Intimidated by the great outdoors? Don't be. Here are seven simple kid-friendly activities to inspire you.
"Take your child for a walk at dusk when light and shadows dance and do nothing more than walk and breathe and be a part of it," says Cathy Sharp, a holistic health counselor, creativity coach and mom. Sometimes it can really be as simple as strolling, listening and watching.
Enjoy the intricacies of nature and create gift-worthy art with nature rubbings. "Take a pad of paper and crayons outdoors and have your child place the paper over items such as the bark on trees or leaves that have fallen on the ground, they then rub over the object with a crayon to re-create the pattern on the paper," suggests Tonya Staab, mother of three and creative mind behind the blog Create-Celebrate-Explore. (Also check out this very cool Sunprint Kit to make nature art with the help of the sun!)
Nature is full of treasures worth preserving. "On a nature walk with your children collect assorted wildflowers and leaves, take them home and put them into a flower press," says Staab. "A week later your child will have pressed flowers and leaves to use in craft projects or to put into frames." If you don't have a flower press, place your treasures in the pages of a heavy book.
Create a list of items you would find in nature and get out to explore. "Include varieties of seeds, leaves and colored rocks," suggests Bethanie Murguia, author and illustrator of the children's book Buglette. "Kids will love hunting for the items on the list and it is a nice opportunity for them to learn about different kinds of trees, leaves and seeds."
Nature is full of millions of mini-universes. Take some time to get close to one. "Lie with your kids on the grass on your tummies, and take a look at the tiny little world beneath your feet," suggests Dawn Gaden, life coach and mother of four. "Kids always find something interesting!" Even though tummy time only takes a few minutes, it will create fantastic memories that you and your kids can share.
There is no better time to get out into nature than when the moon is full. "Take a full moon hike," suggests Sally Treadwell, Communications Director for The Intelligent Alternative. "It's magical and mysterious and will give your kids a whole new appreciation for the not-so silent woods. End with a flask of hot chocolate and an hour of lying flat on your backs, star-gazing." If you're not comfortable exploring at night, ask an experienced hiker to join you or sign up for a group hike.
If your kids complain about spending time outside, try geocaching. "We upload coordinates from the Geocaching site and head out to find the 'cache,'" says Hillary Gurley, a mom of two from Arizona. Kids love finding simple treasures like tattoos, stickers, t-shirts or small toys. When you find a treasure, you leave one behind. "It changes a hike from a death march into a treasure hunt," says Gurley.
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