I had a bit of a wake-up call this week as I read over a fabulous collection of kid’s nature activities compiled by the folks at “Take a Child Outside” week.
The list of splendidly simple ideas for exploring the world beyond the back door gave me a whole new perspective on playing outside, ways to engage and interact with the natural world that never would have dawned on me.
Outside is the place I shoo my kids when I want to make dinner without interruptions. I peer out the kitchen window every couple of minutes to make sure they aren’t spoiling their appetites by sampling their concocted feasts of leaves and grass.
As far as rolling up my sleeves and getting dirty with them? I might coax them off the swing set and enlist their help weeding the garden under the guise of “looking for worms,” but this doesn’t stack up to the projects posted on the “Take a Child Outside” site.
And that’s when I realized that really, this annual homage should be renamed “Take a Grown-up Outside” week. I’m now pledging to do a couple of these activities a month — and to get outside and explore alongside my kids. Check out all the ideas at www.takeachildoutside.org, but here’s a few to whet your appetite:
• Make a seasonal “nature bracelet” with masking tape. Wrap it around your wrists sticky side out, and walk around the yard collecting things to stick on it. Save ones from different seasons to compare.
• Try your hand at being a landscape artist. Scout the yard or a park for a scene you like and set up an easel, first sketching the scene with a pencil then filling in with paint. Also try capturing micro-level nature scenes, like a pinecone or single flower. Looking at nature with an artist’s eye deepens the appreciation.
• Hunt for spider webs and gently spray them with a mist bottle to bring out the shape and design of the thin, translucent threads. Examine the different web shapes and styles and look for the spider and any signs of any leftovers.
• Shrink down to the size of an ant and design a micro-scale nature walk through a small area of the yard, flagging the route with toothpicks and the landmarks an ant would pass along the way.
• Track the trajectory of the sun by placing an object from nature on a piece of paper and tracing the outline of the shadow. Check back in an hour and trace the shadow again with a different color marker, and watch what happens over the course of the day.