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.
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!
When I attended the Auto Show in Detroit last week I met lots of interesting business people and bloggers that is a large part of why it was so much fun. As I was standing in line to get into the Ford press conference I met Jonathan Marshall of Parks By Nature and we chatted for quite awhile about the company and their mobile apps. I just got a smart phone a couple months ago and my main reason for upgrading was to have access to apps that would make it easier to geocache and explore our city and state parks. Parks By Nature offers an app close to my heart, though sadly they do not have one for my state just yet. Even so, I wanted to recommend it for anyone who lives in a state where they have an app and also so you can keep an eye out for your state to become available, if they don’t have it yet.
Basically, it is a mobile tour guide of your state parks. It has maps of the trails and campgrounds, weather info, event info, and lots more. You can make reservations and plan your visit using the app as well as use it to navigate if you get a little lost. From what I can tell it is very well done (ie user friendly) and very attractive to the eye as well. The rep that I met was also very excited and passionate about what they do and how it can benefit families.
If it is one of your New Year’s goals to get out and do some local exploring or take a Staycation in your own state check out Parks By Nature and @PocketRanger on Twitter. Enjoy!