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Nature Appreciation

10 Outdoor Activities You Can Do With Your Family


As we are fast approaching spring, you need to come up with different activities to keep your kids entertained during their spring break. Take the opportunity to create some family memories while your children still think it is cool to hang out with you! With great weather, you will have the chance to enjoy some fun outdoor activities fit for the whole family. When it comes to family and fun, you should be creative. Remember that families who play together, stay together. At Daddy Lawn Games, you’ll find many great ideas to play with your whole family. These activities are the perfect way to bond and create lovely memories.

So, if you are usually stressed out about how to keep your kids busy, but also have fun with them during school breaks, check the below 10 ideas for fun family activities:

1. Camping

Kids enjoy going on a real-life adventure in the woods. You will need to make sure you have all the necessary gear. Sleeping gear can be very tricky especially for babies. A baby-sleeping hammock is available on the markets, but, whether it’s safe or not is still debatable. So, it is better to get a flat bassinet for your baby to sleep in and avoid any suffocation hazards. Make arrangements and checklists to make sure you do not leave anything to chance and to be able to enjoy your family camping trip.

2. Go on a Sailboat
During spring, the weather is still not warm enough for beach time. However, if like most kids, your kids love anything that has to do with the water, then going on a sailboat might be just the perfect activity. Gather some friends and take out a boat big enough to spend the day barbecuing and playing games. The grownups will enjoy the relaxation of being out on the sea and the kids will have tons of fun fishing and playing around.

3. Take a Road Trip
This is a great and fun idea for a budget-friendly family activity. Instead of staying in expensive hotels, you can visit many cities over the weekend and make stops for sightseeing and eating. It will not cost you much, and you will get to enjoy tons of car-games with your kids. You will even get away with slipping in some fun historical facts.

4. Take a Picnic
Spring is synonymous with luscious greenery and blooming flowers. Planning for a family picnic where you get to enjoy eating, drinking and playing all sorts of outdoor games are the best way to enjoy the spring weather. Parents can pass the time reading their favorite books while the kids engage in fun kite fights.

5. Organize a Treasure Hunt
Kids love the idea of treasure hunts where they get to compete and solve riddles. Make it more interesting and make the “treasure” worth their time. Encourage them to invite their close friends so it can be more fun.

6. Do Some Gardening
For your home garden that has been neglected throughout the cold winter months, now is the best time to get the whole family and do some much-needed gardening. Involve the kids in deciding what flowers to plant and teach them about how to care for the garden when you are too busy to do so. It is a great opportunity to make your kids feel like you trust them with a grown-up task, and you can all enjoy spending the beautiful spring days in your garden.

7. Plan a Family Bike Ride
If you and your family like everything sports and prefer to be active more than basking under the sun, then biking is for you. You will find that this is a great chance for your kid to put their new biking skills to the test and it will be easier for them to get over their fears with all of the family around for support. Plan for a fun trail with ice cream stops to surprise the kids.

8. Go Hiking

Find a family-friendly hiking trail and take the kids on a hike. They will love seeing bizarre flowers and funny-looking birds. Make sure you have them in special hiking shoes so they can comfortably finish the hike without complaining.

9. Take a Family Safari
If you live somewhere near the desert, take the chance and go on a safari night before the weather gets too hot to do so. Contact one of the local agencies to arrange for an exciting sand ski and a barbecue night for you and the family. It will also be worth it to have the kids ditch their regular bedtime and wait for the beautiful sunrise to take some unmatchable family photos.

10. Collect Shells and Create Art
Since it is still a bit too chilly to go swimming, spend your time on the beach collecting beautiful shells that you can use on a DIY art project. Find inspiration online and let your kids decide what they want to create with the colorful shells they collected.

Spring is the perfect time to take some time off work and slow down before nearing the end of the year. Take the opportunity that kids are on a break and can join in for some quality family time. As suggested above, you do not need to plan ahead or save money to find some cool outdoor activities. It is all about being creative and working with what you have around to keep the kids entertained.
Related Articles:
10 Ways to Raise an Outdoorsy Family
How to Get Your Children Outdoors
9 National Parks to Visit with Your Kids

Enjoying Nature up to 18 months

Being in nature is great for us in so many ways but being in the forest is very special. Spending time in the forest has been found to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger, strengthen our immune system and boost overall wellbeing. Wow!!!

There is a higher concentration of oxygen in the forest, according to Japanese medical doctor and researcher Qing Li, compared to an urban setting. Exposure to the plant chemicals, that are part of their defense system, has measurable health benefits for us. Benefits such as a reduction in physiological stress, lowered blood pressure and heart rate. Evergreen forests are particularly beneficial for our health. You sleep better when you spend time in a forest, even when you don’t increase the amount of physical activity you do. It is simply enough to just be in the forest to take in the health benefits. Nothing additional is required!


Whenever you can arrange outdoor experiences for your little ones, know that you are helping them experience another dimension of living - far different from indoor spaces. So, give them windows on new worlds - visit a park, zoo, flower garden, or a duck pond, or even stroll to the corner store.

Nurturing With Nature

Seeing and smelling - such pleasing experiences for infants outdoors. In mild weather, be sure to push strollers to places where babies can see, touch, and smell flowering plants. They want to feel the rough bark of a tree, the soft brush of wild grasses or grains of sand and explore the many textures of large stones and rocks. You can guide this sensory journey as you help them to notice their natural surroundings, like the gently swaying leaves in a summery tree.

If possible, consider landscaping your outdoors with a flowering hedge of perfumed jasmine to delight babies' sense of smell. And on a warm summer day, babies who sit well relish the experience of a shallow wading pool, where they can splash in a few inches of water while you cheer on their discovery of wet versus dry. Be sure babies wear hats and have sunscreen on exposed skin.

2 Months

At this age, you can lay your child on a blanket outdoors. If you’re a seasoned parent or daring

(which I wasn’t when My Baby was this age!), try laying him on the bare ground. Put him on his back to stare up at the sky, trees, and birds, or put him on his belly with some nature items in front of him to try to view. Wear your baby in a carrier while you go for a hike or take a walk with your child while he’s nestled in his stroller.

Here’s what two-month-olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

• Turns head toward sounds. Begins to follow things with eyes and recognize people at a distance. A natural setting is a great place to discover sounds-- it's quiet enough that sounds like bird calls, rustling of leaves, and running water are discernible but not overwhelming. This is also a fun age to play with light: duck in and out of shadows and watch the sun flicker through leaves or bounce off water. Everything is completely new, and watching your child discover these sensations for the first time is a beautiful thing!

• Begins to act bored (fussy) if activity doesn’t change. Keep moving for a change of scenery. This is the age when My Baby started to LOVE being outdoors—there is so much to see, hear, and feel. Let your child feel the slight breeze on his face or the sun on his head, and let this sensation change for your child as you walk through different environments.

• Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy. Try tummy time outdoors. Place nature items in front of your baby to encourage him to build those muscles. If he’s resistant, like My Baby was, put him on your chest as you lay down on the grass for some parent-child outdoor bonding.

4 Months

At four months or when your baby is able to hold his head up steadily (between 4-6 months

generally), your child is ready to face outward in your baby carrier, such as the Ergo 360 (our favorite). We tried this around 5 months, and My Baby LOVED it. It’s a whole new way for them to see the world. This is also when your child can sit with assistance, such as in your lap or in a Bumbo seat. Although it is certainly not recommended by pediatric physical therapists, we used our borrowed Bumbo for short periods of time, including sitting outside in our yard.

Here’s what four-month-olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

• Copies sounds that are heard. Draw attention to sounds you hear by mimicking them yourself. Name the animal that made them to help your child begin to associate language with concrete items.

• Uses hands and eyes together, such as seeing a toy and reaching for it. Can hold and shake a toy. This is a particularly great time to begin to lay nature items out around your baby for him to manipulate and explore: rocks, pinecones, flowers, grass, bugs, seeds, etc. Be aware that it’s also prime time for oral exploration to begin! Pro tip: if you’re lucky/unlucky enough to have a pacifier user on your hands, pop the paci in your child’s mouth before providing him with items to explore. (That’s my two cents; feel free to let your child put items in his mouth if that’s your parenting style! Judgment-free zone over here!)

• Recognizes familiar people and things at a distance. Visit the same outdoor environments frequently to build familiarity. Name the items you see and point out some of the same things each time you visit. Point out birds, planes, and critters that make noise, and watch them as they move. Point them out and follow them. When you hear something, stop to investigate what it is. Think aloud: "What was that noise?" or "Why did that tree move?" Then, together search for it. Look for the bird that tweeted or the squirrel that rustled the leaves. This lays the foundation for encouraging curiosity!

6 Months

This is one of my favorite stages—your baby is becoming more and more fun! His personality is beginning to shine through, and he likes to play. Spending time outdoors together is a great way to bond, which is true at every stage, but it’s becoming even more fun for both of you at this point in your child’s development.

Here’s what six-month-olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

• Likes to play with others, especially parents. Tummy time with your child on your belly while you lay on the grass, coupled with giving him an “airplane” ride (or pterodactyl ride, be creative!), can be ridiculously fun.

• Responds to sounds by making sounds. Listen for nature sounds and mimic them. You may find your child mimicking them (or you), as well.

• Makes sounds to show joy and displeasure. While walking with your child forward-facing in a carrier, try doing gentle hops or twirls along the way. Spinning, even with your child attached to you in a carrier, develops your child's vestibular system, which is responsible for balance, coordination and skills like head and trunk control and rolling. Your child’s understanding of object permanence is developing, so hide behind a tree and pop out to see your friends or have them do the same to you. Bounce and sing songs. What makes your child squeal with delight? Keep doing that!

• Looks around at things nearby. There is SO much to see outside. My Baby always calmed down outside because she was taking in everything there is to see, feel, and hear!

• Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach. When doing tummy time outside, place items just out of your child’s reach to motivate him to move.

• Begins to sit without support. Break out your bubbles! When your child can sit and likes to reach for things, blowing bubbles begins to be super fun!

9 Months

Around nine months is when your child may begin to show curiosity. In my opinion, curiosity is one of the most exciting things about childhood! Nurturing our children’s natural curiosities is one of the important things we can do for their cognitive development.

Here’s what nine-month-olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

• Uses fingers to point at things. When your child points at things while on a walk, name the item and follow his finger to get close up and touch the item (if possible). You’ll be teaching your child how to follow his curiosity.

• Watches the path of something as it falls. Leaves, snow, seeds, flower petals, rain: there’s something falling from the sky in every season. Take moments of time to stop and simply watch gravity in action with your child.

• Looks for things he sees you hide. We played some epic hide ‘n’ seek with Dad behind trees while hiking at this stage. While sitting on the grass, you can also hide rocks (avoid rocks that are choking sized!) under leaves or cover items with grass or sand.

• Puts things in mouth. As in everything. If you’re lucky/unlucky enough to still have a pacifier user on your hands, you can use it as a plug to keep your child from exploring nature items with his mouth. On the other hand, if you know something is safe for consumption, your child is eating table food in the home, and you know your child has no allergies, it could be a fun time to have him taste edible plants. Perhaps you’re into foraging or simply have an herb or vegetable garden. Use your discretion!

• Crawls, pulls to stand, sits without support, and stands holding on. Your baby is on the move! Find safe outdoor spaces for your child to practice these skills. Remember that “clean dirt” (soil without chemicals) is healthy and comes off in the bath! This is also a time when your child may begin to play with push toys—why not bring them outside?

1 Year Old

At one year, your child increasingly interacts with the world around him. Hopefully he is stronger now, so you can be outside experiencing the elements in rain, shine, or even snow. If you haven’t yet put your baby on your back while walking about or hiking, try it now. At one year, My Baby loved being on my back while snowshoeing, and she especially loved being pulled in a sled on the snow. This is also the time when your child may begin to be even more mobile; embrace it and let him build his skills on the varying terrain outdoors.

Here’s what one-year olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

• Explores things different ways, like shaking, banging, and throwing. While hiking with your child on your back, pass things such as dandelions, cattails, or sticks back to your baby to hold and explore. Stand along the shore together and toss rocks into the water. Show your child how two sticks or two rocks knock together to make a sound.

• Looks at the right picture when it’s named. If you’ve been naming what you see outdoors since he was tiny, now he may be able to find an item (such as a flower or bird) when you say the word. Vocalize interesting things you see using the name (such as, “Look at the beautiful flower!” or “Do you see the pretty bird?” without pointing and follow your child’s gaze as he interprets your words.

• Puts things in a container, takes things out of a container. My Baby happily did this for hours on end. Bring a small bucket or bag with you on your outdoor adventure. When you locate a place with rocks or small sticks, show your child how to put them into the bucket. Watch as he then takes them out and puts them back in again. Over. And over. And over again!

• Pokes with index finger. Encourage this! Poking at trees and feeling their different types of bark can be an interesting sensory experience for a one-year-old. Build oral language by naming the textures he feels.

• Pulls up to stand. May take a few steps on own. May stand alone. As soon as your child starts to crawl and walk, let him experience different terrain. Walking on grass, sand, or snow outside is much different from the hardwood floors inside. You cannot replicate outdoor terrain indoors, and the outdoor terrain will help your child naturally develop balance, core strength, and spatial awareness. Allowing your child to walk outdoors without shoes is a physical and occupational therapist suggested activity that supports your child's development of balance, sensory processing, and proper muscle development in the feet.

18 Months

This is just about where My Baby is right now and let me tell you how fun she is at this stage! She is able to engage herself in free outdoor play, she loves to climb, and she’s beginning imaginative play. She wants to walk on her own, but we don’t get too far while hiking because her goals are different from mine. At 18 months, letting your child take the lead outdoors should be priority number one.

Here’s what eighteen-month-olds will generally do and what caretakers can do to support their development while outdoors:

• Likes to hand things to others as play. Let your child explore nature items he comes across. When he hands something to you, such as a stick, thank him, hold it, and hand it back. Engage in play by handing him things you find as well. As always, name the items with which you interact in full sentences to promote language growth.

• Follows 1-step verbal commands without gestures. Practice this when you get ready to go outside by telling your child to get his socks. Then tell him to get his shoes. Then tell him to get his jacket. When you’re outdoors, there’s plenty of opportunity to use 1-step commands during play. “May I have the stick please?” “Walk over here.” “Look at that bird!”

• Plays simple pretend, such as feeding a doll. This can be a good time to bring out the mud kitchen! You can fashion one yourself using old wood pallets, visit a nature play area or even a sandbox nearby, or simply bring some bowls and spoons outside for playtime. Finding nature items to put into your concoction is part of the fun. Remember that this is also the age when children follow 1-step demands, so be mindful if you stir up a beautiful dish of sand, crushed leaves, and grass and you say, “This is delicious! Try it!” Your child may actually take a taste! Not that I know from experience…

• Explores alone but with parent close by. I can get so much yard work done now! She happily plays in the sandbox, picks up sticks around the yard, or goes down the slide on her own—as long as I’m nearby. I put a fort out in the yard for her to play in, and she loves bringing things inside, sitting in there for a while, and then coming out for more things. I know someone with a child this age who actually reads a book under a tree while her son plays on his own. Milk it, Mama.

• Says several single words. Engage in conversation every time he says a word that corresponds with what he sees in order to encourage his language. If he points to a bird and uses the word, then tell him all about the bird, its colors, and what it is doing. Engage. Encourage.

• Walks alone. May walk up steps and run. Let your child take lead on “hikes”. I put “hikes” in quotation marks because you should set your expectations accordingly. You will not be traveling far with an 18-month-old taking the lead. My Baby likes to go in the opposite direction of my goal. That’s fine. Embrace it. This is also a good time to encourage safe climbing. Climbing stairs, fallen logs, or natural rock formations is a worthy obstacle for an 18 month old.

Fun, free adventures to do with your little one

By Regina Koller November 29, 2015

Everyone loves a good “Mommy and Me” class at Gymboree, Little Gym, etc., but that can get costly. Luckily, there are plenty of no- or low-cost adventures everywhere, if you know where to look. Check out our suggestions below and let us know if you have any fun, free activity recommendations!

1. Library programs

This should be at the top of your activity list, especially because, in many areas, your tax dollars are already paying for some awesome public programs available free of charge at your local library. Story times, play groups, music and movement, and so much more! You can really beef up your activity calendar and even meet new friends for you AND baby at these programs.

2. Parks/Playgrounds

Do a Google search of all of the parks and playgrounds in, say, a 20-mile radius of your home and make it a goal to drop by a new location at least once a month. (You can also try search parks on the app Mommy Nearest.) You might find a new favorite hangout and, again, you may already be paying for some beautiful play spaces with your tax dollars, so take advantage of them!

3. Free admission days at local museums

Check out the websites of your local museums to see if they offer free or discounted admission days. Very often museums will let patrons in for free past a certain time, or offer monthly or seasonal discounts on admission. Take advantage of these and make a regular date to visit.

4. Get to know your neighborhood

If the weather is nice, take some time to explore your immediate area. Dedicate one day per week to taking a long walk around your neighborhood (with Google Maps on your phone in case you get lost). You can meet the neighbors and maybe find a hidden park or green space you never noticed while driving by. Also be sure to point everything out to your little one – “Wow, look at the tall tree,” “See the squirrel,” or “Can you hear the bird?”

5. Take a drive

Listen, you have the entire day to do whatever you want, so how about taking a drive? Turn off the radio and pay attention to every sign you see – animal farm ahead? Pull over! Random historical plaque? Check it out! Baby is still little and you still call the shots, mama, so if you find something that interests you, don’t hesitate to check it out. (And if the Starbucks drive thru is what interests you, no judgment here!)

Set a time limit

for yourself, like drive for an hour one way, turn around, and head home via a different route. It may cost some gas, but you might find an amazing spot totally off the beaten path.

Remember, the world is your oyster, mama. Go explore!

Where Can We Explore Nature? Everywhere!

by Donna Satterlee, Grace Cormons, and Matt Cormons

When we imagine nature, we often think about our own part of the country. Nature is everywhere. Here are some ideas for wherever you might live, whatever the season.

At the beach:

Dig down into the sand to find the water level. Look for small creatures while you dig. Look for changes in the color and texture of the sand and observe the size of the sand granules. Notice the colors in shells. Look for bird and crab tracks.

In the desert: Look for animal tracks, flowers after spring rains, and water sources. If possible, compare the dry desert to the desert after the rain.

In the woods Climb a tree. (Although children rarely climb above where they are comfortable on their own, you will sense when to draw the line, if necessary.) Swing on a vine or play seesaw with a strong branch balanced on a log. Build a fort with fallen branches.

In the snow: Dress appropriately in layers, and then make snow people and snow horses. Pretend to ride the snow horse. Make a snow fort.

In your backyard: Plant a garden and observe the flowers and vegetables as they grow. Watch for visitors, such as birds, insects, toads, lizards, squirrels, rabbits, or deer.

In a vacant lot: Look for weeds, seeds, and evidence of animal life like:

• Scat (the technical name used by naturalists for animal droppings)

• Animal tracks

• Feathers

• Wood that an animal has gnawed (such as a tree that has marks from a beaver’s teeth)

• Holes in the ground (from a dog, a squirrel, a mole, or an armadillo)

• Holes in the trees (from a woodpecker or insects)

Near a pond’s edge:

Watch for birds and dragonflies taking off and landing or for frogs jumping in the pond. Bring a little net to dip in the water and ask your child to share her discoveries with you. Even if you don’t know what the creatures are, you can discuss what you see (legs or no legs, scales or no scales, antennae or other body parts, wing colors) and what you hear (fish splashing, insects buzzing, frogs calling).

Turn Any Walk into a Nature Walk

Every walk is an opportunity for children to learn about the natural world. Walking around the block with my child when he was little this could take an hour because there was always something new to explore.

As you explore your neighborhood, yard, patio, or the nature you find outside your window:

• Be open to the wonder of noticing small details and new growth.

• Keep the safer distance of 6 feet from others who are not in your household.

• Leave electronic toys behind so children can focus on the world around them.

• Bring paper and crayons so children can draw what they see if you bring your cell phone and need to take a call.

• Bring a digital camera with you so children can take photos of things that interest them to share with [far off, distant] family members. And you can take other photos to print to create a scavenger hunt for children the next time you take the same walk.

• Walk at different times of the day or night to increase your chances of seeing something new.

• Ask, “What’s different about what you see today?” each time you and your child walk outside.

• Play “I spy with my little eye” from your window and help children learn to give clues about what they spied.

• Model using all five senses. You might say, “I’m seeing the big clouds,” “I’m touching the wet grass,” “I’m hearing the jets of an airplane,” or “I’m smelling the fallen pine tree needles.” It’s not safe to taste many things outdoors, but you can “taste” the air.

• Carry along an inexpensive magnifying glass so children can get up close and personal with nature. Many smartphones have a magnifier app.

• Make dressing for the weather part of the learning experience by singing songs about the weather as you and your child put on sunscreen, hats, or several layers of clothing. Try “You Are My Sunshine,” “It Ain’t Gonna Rain,” or “The Mitten Song”. Let your child work to figure out how to zip a zipper or put on boots just long enough so she can learn these tasks and not so long that she becomes frustrated.

Observe the weather

On the walk, or even as you look or step outside, use your magnifying glass to look closely at drops of rain hanging from a leaf or to examine the structure of snow. If it has recently rained, take a medicine dropper so your child can suck up rain from puddles and squirt it back out again. Watch where the water flows and ask, “I wonder where it will go from here?” If it is sunny, make shadows with your body or jump over the shadow of a family member. Use sidewalk chalk to draw the shapes of the clouds you see. Track the path of the sun as it appears to move across the sky—where is it in the morning and where is it at bedtime?


Use your magnifying glass to look closely at small wildlife such as non-poisonous spiders, roly-polies, worms, and any non-stinging insect that will hold still long enough. Ask your child to show you how the worm or ant moves and join in as he wiggles or crawls. Ask your child to think about how well animals move even though their bodies are so different from our own.

Count the number of larger animals you see on your walk. Is the neighbor’s cat in the window again? Look for birds in bushes and on electric lines. Are there cows in the field, squirrels in the trees, or dogs going for a walk around the block? View birds on live “cams,” a virtual window into the natural world of birds. Talk with your child about what these animals are doing.


Look closely at the different shapes, sizes, and structures of leaves and flowers (but watch out for thorns and poison ivy). Collect leaf shapes and then make rubbings of different types of leaves. To do this, put a piece of paper over a leaf resting on a hard surface, then rub or wipe the paper with a crayon held sideways to reveal the leaf’s veins and edges. Collect fallen leaves and seeds by pressing them into the sticky side of a loop of tape. Ask your child to measure how tall a plant is in relation to her body (“This bush is as tall as my knee”).

Observe changes in the life cycle of a plant. If a plant has a bud on it, ask your child to guess how many days it will take to open. Then count the days as you revisit the plant on your walks. If your children are old enough, have them record their findings in a notebook or with a digital camera.


Use your magnifying glass to see the tiny shapes of crystals or pieces of sediment that make up the rocks in your neighborhood, including those that are used in buildings. If rocks are not part of the landscape where you usually walk, take a field trip to a local creek where you might see some naturally deposited rock. Compare sizes and colors. Try using them as chalk on other rocks or on your sidewalk.

Learn More

Check the website of your local library for access to electronic books that will help children learn more about animals, plants, and whatever else they observe. Children love to see the variety of caterpillars, birds, local mammals, and flowers in these identification books. Internet sites and apps are also great resources for identifying animals and more.


• Nature’s Playground: Activities, Crafts, and Games to Encourage Children to Get Outdoors by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield.

• Take a Walk book series by Jane Kirkland includes books for elementary-age children that discuss different environments (beach, city, wetlands) and different things to observe (birds, butterflies clouds).

• Bugs Are Insects by Anne Rockwell. For children kindergarten to second grade.

• Seashells, Crabs, and Sea Stars by Christiane Kump Tibbitts. For children kindergarten to fourth grade.

• Winter Trees by Carole Gerber. For children kindergarten to second grade.

• Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. For children ages 4 and up.

• Nature Close-Up: Seeds and Seedlings by Elaine Pascoe. For children from kindergarten to eighth grade.


• California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic Society, seek by iNaturalist. and teachers’ guide,'s+guide

• Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds, Bird Guide,, and bird cams,

• Little Pine Learners, Easy nature “weaving” craft. (Wrap with string or yarn if you don’t have rubber bands.)

• A pre-K teacher offers ideas to integrate nature learning into the curriculum on her website, Thinking BIG, Learning Big.

There are so many things for infants to do outdoors. And if a baby is cozily bundled up, a nap on a screened porch is a refreshing change for them - even in cooler weather.

Nurturing With Nature

Seeing and smelling - such pleasing experiences for infants outdoors. In mild weather, be sure to push strollers to places where babies can see, touch, and smell flowering plants. They want to feel the rough bark of a tree, the soft brush of wild grasses or grains of sand, and explore the many textures of large stones and rocks. You can guide this sensory journey as you help them to notice their natural surroundings, like the gently swaying leaves in a summery tree.

If possible, consider landscaping your outdoors with a flowering hedge of perfumed jasmine to delight babies' sense of smell. And on a warm summer day, babies who sit well relish the experience of a shallow wading pool, where they can splash in a few inches of water while you cheer on their discovery of wet versus dry. Be sure babies wear hats and have sunscreen on exposed skin.


If you can arrange to wheel strollers to a pond, be sure to bring food for the ducks. Babies love to be part of the ritual of feeding ducks (and fish too). One 10-month-old, whose visits to the duck pond were such a pleasurable part of daily outdoor excursions, said "duck" as her first Word! If there are flocks of birds that visit a grassy space near your program, babies will also delight in watching them swirl down to peck at seeds you've scattered for them.

Physical Development

Lawns and other safe outdoor spaces are wonderful places to set babies down on their stomachs so they can observe from close range ants busy crawling, grass moving, grasshoppers leaping, buttercups all yellow and dainty. This arrangement will also give babies opportunities to push up from their bellies and strengthen their arm muscles. Be sure to bring along wet wipes, as babies love to squeeze dirt in their fingers. At the same time, you can help them understand that they may squeeze, touch, and sniff but may not eat many of the earthy materials outdoors.

Urban Spaces

Even a stroll to mail a letter can be an adventure! Lift up baby so he can drop your letter into the slot. And be sure to point out interesting events along the way: "See the doggy sniffing near that fire hydrant?" "See the light turn green at the corner? Now all the cars know they can go zoom, zoom along the street." "Hear the siren wailing as the fire truck rushes to put out a fire?" The sights and sounds of an urban landscape provide so many opportunities for using new words with little ones. You'll see sights together and speak the words, such as truck or car or green light or bus, that babies will have seen and pointed to in picture books.


Outdoor play in a large sandbox is a delightful sensory experience for very young children. Sandboxes invite babies to use their fingers and hands and, at the same time, to begin to learn simple rules, such as "The sand stays inside the sandbox." Infants develop dexterity while filling and emptying pails or sifting sand with a flour sifter. They learn how sand feels dry and how it feels wet, when mixed with water. And, of great importance, they get a chance to play peacefully next to peers. This companionable side-by-side play is the precursor to more interactive play older babies will come to enjoy.

Whenever you can arrange outdoor experiences for your little ones, know that you are helping them experience another dimension of living - far different from indoor spaces. So give them windows on new worlds - visit a park, zoo, flower garden, or a duck pond, or even stroll to the corner store.

Being outside with your baby can present it’s challenges, but it can also be so exciting. I’ve found a few ways to make it much easier on parents to be outdoors with their little ones.

14 Tips to Explore the Woods With Your Family-Elementary Aged Children

  • By Daisy Whittemore


Finally, spring has arrived. The daffodils are blooming, buds are popping on trees and the weather is warming up.


Yes, this means it's time for your household spring cleaning, but take a break and get your family outdoors. Consider it a spring clean for the senses, and bring some fresh air and vitality into the body. Even an hour outdoors can do wonders for any child or adult.

There is nothing more grounding and invigorating than a walk in the woods, especially for children living in a primarily urban environment. The key to walking in the woods with a family is to keep it light and easy. If new to this activity, consider it more of a meander and don't be too ambitious. Pick a short adventure and have fun with it.

Don't be afraid to let the kids get a little dirty. Wear clothes that allow them the opportunity to romp around and play. The woods can be a place to let go of some of the usual parental trappings, if only to encourage enjoyment for the kids and a desire to explore the woods again.

Respect the Woods

Always be respectful of the woods and creatures that live there. Follow the national park motto—leave no trace—which means leave no trash and don't take pieces of the woods home. Also, try to stay on park service paths.

Activities in the Woods

If the idea of just going for a walk in the woods doesn't sound exciting enough, or if it's difficult to lure the rest of the family out of the usual routine, make it a little more than a walk.

Some possible activities include:

A Picnic

Bring lunch or snacks and a blanket. Take a break half way through the planned walk, spread out under a pretty tree or in the warm sun and share food together. Pack a special treat that kids will remember and associate with the walk.

Bird Watching

Grab a notebook, a bird book and perhaps a pair of binoculars. Turn the walk into a birding quest. Keep track of the birds discovered and begin a life list. Most bird books have places to keep track of birds seen in an index.

Stop and Listen

At least once during the walk, encourage everyone to stop moving and talking, and stand still for at least a minute. What noises do you hear? Use the experience to talk to each other about what it felt like to be quiet. Repeat the exercise throughout the walk.

Keep Eyes Open

Examine the woods, the ground, the plants and the trees. In the springtime, there is a great deal of growth. Look for the signs of spring: buds on trees, sprouts coming up from the ground or new creatures about. Initiate a game of "I Spy" to encourage others to look around. Keep a running tally of certain flowers, buds, trees or critters.

Collect Trash

Bring along some trash bags and rubber gloves and take time to clean up the woods. There are multiple community, county and state-wide efforts working to regularly clean up our natural environments. Search online for an effort to join, or help organize one in your area.

Make Art

Carry a sketchbook, some colored pencils and take a break to draw a flower, a leaf or a tree. Use the art to decorate a room in the house, for birthday cards or to create a journal of family adventures.

Take Pictures

Have everyone take turns with a digital camera. Take pictures of nature and the family interacting with the natural environment. The perspective of small children, uninhibited, can make for creative photographs. Plan to create a photo album together later.

Play Games

Especially for families with small children, breaking up the walk with simple kids' games can make it more enjoyable and can revive a child's energy. Pause for a game of leap frog, duck-duck-goose or tag. A family race back to the car is an easy trick if tired complaints have become mantra.

Do Homework

Sometimes the best place to memorize math facts or practice spelling words is away from the confines of home. Kids can often focus better in the woods, while moving, especially those with abundant energy.

Make a walking game out of a multiplication chart. Create a spelling game or word definition game, which will help your children in the classroom.

Design a Natural Scavenger Hunt

If the woods are familiar, consider a scavenger hunt. Collect small natural objects such as acorns, pine cones, certain colored rocks, leaves or a branch that has five "fingers." Small rewards for the best finds can also add encouragement.

For the most part, it is best to leave pieces of the woods where you found them. Removing a few acorns won't likely cause problems, but remembering that critters live in the woods, eat there and use its contents for their own habitats, helps guide even small children to be respectful.


Participate in the modern treasure hunt using GPS or other navigational technology to play hide and seek with treasures using clues and other reference points. For more information on how to get involved in this growing outdoor recreation, go to the Official Global Cache GPS Hunt Site.

Make Walking in the Woods a Routine

Creating a family routine of a weekend walk in the woods. Even a short one can transform a child, or a family, and can help the environment.

  • Walking is good exercise.

  • Fresh air and deep breathing relax the nervous system.

  • Routine leads to good discipline.

  • Establishing regular exercise early leads to a healthier future, and a life of good habits.

  • Walks are a great opportunity to talk and for a family to connect.

  • Consistent family activities breed good relationships, dependability and stability.

  • Spending time in the woods develops observational skills and curiosity about nature.

  • Experiencing the outdoors on a regular basis leads to appreciation of the natural world and a desire to protect it.


Helping Nature Near You

By Ranger Rick Staff; Art by Jack Desrocher

No matter where you live, you can get to know the wild creatures in your neighborhood—and then lend them a hand! Here are peeks at three different neighborhoods, along with some ideas for getting started wherever you live.



When Trinity Favazza, 14, was very young, she would explore the woods near her Detroit-area home with her family. One of her earliest memories is of listening to wood frogs singing in the spring. That’s when her love of frogs and other amphibians began.

As Trinity got older, she learned as much as she could about amphibians, including that they’re one of the most threatened groups of animals in the world. Since then, Trinity has worked to teach people about the need to save amphibians and wetlands.

One of her projects to raise awareness is called “Amphibians Rock.” It encourages kids to paint amphibians on rocks, then hide them around their neighborhood for other kids to find. As one of the youngest members of the citizen science group FrogWatch USA, Trinity gathers information about frog calls and frog breeding, which she shares with local and national scientists.

Trinity continues to teach people about the importance of amphibians through social media and on her website, “I want to inspire young people like me to help save our beautiful world and all the creatures in it,” she says, “especially amphibians.”



How many of your wild neighbors do you know? What birds have you seen? Do you have ground squirrels or tree squirrels? Are there lizards where you live? It’s fun to find out!

Find a special spot to call your own—a nearby park or your backyard, a stream or vacant lot. Now go explore! Here are some places to look: on plants; on tree trunks, branches and leaves; under
loose bark; under logs, rocks, and fallen leaves; and under or on water.


Sketch or write about your wild neighbors in a nature journal—and tell your friends what you’ve found. What plants are growing? What animals did you see? You can even make a website about your neighborhood’s nature. Have a parent help you look online to learn how.


Another great way to get to know nature is by spending a “green hour” outdoors. Check out for some great activities.



Madhvi Chittoor, 9, was just 5 years old when she learned how harmful plastic trash is to wildlife. By age 7, she’d written and published a book about plastic pollution. She had also founded Madhvi 4 EcoEthics, which works to reduce pollution from Styrofoam and other plastics.

Madhvi knew that Styrofoam is one of the worst kinds of plastic. So she worked for months to convince her Denver-area school district to switch from Styrofoam lunch trays to ones that are not harmful to the environment. This kept 7.6 million Styrofoam trays from going to the landfill each year!

Next, Madhvi convinced lawmakers to propose a statewide ban on Styrofoam take-out containers and single-use plastics in restaurants and grocery stores. And now she’s working for a global ban on plastics and harmful chemicals with a petition at No wonder Madhvi, who has a black belt in Taekwondo, likes to call herself the “No Styrofoam Ninja”!



More than 5,500 schools around the country are making changes that help the environment. For example, they are recycling or finding ways to save energy. To learn how your school can become an Eco-School, have your teacher or parent go to


Want to attract wildlife to your backyard or schoolyard? It’s easy! To get animals to drop by or move in, here’s what you need to provide:

  • Food. Anything from a simple bird feeder to a garden full of native plants with leaves, flowers, berries, and nuts and other seeds that animals like to eat.

  • Water. A birdbath or shallow dish for birds, or a small pond for frogs and other water creatures.

  • Shelter. Brush piles, stone walls, shrubs, and trees all make good hideaways.

  • Places to Raise Young. Bird houses; bat houses; and certain trees, shrubs, and leafy plants (for insects) are great spots.


You can certify your backyard or schoolyard wildlife habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, the group that publishes Ranger Rick. To find out how, have an adult go to online.


Want to help save endangered species? Here’s how.

  1. Find out which live near you. Go with a parent to and enter your state.

  2. Do some research. Go to the library or search online to look up information about these species.

  3. Find groups of people who are helping your species. Check with your library or nature center and ask these questions:
    • Is there a local environmental group you could join?
    • Are there local animals or plants that need your help?

  4. Spread the word. Make a poster. Write a report. Tell your class, friends, and neighbors. Give the endangered animals and plants in your area the attention they deserve!



Topher Jones, 13, first learned about endangered salmon at his school in Boise, Idaho. Salmon hatch in rivers, and then they spend time in the ocean until it’s time to return and lay eggs. But Topher learned that, years earlier, sockeye salmon were so endangered that, at one lake in Idaho, only a single salmon had returned.

People named this lone salmon “Lonesome Larry.” Topher was inspired by Larry’s story. He came up with the idea of “socks to save the sockeye!” Then he worked with an artist on a sockeye salmon design. Now he sells sockeye socks and other items at Idaho Steelheads ice hockey games and local coffee shops, as well as on his website, So far, Topher has raised more than $15,000 to protect the salmon! His ultimate goal is to raise $100,000.

“I’ve learned that the world has so many problems, but we can come up with solutions,” Topher says. “Everyone can help make a difference.”



You can volunteer to help scientists who help wildlife. The information you collect can show scientists how animals are being affected by habitat loss and other problems. Here are two for you and your family to consider: FrogWatch USA ( and Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count (


Litter is everywhere, but you can help get rid of it! You and your family can take part in National CleanUp Day in September. Have a parent help you look online at


Because of habitat loss, monarch butterflies are in trouble across the country. You can help them by planting milkweed that monarchs need to survive. Visit with a parent and take the Butterfly Heroes pledge to help save monarchs!


Trinity is a winner of an Action for Nature Eco-Hero Award. Madhvi and Topher are winners of the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes. If you’ve done a project for wildlife or the environment, you can try for these awards, too. Go to or for information on how to apply.

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