From our earliest years and throughout our lives, hunger of body and hunger of spirit are mingled together.

We know a lot about satisfying physical hunger in children with food, but less about satisfying their spiritual hunger. In the first year of life food goes toward the body’s growth. When the child starts to walk and talk it goes into fuel for physical activity and gains in height and weight slow down markedly. Throughout life food continues to be essential and without it, life is not sustained.

Yet what do we know about feeding the human spirit? Around the time that babies begin to walk and talk, their human spirit has been developing to where they now seek satisfaction through curiosity about the world. In another year or so they show an ability to believe in things they can’t see, and the tendency to live entirely in the moment.

“Young kids have an incredible sense of wonder — they’re innate spiritual beings,” says Marianne Neifert, a pediatrician, mother of five, and author.

A caregiver can feed that spiritual sense of wonder by the abundant resources provided in nature. Haven’t we all seen inexplicable joy when a toddler encounters water? I watched my two-year-old grandniece fill her pink plastic pail with water in the ocean, run many yards to where her big brother was building a sand castle, dump it out as per his instructions, return to water’s edge to wait for the incoming wave and repeat the ritual for almost an hour.

The beauty, power and order of nature are at the same time a feast for the child’s senses and a spiritual experience.