I am content with the names she is using. Maybe they are better names anyway.