As a mom of two boys and the Education Director for a nonprofit land trust, I am always looking for ways to cultivate a connection between kids and the natural world around them. We live in a world where access to information (hello, Pinterest!) is at our fingertips and “go big or go home” is often the mantra for everything from school projects to birthday parties. As parents, we know that being out in nature is healthy and should be a part of our children’s’ lives but we are often too busy or simply stumped as to how to make the outdoors part of our routine.
The great news is that connecting with nature doesn’t have to be elaborate, time-consuming, or even costly. Here is a quick list of things you can do today to create a relationship with nature for your child:
1. Visit a park in your city that has an open space trail
You don’t have to drive to a forest to experience nature. Most every city in this country has a system of city parks. Many of those parks include open spaces with local, native habitat. Take a walk on the trails with your children. Watch a lizard scale a tree or wild turkey forage for seeds. I guarantee that your kids will be engaged because there is something for everyone in nature.
2. Plant a garden
Planting a garden is a great way to get your hands dirty, work the earth, and watch the literal fruits of your labor come to life. You don’t need a huge yard or an elaborate plan. Clear some grass or buy some pots, fill with good soil, plants some seeds or starters, and watch your garden grow. Make sure your child is involved every step of the way and you will likely have the added benefit of them actually wanting to eat the fruits and veggies they raised!
3. Buy or download a guide
We all know that knowledge is power. Empower your children to learn to identify the animals and plants in your yard or surrounding habitat. There is an abundance of wildlife in your own backyard. Looking at nature guides or even using a mobile device to download a guide can be really fun. Who knows, you may even learn a thing or two along with your child!
4. Make a collection
Children have a natural desire to collect things and group things together. Capitalize on that instinct and collect things you find outside. At my house we have acorn collections, leaf collections, rock collections, and the list can go on and on. I regularly use these collections as ways to talk about natural processes such as acorns and how an oak tree grows, identifying trees by their leaves, and looking closely at rocks to learn a bit of Geology.
5. Model curiosity
We know that kids are innately curious. We also know that they look to us and model our behaviors. Encourage and cultivate that desire to learn and experience nature by actually showing your own curiosity. Being outside calms the mind, develops observational skills, deepens awareness, and can foster empathy and wonder. Take these tips and experience the outdoor with your kids today.
This is a guest post wrtten by Kelly Velasco, the Director of Education and Outreach for the Wildlife Heritage Foundation.
Even though it isn’t the greenest pursuit, I love travel. It is just one of the ways in which we can connect to our planet and come to love it in all its wondrous variety…by exploration! So even though travel might increase our carbon footprint it is one of those things that I happily forgive because I really do believe that you protect what you care about and exploring your city, county, state, country, and world can be part of that. As long as you do so mindfully, with some planning, and with a careful eye to wastefulness I heartily endorse hitting the road (or the skies) with your kids. They won’t care to protect what they don’t know intimately.
One of my favorite methods of travel or maybe my absolute favorite (because I hate flying) is travel by recreational vehicle (RV). I started traveling by RV when I was just a toddler because my mother, Aunt, Uncle, and grandfather all used to travel around the midwest participating in horse shows and competitions. The easiest and most comfortable way to bring the family along was by RV, or motorhome specifically. It was very much like bringing home along with you. For holidays such as Memorial Day or the 4th of July we would also hit the road and park at various camp sites where we would camp, explore, and swim in local watering holes.
Here is the interior of the motorhome I spent 100s of hours in as a child (same as above photo), I still get a warm fuzzy feeling of pure happiness when I look at it! I would sleep on that couch (it pulled out) with my little brother. I would sit in the passenger seat and play with the CB radio while my grandfather drove us around the countryside. I would play cards with my grandmother and my cousins at that dining table (bottom left) and eat her homemade tuna egg salad sandwiches. It made for many perfect summer adventures and memories.
Taking an RV for long weekends and holiday weekends is actually a quite perfect way to go.
- Stress free. You are taking “home” with you.
- Affordable. No $ spent on hotels or airfare.
- No sleeping on the ground in a tent, you have a nice comfy bed and a place free from critters.
- Kids sleep better in a familiar place with their own pillows and blankets.
- It is easy to plan a getaway on the spur of the moment.
- No fast food or eating out because you have a pantry and kitchen.
- Power supply for gadgets such as computers, blenders, and food processors.
- A comfy place to retreat when you want to rest.
- Toys and other personal items are easy to take along with you.
- On board bathrooms, no pulling over to stop every 5 minutes!
- You can take pets with you.
- Can get one you drive or one you tow behind the family truck or SUV.
We took many planned, longer trips in the RV but we also took spur of the moment trips. One summer we drove the RV a few hours north to Chillicothe, Ohio to see an outdoor play called Tecumseh. You sit in a outdoor amphitheater and watch the story of the legendary Shawnee leader as he struggles to defend his sacred homelands in the Ohio country during the late 1700′s. There are cannons firing, guns shooting, horses riding past you and it really feels as though you are there, living it. The show is several hours long so rather than driving home late at night we just parked at a nearby camp ground with RV hookups and we made a mini vacation of it. My childhood was filled with trips like this, big and small. It made me relish the coming of summer and our upcoming adventures.
Here is a photo of me with my mother, grandmother and younger brother on one of our many RV adventures. He was just a baby so I would have been about 5 years old.
Eight or so years later, nothing much has changed (below), except the RV is bigger… me, my grandmother, and brother.
I will always treasure those memories and these pictures. They were some of the happiest times of my life. I am regretful now that my own kids haven’t done as much RVing as I did. We are going to have to change that…
For more info check out Go RVing on Facebook | Twitter: @go_rving | Instagram: @gorving
Disclosure: I was compensated for writing this post about my RV adventures, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
TGIF! The kids and I are off to enjoy some last minute fun before school starts AND celebrate a 12th birthday. But I would be remiss if I didn’t share what I did last weekend…which was one of those rare kid-free weekends.
Hubby and I went to ZipZone Tours a new place for columbus zip lining. I had no idea that we could even go zip lining in the heart of the city. Not that it would have mattered though. If you asked me two weeks ago if I would ever consider zip lining a fun weekend activity I would have laughed…and then changed the subject. I am afraid of heights and things that go fast. Roller coasters and I do not mix. I absolutely hate that butterfly, stomach dropping to your toes feeling. HATE it.
So how did I end up zipping through the tree tops on a steel cable? Well, another local blogger was kind enough to ask if I wanted to participate in a free tour for digital influencers. I quickly decided that if someone was going to hand the opportunity to me on a sliver platter I should at least try it. My husband was also excited to give it a whirl. Okay…GULP.
The day of the tour we arrived a bit early to sign a long waiver (gulp again) and along with four others in our tour group we got all our gear on. It was a lengthy process to put all that gear on and get if fitted just right. After we were geared up and ready to go we took a short hike into the woods and then climbed some stairs and sky canopies to get to the first zipping platform. On the way we learned about the history of the company, the owners, and the land hosting the zip lines. It was also interesting to hear about how green something like this is. You are well above the forest so you are not disturbing the land during your travels and only two trees had to be cut down to make room for the lines. This was all carefully planned and designed to have minimal impact on the environment. Zip liners want a beautiful place to zip right? It only makes sense that they want the area around the lines to stay pristine and beautiful. Once you get over the initial terror you DO want to look at the views. Trees, waterfalls, creeks…love.
Before my first zip I was shaking quite badly. I wanted to turn around and go right back down actually but I made myself give it a try and was pleasantly surprised. You don’t feel as though you are in a free fall or something. It feels more like you are on a fast ski lift. The views were also gorgeous. I wish I could say that I was a cool cucumber by the 5th zip but that is just not me. I cannot go backwards down the line, hang off the edge of the platform, or let go of the handlebars (like my husband) and feel safe but I did enjoy the experience quite a bit. I really want to go again and take my 12 year old. I know he would love it.
Many thanks to ZipZone tours for hosting us for the afternoon and to Alaina for the invite. It was a blast and I will remember it always. I would say I checked this off my bucket list but zip lining never made it to the list. What a nice surprise!
This lovely lady to the right is my 8 year old daughter. I have two boys and yet she is the one who would gladly spend every available moment outside playing with friends and getting dirty. She is such an outdoor girl and she needs boots that will not only keep her feet warm during our cold Ohio winters, she also wants some that are fashionable. Whether you are splashing in puddles or building a fort you need to look good right? Well, I hear that you do anyway.
The good folks at Bogs offered to send me some boots from their collection a few weeks back and I knew immediately that I would pick some for her. For whatever reason we were lax this year in picking out some new boots for her growing feet and these looked perfect. We chose the vegan Classic High Tuscany. We love the bright colors and fit of course but I am most impressed with how warm they keep her feet. When you have to send your kids outside to wait for the bus in 10 degree weather, that is so very important. These boots are tested to -30!
I deliberately got them about two sizes too big so that she can wear them for at least another winter or two. Even so they fit comfortably and she often prefers to wear them instead of her sneakers on warmer days. I think she will also be wearing them on rainy spring, summer, and fall days as well! In the winter they are perfect for snow play and casual wear. This photo was taken today in our backyard where she was happily filling pots and toiler paper rolls with soil from our garden beds and then planting starter seeds for indoors. No matter how dirty they get, they seem to wipe clean and look good as new. At $68 they priced just right, especially for something that doesn’t look like crap after only 2 weeks. I did choose the black quite deliberately though, just in case…
Bogs boots get an A+ here!