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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, March 30, 2010

Do you letterbox?

Letterboxing is a fun activity that will get the whole family outside for an adventure. A combination of exploring, navigation and treasure hunt, letterboxing can suit all ages. It involves searching scenic places as you follow clues to a previously hidden box.

What you’ll need:

· Small notebook for each child.
· Nature-themed rubber stamp for each child. Have them pick a design that has personal meaning.
· Inkpad.

Various web sites offer clues to letterboxes. To search by state and find clues for a letterbox in your area, try visiting the Letterboxing North America map. They also have listings for Canada, Central America and other international locations.

Besides clues, the approximate time needed for the search and type of terrain should also be listed. Read through all the clues and make sure that they are age and skill appropriate for your family.

Once you find a set of clues for your area, set out on your adventure. After you decipher the various clues and find the letterbox, check that the rubber stamp and notepad are inside. Then stamp your logbook with the rubber stamp that was in the hidden box. Also stamp your personal stamp into the logbook you found in the box. Seal everything up and re-hide the box where you found it.

You may want to write a note next to the stamp in your notebook describing the area you visited that day.

Get your feet wet:

Try letterboxing in your own backyard by setting up a mini course.

To do this, you'll need just a few extra supplies In addition to ones listed above. You’ll need an extra notepad and rubber stamp for the hidden letterbox, as well as a small box to hide them in. Use the smallest possible container the stamp will fit in so it’s easier to hide. Finally, enclose everything in a zipper bag to waterproof it.

When you pick a rubber stamp that will go into the box, have it pertain to the area it will be hidden in (there are many choices of rubber stamps in craft and hobby stores such as trees, flowers, bugs etc).

This would also make a great group or scout activity. If you have a large area available, have 3-4 different searches planned out. Try to keep groups at 3-5 kids in each.

To set up your own course, start by locating the general place you want to hide the box and work backwards. For example, place the box under rocks or fallen logs, but take care to put it off of any walking trails so that they aren’t accidentally discovered.

Pick somewhere especially beautiful or remote, or somewhere with interesting and unique scenic features. Keeping safety in mind (as well as the age of the participants) you could even pick somewhere a little challenging to get to.

Put the notebook, stamp and ink pad in the box. Place everything in a plastic zipper bag and hide it.

Next, write the clues. Look online for examples of types and styles of clues. You can create a single set of clues that you give out at the start of the game, or you can hide clues along the way.

Clues can be straightforward or cryptic. You can also include map coordinates or compass bearings from landmarks. Think about using wordplay in your clues as well as multiple choice questions or poetry. If your group is doing a theme-based activity, base your clues around that same theme. Or, write a story and incorporate landmarks into it with various turns and paces thrown in. Clues can even be based on sights, smells, sounds & textures of nature (rippling water, smooth white bark).

Letterboxing is fun for the whole family.   Whether it's new to you or you've gone on several of these adventures, drop us a note about your letterboxing experience!

You can get more information on this fast-growing hobby at Letterboxing North America.

Have a great idea that I didn't include?

Suggestions for future post topics?

Just let me know in the “comments” section, thanks!

You may also enjoy the post A Springtime Scavenger Hunt.

To reference this post directly, use this link.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Springtime Scavenger Hunt

Even though it’s only March, and not technically spring, we’ve had a few beautiful days that make me want to dive right into the season. Searching for signs of spring is an easy way to get out to enjoy a sunny day and get connected to nature as she awakens from her winter sleep.

Take a look at the list below and see how many of these you can find in your backyard or neighborhood. It may be a little too early to spot some of these (depending on where you live), but even here in Wisconsin we’ve spotted quite a few.

Things to look for:
  • Nests
  • Buds on trees
  • Bulbs or plants starting to shoot up out of the ground. (Crocuses are early risers, then daffodils and tulips.  My garlic chives are also pushing up in the garden.)
  • Something yellow
  • Flowers beginning to bloom
  • Pine Needles
  • Snow melting and draining into ditches
  • Moss
  • Feathers
  • Rocks with multiple colors
  • Ice melting on lakes, ponds and ditches.
  • Mushrooms on a tree
  • Litter that was hiding in the snow
  • Mud puddles

What critters are doing:
  • Migrating birds returning
  • Robins first appearance
  • Animal tracks in the mud or along a streambed. Try to identify them!
  • Worms coming out of the ground
  • Squirrels eating or searching for food
  • Moths flying
  • Birds looking for food.
  • Bugs under a log

What people are doing:
  • Kids playing outside
  • Someone walking with a stroller
  • Laundry hanging outside

Things to listen for:
  • Birds singing
  • Early arriving frogs (like the Spring Peeper)
  • The first thunderstorm

Remember to be a careful explorer!  Be safe and try not to disturb anything.

Have a great idea that I didn't include?
Suggestions for future post topics?
Just let me know in the “comments” section, thanks!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like reading the post Find a Natural Space in  Your Area.

To reference this post directly, use this link.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Your special place in nature.

A great way to make a connection with nature is to find a place that your child enjoys going to, and make it their special place. It can be somewhere in your backyard or a nook at a nearby park. This shouldn’t be somewhere you only go to on vacation (although that would make a great second special place).

For your special place, find somewhere quiet. This should be somewhere you can focus on just being, instead of doing. It’s a different way of exploring. Instead of walking around, climbing hills or turning over logs, this explorer spends some time in nature being still and observing things around them.

Try sitting against a tree and notice the all the surprises nature holds when you are still. We often find that birds and squirrels will go about their business of gathering food and eating when you are still and quiet.

Every place in nature is unique. Look at all the nooks and crannies in your space. Notice the different smells and sounds around you. Try sitting or standing still and listening with your eyes closed. You’ll probably be able to hear and concentrate better this way. You can also try mimicking an animal’s ear by cupping your hands behind your ears.

Remember, you don’t have to identify everything in your special place. Just observing can bring the connection to nature that you are looking for.

If your child is old enough, try to pick a place where you feel comfortable letting them spend some time alone. You can even stay nearby but just out of sight. This will allow them to feel a close connection with the environment around them by having quiet time to think.

Some tips for spending time in your special place:

· Visit it as often as you can.

· See how things change each time you visit.

· Look for things that you missed in previous visits. Is there something new growing or blooming? Has something been moved by the wind or a critter?

· Visit at different times of the day and at different times of the year.

· Draw a picture of your special place.

· Have a picnic there.

If you have more than one child, try to separate them in the space so that they are more likely to be still for a few moments. Or you could even have a different special place for each child. The same applies if you are doing this as a group or scout activity…try to space the kids out.

If you already have a special place tell me about it in the comments section!

You might also enjoy the post Let’s Connect With Nature.

To reference this post directly, use this link.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Getting a new perspective on nature. (Part 2)

This post includes some great ideas for getting a different perspective of nature using your sense of smell, taste and touch. In case you missed Part 1 of this post, you can find it here.

As I mentioned in part 1, these activities can be a great way to enhance observational skills and expand your child’s vocabulary! I hope you will spend some time outside and try them.


Scents are all around! Close your eyes and take deep breaths to smell all the different smells of nature around you.

· Smell a flower, a blade of freshly picked grass, the air, and even a rock.

· Find something that smells good and something that smells not so good.

· Notice the smells in nature at different times of the day, and at different times of the year.


I usually leave taste out of my adventures, since so many things in nature aren’t safe to eat. Occasionally we’ll do something like taste of snow or look up and catch raindrops from the sky. But for the most part we explore taste by going to a local farm with a u-pick operation and pick fresh apples or strawberries. Then we can talk about the taste, and whether it’s sweet, or sour etc.

If you happen to be a connoisseur of wild plants, nuts or berries, go for it! But be very careful and only allow the tasting of things you know are safe.


Just a quick safety warning on this one as well…only touch plants that you are familiar with and are certain are not poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. They have the potential to cause itchy rashes, which are no fun!

Also, take care not to pick anything unless it is in your yard or unless you have permission from the landowner.

With that said, feel different things around you!

· Look for different textures…the roughness of bark, a smooth leaf. Talk about whether they are soft, hard, flexible, smooth, bumpy wet etc. You can also compare and contrast the textures. Talk about how objects are the same and how they are different.

· Don’t forget to turn things over. The underside of leaves and flowers can look and feel quite different than the tops.

· Feel the sun or wind on your face.

· My son loves going outside in the rain. If the weather is cool, we get on our rain gear or take an umbrella out with us. If it’s warm, we just wear clothes that can get wet and go for it. We jump in the puddles and try to catch raindrops.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these ideas for finding a different perspective in nature using the 5 senses.

Happy exploring!

Have a great idea that I didn't include?
Suggestions for future post topics?
Just let me know in the “comments” section, thanks!

You may also enjoy the post Find a Natural Space in Your Area.

To reference this post directly, use this link.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Getting a New Perspective on Nature. (Part 1)

One of our favorite things to do whenever we go to a new park or nature center is to get a different view, or perspective, of the area. We’re always finding hills to hike (or run down) and towers to climb. I also try to incorporate all 5 senses, which is another great way to get a different perspective of nature.

In part 1 of this post are ideas for getting a different perspective by watching and listening. In part 2, I’ll cover smell, taste and touch.

These activities can be a great way to enhance observational skills and expand your child’s vocabulary!

I hope you will spend some time outside and try them.


· Look at something from far away, and then close up.

· Lie on the ground and look up. Try under a tree.

· Lie on the ground and look along the ground. Find a dry area or a place with a nice patch of grass. You can also bring along a blanket…we have one dedicated just for outdoor activities like picnics and fireworks.

· Climb a hill and look down.

· Look at something from the animal’s point of view. What does a blade of grass look like to an ant?

· Sit on the grass and watch how it’s constantly moving and shifting. Watch to see if any tiny creatures jump or fly by. Imagine how big the area would look to a small bug.

· Walk into a valley and look up.

· Look for colors everywhere. This is especially fun in spring when the trees and flowers begin to bloom.

· Watch a sunrise or sunset. A lake is an especially beautiful place to do this.

· Look for shapes in nature. Try to find heart shapes in leaves, rocks or tree trunks.

· Look for patterns on tree trunks and on plants. Look for things with spots or stripes.

· Look at something through its reflection in a puddle or pond.

· Talk about how the parts of a tree or plant are connected. Start by looking at the base of the tree (where it’s usually very sturdy and wide) and go to the narrower branches and then delicate leaves. Do this with flowers too.

· Pay attention to how close or far apart things are around you. Are you in a dense forested area or grassland where the trees and grasses are close together? Or an open field where there is more space between?

· Watch how things in nature rely on each other…like when bees pollinate a flower.

· Talk a walk at night and talk about how different things look.

· Pick a letter of the alphabet (maybe what your child’s name starts with) and look for things that start with that letter.

· Take a walk on a windy day. Fall is a great time of year to do this. We once took a walk on a windy fall day and it was “snowing” leaves the whole time. It was so beautiful with all the leaves gently falling all around us. At first we just watched them and then we all started to jump around to try to catch them.

· Walk along a riverbed to follow a twig or leaf as it floats down the river.

· Look at how and where the shadow of a tree falls. Look in the morning and then revisit it in the afternoon and again later in the day to talk about how it has changed.

· Talk about ways to describe the area you are in. Is it open, windy, green, dry, hot, rocky etc?


Stand still and listen with your eyes closed. You’ll probably be able to hear better and concentrate better this way. You can also amplify sounds further by cupping your hands behind your ears to mimic an animal’s ear (which is usually larger than ours).

· Listen and describe the sounds you hear.

· Talk about what the sound might be...a bug, a bird or something human generated?

· Move to another area and see if the sounds are the same or different.

· Go outside at night and see if it sounds different.

On Thursday I’ll post part 2, and give you some ideas on ways to incorporate smelling, tasting and touch into your nature adventures. Until then…happy exploring!!

Have a great idea that I didn't include?
Suggestions for future post topics?
Just let me know in the “comments” section, thanks!

You may also enjoy the post Find a Natural Space in Your Area.

To reference this post directly, use this link.