As I’m sure was the case for lots of you, our summer went by too quickly. It felt like a slow build up to the Fourth of July, then a crazy downhill ride to school supply shopping.
While it went quickly, we were able to cram in lots of great memories, including lots of time getting our vitamin D fix outside, exploring nature.
My kids are huge Dinosaur Train fans and absolutely love Dr. Scott. We take my kids’ hero’s word to heart around here, we like to “get outside, get into nature and make our own discoveries!”
This was easy when the summer days are long, the schedules loose, and the weather beautiful. Things get a little trickier once school starts and schedules get filled up, but time spent in nature is vital for a kid’s development. Time spent in nature engages all of the senses, calms down an over stimulated child, and lays the groundwork for some amazing brain development. Here are five ways to continue the exploration even after summer is over.
- Leaf Art. With cooler temps comes changing and falling leaves. Collect some of the fallen leaves and use them to identify different trees that you might have in your neighborhood. You can collect these leaves into a field guide or scrapbook. Another great leaf activity is to take a sheet of contact paper and lay the leaves on it. Cover with another piece of contact paper and you have a beautiful leaf place mat. Older kids can write on the contact paper with dry erase markers to identify the leaves and their parts.
- Start a nature collection. I gave my oldest a corner of the screened in porch to act as his “nature museum.” All I did was put an old IKEA table there and gave him some jars for specimens. After that, he’s taken off with the idea. This is where he puts anything from nature he might find while we’re out and about. There is quite the collection of items, sticks, feathers, dead bugs, snake skins, etc. Giving him one designated spot is great so that the collection doesn’t spread through the house. It also allows him to see how what he collects changes as the seasons change. Don’t have a lot of space? Use a clear over the door shoe container and put your treasures in the different pockets.
- Go on a collection hike. If you need to start or beef up your collection, a collection hike is a great way to start. Give each child a paper lunch bag and go for a hike (which can totally be wandering around your backyard or neighborhood) Don’t worry, kids will find things to put in their bags. Afterwards, have a little show and tell where kids talk about what they find.
- Late night exploration. On a Friday or Saturday night, stay up a little late and go outside to take in the stars and nightlife. The Perseid Meteor shower is going on throughout the month of August. Find a nice clear spot and look to the North to try and catch a falling star or two. There are several apps for your phone that will help with identifying constellations. If you need even more star help, check out an open astronomy night with the QC Popular Astronomy Club, they provide telescopes and expert advice!
- Observe Seasonal Changes. Near our house there is a restored prairie, we make it a point to visit the same spot all through the year to observe the seasonal changes. This works in a prairie, forest, field, really any green space. It opens up a great conversation about how nature is always changing. Not sure where to go? Here’s a great resource for local wild areas.
These are just a few ideas to get you started and there are plenty of resources out there.
I recommend the books “How to Raise a Wild Child” by Dr. Scott Sampson (yes THE Dr. Scott) and “15 Minutes Outside” by Rebecca Cohen. If you’re curious as to why kids need more time out in nature, a great read is “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv.
What’s your favorite outdoor activity?