Once school starts, sports and band practice begins, and vacations are over, it seems there is never enough time in the day to just get outside with our kids.
I’m a firm believer in getting lots of nature time – anything, as long as it includes plenty of fresh air, surrounded by trees and plants and dirt. The National Wildlife Federation’s campaign, “Be Out There” has a list of 10 ways to get outside, even after school starts.
Here are my favorites out of their list of tips to get a Green Hour during a busy day:
- Scenario: Backpack? Check. Lunch? Check. You’re ready to head to school. Tip: Whether you drive or walk to school, or wait with your child by the bus-stop, take a moment to notice nature. Make it a game of “I Spy” — or download this nature scavenger hunt at Green Hour.
- Scenario: Your child is studying plants at school and, at the dinner table, recites how photosynthesis works. You, yourself, have never successfully kept a plant alive. Tip: Start small: All you need is some bird-seed and a sponge. For sponge-garden instructions, visit greenhour.org/spongegarden. Next step: check out National Gardening Association’s parents’ primer for gardening with kids.
- Scenario: The kids get home from school and immediately plop in front of the TV. You suggest going outside. They respond, “Indoors is more fun!” Tip #1: Set time-limits for TV watching and video game playing. It won’t be popular, so make sure you have a back-up plan. If you have a backyard, kid-customize it with a homemade fort, dart boards, a trampoline, a craft table. Set up a bird house to keep wildlife visiting. Tip #2: No backyard? Find your local parks using nwf.org/naturefind. For older kids, start stretching your child’s boundaries, allowing them to go for unsupervised walks in the neighborhood with groups of friends. They’ll love the feeling of independence.
- Scenario: It’s 8 p.m. Dinner’s over, but not quite time for bed. Tip: Keep flashlights near the door, and go for a neighborhood night hike. Kids will love the novelty — and you can challenge them to identify “night sounds.” Learn how to make a moon journal at Green Hour.