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Hi! My name is Chris, and I'm writing this blog to share my passion...nature!
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As with any activity, please use your discretion and only do things that you deem are safe based on the age of your child and your location.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Wonder of Winter
8 ways you can connect with nature in winter.

If you're feeling like we are at this time of the year...a little cooped up...then this is the perfect time to head outside and do some exploring. Here are 8 activities you can do to stay connected to nature in the colder months of the year.

Listen to the sounds of winter, and talk about how they are different from those you hear in summer.

Experiment with different food choices at your bird feeders. Try suet and different seeds or mixes. You can also make a bird feeder out of a pine cone stuffed with peanut butter and rolled in seed (switch to vegetable shortening if there are peanut allergies!).

Look at something from far away, and again close-up...maybe a pine tree, for example. Describe it from far away and then come close and look at the bark, the needles, and the cones. Talk about the details you may not have seen if you had only looked at it from afar.



Blow bubbles in winter and watch them freeze!

If you live where there's snow...make an obstacle course in the snow. Build hills, turns and paths in the snow to make a course and have the kids run it relay style. Use sleds to mark the turns or the end point. You can use colored water (a few drops of food coloring in a spray bottle with water) to spray some color onto the snow to mark the starting line, finish and turns.

Make ice cream with snow! Steve Spangler has a recipe you can try.

Examine a snowflake up-close! Chill a piece of black construction paper in your fridge or freezer and take it outside when it's snowing. Use it to catch snowflakes and then to look up-close at the different shapes they have (use a magnifying glass for an even closer look).

Follow animal tracks in the snow...either right in your yard, or head off to a local park or walking path.

I hope you have a great time exploring this winter!

Please first!! All activities are to be done with the guidance of a parent or guardian.

To reference this post directly, use this link.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Let's connect with nature!

If you want to get the kids outside appreciate nature, get some fresh air, and for some plain old fun, here's where to start. 

Get out there!  The best way to experience nature and all that it offers is to get outside.  You won't get all the great benefits of connecting with nature through any book or movie.

Keep it simple!  You don't need to plan anything elaborate, or spend a bunch of money.  Some of our best "finds" have been from our own yard.  Last summer we found our first salamander in our yard. We had never seen one in our area before and it was really cool. We watched its behavior, looked it up on the internet to find out what kind it was, what it ate and where it spent its time (so we could release it somewhere better than in the window-well we found it in). My son even took a printout of its picture to school for show and tell. He got so much more involved in finding out more about it because we actually had found a real live one in our yard. What a great teachable moment!

Slow down! You'll find there are hidden gems all around if you slow things down when you're outdoors. Sit quietly in one spot for at least a few minutes and look around. This could be the most important thing you ever do in nature with a child.

Don't be intimidated with what you don't know!  You can teach a child to appreciate nature by exploring WITH's not about naming everything you come across.  No matter how many years of study I've had in the science and environmental field, there will always be things I don't know.  It's actually what I like best about nature.  There's always something interesting to learn.  If you come across something you can't identify...just say "I don't know, let's look it up together".  Or, you might want to get a field guide. We have one on birds, trees and butterflies...that way we can identify things on hikes if we want to.

Get excited about their discoveries.  Yes, even the bugs, worms and dirt.  The more excitement you show, the more likely they are to head out and explore more.  Fostering a sense of curiosity in a child in one of the greatest gifts you can give them!

Address any fears.  If your child, or the children you are working with, are afraid of something they're going to experience, address it before you get outside.  You could even relate a fear that you have and show them how you've tried to overcome it.  Also, try to be comfortable with any of their "finds".  Admire them, even make an effort to touch them.  (Of course that's IF they're not dangerous).

More ideas to come! Happy exploring!

To reference this post directly, use this link.