Looking for ways to explore the outdoors? Here is a great starting place!
1. Find a Fun Playground
Kids love to go to new and fun playgrounds. It is a great way to begin increasing outdoor time. Climbing, spinning and swinging are all great ways to feed their sensory systems. Sadly, many parks have taken out their swings but they are great for kids. Taking risks and triumphing over new challenges are great ways to build confidence and decrease fears. Many parks have paved paths for strollers. Plan a play day to meet some friends or just go as a family. Check out this site for some of the best playgrounds in America. Maybe one of them is near you! Also, when you are travelling with kids it is always good to check out some playgrounds along the way. It is a great way to help them get their energy out and lower the boredom factor! The photo below is a natural playground we found in Portland, Oregon this past summer.
2. Go on a hike
Hiking is a simple and inexpensive way to get moving and have fun. Family relationships are strengthened as you venture to new places together. If you are new to hiking, start with a short and easy trail. Kids are never too young to start hiking. For the infant, find a carrier that is age appropriate and comfortable for you. With toddlers, find somewhere with even terrain and few obstacles. Even teens love to hike. They may initially resist but once out on the trails, it is amazing to see a change in their attitude. Take time to notice things along the way – the sway of the trees, wildflowers along the path, the quiet or the shapes of the leaves. Be sure and pack some water and a snack! For some trails near you check out http://www.traillink.com/ or http://www.discovertheforest.org/
3. Explore The Night Sky
Night can be a magical time outdoors. Being allowed to be outside after dark is a fun treat for most kids. Grab a blanket or a lawn chair and sit outside. Start at dusk and look for bats. Don’t worry – they are eating bugs! Find the moon. What shape is it? Where is it in the sky? Now look at the stars. If you live close to an urban setting it may be harder to see. Make a point of finding somewhere away from lights. Check out some books on constellations.You might even get to see a shooting star! Night time is a great time to make use of some of the latest technology. Free apps are available for both iPhone and Android phones. Check out SkyView for iPhone and Sky Map or Night Sky Tools for Android. You can even download an app called ISS Detector to tell you where the International Space Station is at any given time so you can locate it moving across your viewing area! If you really get adventurous, many parks have night hikes. Or if star gazing isn’t for you – how about a good old game of flashlight tag? or when summer comes try catching lighting bugs!
4. Visit your local nature center
Nature centers are a great way to learn about the flora and fauna (flowers and plants ) of an area. If you are not familiar with one, Google it or ask around. Get up close to animals, see their homes and get familiar with their sounds. Learn to recognize animal tracks. See how maple trees are tapped to make maple syrup. These are just a few of the things you can learn at a nature center. Seek out special programs for children. As you learn together, nature will become a familiar friend. Familiarity breaks down barriers and fears and makes connecting with nature less intimidating. We found this great nature center in the middle of Wilmington, Delaware:
5. Put up a bird feeder or a bird house
Have you ever stopped to notice how many types of birds you have in your area? Birds are fascinating. Some eat off the ground. Some perch to eat. Others peck on trees to get bugs! Having a bird feeder is a fun way to get closer to birds. Many stores carry bird feeders or you can build one yourself. My personal favorite backyard bird is the hummingbird. Some common brightly colored flowers are very attractive to this tiny bird – bee balm, daylilies, impatiens, and petunias are a few of their favorites. If you prefer to buy a hummingbird feeder - no need to buy expensive food. Just boil 1 cup sugar with 4 cups of water. Cool and add to feeder. Keep the extra in the fridge. Once they find the feeder, they are surprisingly brave and will come close if you stay still.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a great resource (www.birds.cornell.edu) to learn about common feeder birds, what they like to eat and how to build a bird house. Merlin Bird ID is an app for mobile devices that helps you identify unknown birds that you see. So, hang up your feeder and start checking out your feathered friends. You'll be amazed!
Try something new this week and let me know how it goes! If you have a favorite park or activity, post it in the comments so we can compile a list of great places to go. Make sure you mention what state it is in.
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.
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Rain or Shine Mamma
Children & Nature Network
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