|Image credit: David Suzuki Foundation|
This May I'm joining the David Suzuki Foundation's 30 x 30 Nature Challenge (30 minutes outside in nature for 30 days) and I hope you will too! I'm going to skip right over the part where I convince you how important it is to spend time in nature each day (see a cool infographic about that here), and dig right into the deets. I'm hoping to post weekly on my blog and several times throughout the week on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #30x30challenge about how we are doing and would love to read your comments and posts about your experiences completing the challenge as well.
I plan to do this challenge with my children: 30 minutes of time outside with my kids every day, but I will also accept separate time if necessary. For example, I sometimes go for a walk with my youngest in a stroller for exercise in the morning (while my older two are at school/ preschool), but then if the older two spend 30 minutes in the backyard in the afternoon, we've completed the challenge! But I'd prefer to do it all together if possible.
What qualifies as "30 minutes in nature"? Pretty much any time outside as long as there is some interaction with nature. Walking down an urban corridor may not qualify. But swimming at a friend's pool yesterday did, because the kids spent much of their time out of the pool roaming the periphery of the backyard looking at flowers and bugs and finding leaves and other objects to put in the pool to see if they would float (sorry about that, Ashley). One of the reasons I want to do this challenge with my kids is that kids are natural observers and biologists. Just as becoming the parent of a toddler boy made me aware of every emergency and construction vehicle in my path, being the parent of small children has made me take notice of bird song, wildflowers, blossoms and pods and berries on trees, squirrels and hawks and crows. This challenge is about me enjoying nature with them.
I'm actually quite good about giving my kids (6, 4, and 2) outside time everyday. Otherwise they drive me insane running around the house, and also because we have an enclosed backyard where I can let them play unsupervised. Just the other day my 6yo opened the back door and yelled into the house, "Everyone, come quick! I just found over a dozen roly-polys under a brick!" My younger two high-tailed it outside. But I enjoyed the peace and quiet inside to get something done. So this challenge is more about getting me outside everyday interacting on some level with nature for a small chunk of time, and taking the time to stop and pay attention to my children and the amazing world around us.
Here are some of my ideas for activities to enjoy being outside in nature with my kids. Many of these we already do occasionally, but should be doing more often:
- Take a neighborhood walk.
- Have a backyard bug hunt (optional: use magnifying devices and temporary bug houses).
- Read about and identify different types of spider webs in the backyard and around the neighborhood.
- Identify trees.
- Identify wildflowers.
- Listen for bird song and other nature sounds.
- Make a nature collage.
- Nature journal. Draw and/or write anything about what you observe.
- Eat outside. I love doing this anyway. Less clean up!
- Take photos. My kids have a super simple kid-friendly camera (that does not take very good photos, by the way), but they love it anyway! I could also let them take a few with my phone or the compact camera we never use anymore anyway.
- Smell flowers.
- Visit local parks. Although ostensibly we go for the play structures and sand, in my experience children always end up off on the outskirts collecting pine needles or blowing dandelions.
- Play in the rain. We've got all the gear!
- Play with water. An inch of water in a water table or a small bucket filled with water provides a lot of entertainment for me kids. They like to paint with water too.
- Blow bubbles.
- Chalk art.
- Play in the dirt. Sometimes my kids like to plant the stones from stone fruit or other seeds from our food or dropped by trees in our backyard. They don't seem to mind that nothing comes of it. Sand toys are also great for general dirt play. You might designate some "outside clothes" for this is you are dirt-averse.
- Garden. This would actually be a tough one for me as I am a complete ignoramus, but I'm going to try to plant something with my kids this month and hopefully not kill it.
- Read outside. We should do this regularly! Especially books about the natural world (which my kids love) to facilitate immediate connections.
- Write or draw outside.
- Identify birds. Hang bird feeders. I gave my kids an awesome memory game with bird photos and names for Easter. Would love to find some of the real birds around our house!
- Nature crafts!
- Fly a kite.
- Lie on the grass and watch the sky.
- Identify constellations. Tough with the late daylight and poopy mosquitos, but worth shooting for doing at least once.
- Shop at the farmers market! Learning about new fruits and vegetables that were in the ground earlier that morning to me counts as interacting with nature.
- Visit a U-Pick farm.
- Visit one of the local farms or ranches that we buy food from.
- Hike in nearby state and city parks (during the weekend when Papi can come with us).
- Visit the beach (during the weekend when Papi can come with us).
- Kids bored? Find fun in the great outdoors (USA Today)
- Activities - Get Out for a Green Hour (National Wildlife Federation: Be Out There)
- Nature Rocks (part of the Children & Nature Network)
- Take a Child Outside
- Children, Nature and You: Online Resources
- Nature’s Lessons for Kindergarten Readiness (Children, Nature and You)
- Outdoor Kids Adventures (Texas Parks and Wildlife)
- Resource Guide Supplement to Last Child in the Woods (includes nature activities, books, and links)
- Books we love about nature exploration
Check out additional 30 x 30 Nature Challenge posts here.
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