Thursday, November 14, 2013

Springtime Outdoor Activities for Families With Young Children

While expensive trips to the likes of Disney World and National Parks are great times for the whole family other low budget activities closer to home can be just as rewarding.Explore the wonders of naturePrepare your family to get a little muddy in the process, but what a tremendous opportunity for children to see the Wonders of Nature than to take them for a walk in the woods or exploring what is happening in a trickling stream.When removing wet leaves that have accumulated over the Winter you will find new sprouts beginning to push through the earth. This is a way to open up a conversation about how the leaves are the blankets that keep the sprouts warm until the weather is warm enough for them to grow unprotected.When walking through the woods you may find Violets, Wild Orchids and many plants that have begun to poke their heads above ground. Often times May Apples, Jack in the Pulpits and even Skunk Cabbage can be found. If any of these plants sound foreign to you it's a great time to go to the library to find a book about local plants to read to your children before taking your field trip.If you have an opportunity to walk along a nearby shallow stream you may find tadpoles, newts, snails and all kinds of things under rocks that can easily be lifted by your child. Just this past week, while doing some spring weeding, I was lucky enough to find a large Toad under a wild geranium plant. If you or your neighbor has a small pond you will be surprised at what you can find.If you feed the birds, or have a neighbor who does, you can watch the birds to see which ones are at the feeder during the warm months. Discuss what the birds eat, i.e. worms, fruit or seeds. Everyone knows that watching for the return of robins is a fun activity and seems to be an easy bird to spot, especially when your preschooler is learning their colors. Keep your eyes open for bird eggs that have fallen to the ground and talk about their size and color.Growing grass is an inexpensive and fun activity for children, especially when you have them draw a face on a styrofoam cup and paste on googly eyes before filling with potting soil and sprinkling the top with grass seed. This can also be done by using an eggshell that has had the insides blown out. Cut an opening to the small end of the eggshell and gently fill with soil. Sit it on a sunny windowsill where it can be watered and as the grass grows have your child measure the grass before giving the grass a haircut.With Mother's Day just a month away you can do the same with marigold seeds to give as gifts. Once the ground is warm enough the flowers can be transplanted in the ground and your child can see how quickly it begins to grow. If you have an area where you can plant lettuce and carrot seeds it is a great lesson about where the food we eat grows. If you don't have enough room to have a small garden fill a large flower pot with potting soil to plant the seeds.Children love to explore and by making a list of things to look for before leaving home you can begin your exploration with great enthusiasm. When my oldest granddaughter was four years old their family had a snake that lived under the garage. One day while playing she discovered that the snake had shed it's skin. As she ran toward me she yelled, "Grandma, I found the snake!" My heart skipped a beat until I realized the snake had shed it's skin and that was what she was gently holding in her hands. Not wanting to squash her enthusiasm I suggested we take the snake skin inside and sit at the kitchen table and draw pictures of snakes. Now I'm not saying that my quick thinking changed her life in any way, but she is currently in college and her major is Environmental Science.There are wonderful ways to learn and teach right in front of us if only we take a minute to look. Have a wonderful Spring and learn to recognize POISON IVY! By the way, your pharmacy undoubtedly carries poison ivy wipes you can take with you if you think your child may have come in contact with poison ivy.

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