Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finding the Treasure Outside

© Vladislav Gajic -

My kids have a rock collection. And a feather collection. And a pine cone collection. Right now my house is littered with rocks, beautiful flowers, and small stones. Every day I throw sticks outside after finding them under the kitchen table, on the stairs, or under the living room chair. Whenever I do laundry, I have to check pockets for tiny nature treasures, discovered during an afternoon Green Hour(s).

Most children don't need to be told how to play outside. But sometimes they need a little help getting started. Here are my children's favorite outdoor activities:


Drawing with chalk on a side walk or porch is one of the most treasured American childhood pleasures. Children can develop their creativity and the motor skills with just a few swipes of color. Their artwork can be simple or complex. If you get the squeaky "I don't know what to draw!" line, some of these chalk "prompts" might be to draw...

- Your favorite story book character
- What you want to be when you grow up
- An adventure at sea
- A scene related to an upcoming holiday (St. Patrick's day, Easter, Earth Day, etc.)
- If you could have any pet in the world, what would it be?
- A habitat you've studied in science; Be sure to include the animals!


We are blessed to have a lot of trees in our yard. And my kids have spent endless hours sitting high in the branches, looking out on our yard and dreaming wonderful day dreams. Things to keep in mind: Don't let you kids climb in slick shoes; Let them climb trees with sturdy branches - keep dead branches trimmed off as they easily break; And keep the area below the tree free from debris (bikes, big rocks, metal toys, etc.) so that short falls don't lead to major injuries!


Kids have a fascination with digging and discovering "treasures." My kids can spend hours playing in a sand pit. Bulldozers, cars, buckets, shovels, cups, and small figures are some of their favorite tools to use in the sand.


Who knew there were so many things you can catch with a butterfly net? In addition to the obvious butterflies, there's also beetles, spiders, daddy long legs, dandelion seeds, bubbles, leaves, and even birds. The ground rules in my house: No stinging insects and you must release the living organism back in the same place you found it after you finish examining it.


There is nothing quite so fascinating as growing something and watching the beginning of life. Right now is the perfect time to be starting seeds. Your kids can do this inside and then transfer the seedlings outside after the danger of frost has passed, or they can simply plant the seeds straight in the ground. Right now we have tomatoes, peppers, moonflowers, and an assortment of other flowering plants growing in tiny little pots on our porches and kitchen.


One of the things my kids enjoy best is the nature table that we set up each spring in our living room. It gets cluttered from time to time with all the objects they find outside. But we try to go through and take out all but the most beautiful or strange items on a regular basis. My daughter, especially, loves organizing all the items and sorting them based on texture, color, or materials.

I'm always looking for more ideas, so tell me: What types of outdoor activities do your kids like best?

Un abrazo...


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