Sometimes kids just need a little motivation to get outdoors. Whether your child is new to exploring, or an avid adventurer, they should have an adventure pack that spurs curiosity, imagination and exploration. Several years ago, my son received a backpack that was just his size for Christmas. It was just the encouragement he needed to get out the door and head into "the wilds" of our backyard. We would often see him headed out to a wooded area of yard, with his backpack and boots on, eager to be outside, no matter the weather. He built Lego boats to test out, hunted for frogs - and much to my chagrin - often came back with tales of snake sightings. Sometimes we just need a little push to embrace the adventurer in all of us. By having the right equipment, our children can start to identify themselves as one who wants to explore. Don't you feel more adventurous and confident when you are dressed the part??
Start with a small backpack that is the right size for your child. REI has some great options for younger kids. If you don't want to spend the money on a new one, check out Goodwill and thrift shops. Or, you can use an old school back pack. Another option is a drawstring bag. If you are like us, you have several already laying around the house. Personalize it by putting your child's name on it with puffy paint or permanent marker. To embrace the adventure even more - have your child choose a trail name - just like hikers do on the Appalachian Trail.
IMPORTANT NOTE: As an occupational therapist, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you some important information about children and backpacks. They should never weigh more than 10% of your child's body weight. Always use both shoulder straps and use sternum straps and hip belts, if available. (For more information on backpack safety click here)
Now that you have a backpack, add some items to promote adventure seeking. My kids have always been obsessed with watching old McGyver episodes. You know - he is the guy who could get out of any situation with a rope, a hairpin and mirror!! Our adventurers need to be prepared for any situation. Here is my suggested list of items to have in the adventure pack:
Giving our children the opportunity to be outside and explore is a huge gift that will reap many benefits, now and in the future. By giving them a backpack full of opportunity, you are giving them a sense of independence and fostering curiosity about nature. Start in your own backyard and then expand their territories to parks, streams and forests nearby. To supplement their adventurous spirit, read books that take place in the outdoors or that have adventurous characters. (By the way, this is a great birthday gift idea when you want to go beyond the usual gift card!)
We had lots of the materials laying around and hopefully you will too. If not, they should not be very costly. Most of the steps can be done by your child with you giving some direction. Allow them to be as independent as possible. What a great confidence booster!
Here's what you need to get started:
The first thing you want to do is poke or drill several small holes in the bottom of your container so the soil can drain. Otherwise, it will flood and the grass won't grow. Could that be why dinosaurs went extinct?? Next, add potting soil to your container, leaving about a half inch from the top. Reaching, lifting and pouring are such great activities for building motor skills! As an occupational therapist, these are the things I love to see!
Add some rocks, sticks or whatever your child decides would make a dinosaur landscape. This would be a great time for a scavenger hunt! Let their imaginations take the lead.
Next, sprinkle the surface with grass seed.
Add some water!
Now is the time to watch and be amazed as your child grows in creativity. They will play with their landscape as their imagination takes over. They will learn the importance of patience and care as they wait for the grass to grow. Excitement will build as they get to cut the grass for the firs time.
Have fun and enjoy the outdoors!
Stay tuned for more fun outdoor activities
Back to school time is always bittersweet at our house. The kids are usually ready for the routine and structure of school (whether they realize it or not) but we are not quite ready to let go of the schedule-free and spontaneous way of life. With the start of school, come the long days of sitting at a desk and long stretches of focused attention. Although it may be a little more challenging now, it is extra important for kids to get outside. Whether your have teens or elementary students, they benefit so much from fresh air, freedom, opportunities to move, and the chance to relax and de-stress. Kids of all ages often come home from school tired and weary.
When my son was in 5th grade he would come home physically and mentally exhausted. It was all he could do to hold it together all day to sit and focus during the school day. He didn’t even like anyone to talk to him on the ride home from school. This is not uncommon for kids with sensory and attention issues. When he got home, he needed time and space to recover. As he entered middle school, we started homeschooling and it gave him a chance to move around and go outside as he needed breaks. Some days we took hikes in the early afternoon and I saw such a change in his personality. I know homeschooling is not for everyone. I honestly never thought I would be doing it myself, but it does give more options for altering the learning environment and getting outside. Contact me if you have any questions about it.
So, you don't want to homeschool but you still want to provide your child/ren with the benefits of the outdoors…...Here are some ways to help make sure your children still get the benefits of nature during the school year?
Hi! I'm Ann - mother of seven, grandmother of two and occupational therapist. My mission is to provide the support families need to raise thriving children and to help you build a family environment that supports healthy development and a pathway to success.
Great blogs to check out:
Rain or Shine Mamma
Children & Nature Network
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