“What if more and more parents, grandparents and kids around the country band together to create outdoor adventure clubs, family nature networks, family outdoor clubs, or green gyms? What if this approach becomes the norm in every community?”— Richard Louv, author and Chairman, Children & Nature Network
Does your community have a family nature club? Are you interested in starting one? Exploring the outdoors with your family doesn’t take a special program or event. Nature is all around you. By creating a family nature club, a community can get the benefits of time in nature by exploring their neighborhood, local parks and trails on their own schedule. Whatever the form of the club, all share three basic goals: get outside in nature on a frequent basis; gather children, friends and community members to share outdoor adventures; and experience the befits of time spent together outside. (Taken from the Children and Nature Network, Nature Club for Families Tool Kit)
The Children and Nature Network offers great resources for getting your club started. A tool kit is available that provides information and tips from families that have developed and learned through their own clubs. In addition to the tool kit, C&NN’s Movement Directory list family clubs and people in your region interested in connecting children with nature. To find the tool kit and other resources to start your own family club, visit http://www.childrenandnature.org/movement/naturalfamilies/clubs/.
If you have questions about starting a club in Missouri, contact Missouri Children and Nature at Childreninnature@mo.gov .
Birds are chirping. Squirrels are scampering. Bugs, insects and spiders are appearing. Flowers are popping up and leaves are budding. And the rain is falling! Spring is a magical time of year to introduce children to the wonders of nature. Wonders exist in rain drops and puddles, in new buds and fresh blades of grass. So, get out and enjoy this special time of year. It won’t last long!
Remember to stay hydrated! Kids love playing and may forget to drink water during their adventures. Help kids stay healthy by bringing water bottles on excursions and by having regular water breaks. Take a peek at this website for helpful tips about detecting dehydration, what to do when it happens and how to avoid it in the first place: http://kidshealth.org/kid/stay_healthy/body/dehydration.html#
Remember to stay safe! Springtime thunderstorms may appear with little warning, so be prepared and know what to do before a storm surprises you. To help kids understand thunderstorms, know how to be safe and how to find their calm, check out this helpful website: http://kidshealth.org/kid/watch/out/thunderstorms.html#
Rain & Puddles -Author Jennifer Ward has tons of activities for children in her book “I Love Dirt” (Trumpeter 2008). She suggests you get under an umbrella with your child during the rainy season and explore where the rain goes, how it feels dropping on the skin and what smells and sounds your child notices.
Worms!-Ward suggests another fun activity for after the rain shower: have children search for worms. Engage with children by first observing how a worm moves and then attempt to move like a worm yourself. Wiggle like a worm!
Let Kids Set The Pace-Author Judy Molland writes with wisdom regarding children and nature in her book “Get Out!” (Free Spirit, 2009). Molland suggests keeping the outdoor walks short and fun for your young children by playing ‘I Spy,’ bringing a healthy snack and stopping in the grass to enjoy it together. If the older children are experiencing difficulty extricating themselves from video games, computers or texting, Molland advises a soft touch. Molland writes, “Let them know that time in nature is like health food for the brain, and you’d like to make a schedule everyone agrees to so time indoors is balanced with time outside” (p.10). Teenagers, as well as younger children, love knowing that they are respected and that they have choices. Start small and provide positive and fun experiences with nature. Eventually, you may find kids choosing nature over indoor activities.
Winter is often thought as an indoor season. Even with the air colder and shorter days, there are plenty of activities to connect children with nature. Before any trek out into the cold, make sure to read these tips for safety, kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/outdoor/winter_safety.html#
Take a Pre-Winter Walk
Explore the changes of the season with a pre-winter walk. Discuss with your children the signs of winter and the changes that are occurring around them. The National Wildlife Federation has great activities to engage children with nature. Learn tips for a successful pre- winter walk from NWF, nwf.org/Get-Outside/Be-Out-There/Activities/Observe-and-Explore/Take-a-Pre-Winter-Walk.aspx
Search for Frost Flowers
When the ground temperature is above freezing while air temperature is below freezing, you have the potential for a phenomenon called Frost Flower. Setup an outdoor Frost Flower photo hunt. When one is discovered, take a photo and have children place it in their nature journal. See how many you can find! For more information about Frost Flower visit mdc.mo.gov/blogs/fresh-afield/fragile-frost-flowers
Create a Snow Painting
Want to add a little color to the winter landscape? Get outside with your children and create snow paintings with a little bit of food coloring and a lot of imagination. Check out this do it yourself painting idea, northshorekid.com/story/snow-day-fun-snow-painting
Fall is a fantastic time to enjoy the Missouri outdoors! Here are five ideas to get children outside to enjoy the crisp air and vibrant colors of fall.
This fall, when rich leaf color begins to peak across Missouri get your family out for a classic outdoor activity. Enjoy the fall colors of by exploring parks, trails or conservation areas by hiking or biking. To find areas to explore visit, Missouri State Parks and Missouri Department of Conservation
Make a Leaf Pile
Closer to home, turn fall yard work into fun! Have children come outside to help you rake the fallen leaves into piles within the yard. Create one huge pile or many smaller piles and let the kids jump in or fall back onto the pile. Children can also hide within the piles, starting a game of hide and seek. Another fun activiting is making mazes and trails in your leaves. Use a lawnmower or a rake to cut a path. Then have children walk or bike the course. Be creative and have fun playing with piles of crunchy leaves! For more ideas, visit our guide to Missouri fall colors
Visit an Apple Orchard
Missouri has apple orchards located across the state. Take children on an outdoor adventure to pick healthy snacks. Learn more about apples in Missouri
Fall Scavenger Hunt
Explore your niche by creating a scavenger hunt. Make a list of things found in nature for your hunters to find. Items include different colors of leaves, acorns, types of trees, something soft, something tall, etc. Be creative with your items. Send your hunters out with a camera or journal to record their findings. Check out these nature journaling tips
Get ready for all and winter months by helping the wildlife in your yard. Make bird feeder ornaments by collecting pine cones, coat with peanut butter (substitute lard if your child has a nut allergy) and roll in birdseed. Hang or place in the yard. Watch, identify and enjoy the birds with your children! Learn more about birding in Missouri
What does it mean to you to “live green”? Students from all over Missouri created videos to show us what it means to “live green”.
Live Green Vineland Elementary Athena Elementary
Each year, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources hosts its Earth Day Celebration on the Capitol lawn. Students are invited to take part in the annual video contest sharing their knowlege of the three R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle.
The 17th annual Earth Day celebration will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m on Friday, April 29, 2011, at the Missouri State Capitol south lawn. Activities include information booths, games and displays about the environment. Many other state and federal agencies participated through educational displays and exhibits. Learn more about Earth day by visiting the Department of Natural Resources’ Earth Day website
A walk to school through a state park can be a great way to start the school day. Students at Rock Bridge Elementary School experienced this during October and November 2010 as part of PedNet’s Walking School Bus Program in Columbia. Between 50 and 80 kids walked to school using the Deer Run Trail in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, which connects with the school’s property on Paxton Passage Trail.
The Walking School Bus Program encourages students to use their own two feet by creating safe, adult-lead walking routes to school. The goals are to encourage use of alternative transportation, to promote healthy lifestyles and to encourage kids to get outside. Kids gathered at the park’s playground parking lot and walked the .9 mile trail to Rock Bridge Elementary School, assisted by volunteer route monitors.
In Missouri state parks, this effort ties in with our Children in Nature initiative and lets kids experience state parks while getting a healthy start to their day. Park staff suggested ways leaders can help kids observe nature along the way. Kids received incentives such as erasers, slap bracelets and draw string bags for each walk.
Of the 10 Columbia elementary schools that participated in a Walking School Bus Program this year, Rock Bridge Elementary School’s was the one with the highest attendance. The Rock Bridge route was also the only one in Columbia that used a state park trail.
Photos courtesy of PedNet.
Children love to get their hands dirty. Planting flowers is the perfect way to play in the dirt. Daffodil bulbs can be planted in the fall in anticipation for warmer weather. These happy flowers are the perfect surprise for your family when it comes time for spring. Daffodils are planted before the ground freezes and even be put in the ground as late as Thanksgiving. Let your child pick out their bulbs and place them into the ground.
They will be watching the ground all winter for their flowers to bloom. Find more information about planting instructions.
In today’s busy world, every minute of the day is full with items to check off of our “to do” lists. We rush; we schedule. We hardly take the time to just stop, listen and experience. As the weather begins to cool and summer fades to fall, life outside our windows is slowing down. You should too! Find a child and get outside.
Use this list as your new “to do” list.
- Take your shoes off and walk in the grass. Use all of your five sense so experience the outdoors.
- Have a sidewalk scavenger hunt. See who can find the most plants growing in cracks, or bugs hiding in fire hydrants.
- Find leaves which create a rainbow of colors. See how many different colors you can find.
- Create sidewalk hopscotch. Play using a homemade beanbag. Make your own beanbag with this helpful tutorial