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Noticing Spring

The signs of Spring are slowly beginning to show themselves where I live and we are ecstatic! Enjoying the outdoors and investigating the signs of spring is the perfect “unstructured nature play” activity to do as a family.

Celebrating Spring as a family will bring joy into your home, help develop your children’s observational skills, foster your children’s love for learning and appreciating nature. Let go as the parent and be joyous with your children outside!

The following is a list of questions to use to help get your children into noticing Spring:

  • What does the rain/wind smell, taste and sound like?
  • How do the clouds look differently than they did in the wintertime?
  • Do you notice any new baby critters that were not outside a couple of days ago?
  • Are any plants starting to bulb/develop/grow?
  • What species of birds are starting to build their nests?
  • How is nighttime different now that it is spring? Do you hear different animals outside? Do you notice different sounds/smells/sights?

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Environmental Ed 101

catching firefliesEditor’s note:  The following is a guest post by Tim Magner, an environmental educator and children’s book author. For more resources on Growing Green Minds, visit Green Sugar Press.
What are your best memories from childhood? Catching fireflys?  Building forts? Making mudpies? Climbing trees?

I’ve spent a lot of time with kids and there’s one thing I know makes sense: Letting kids be kids. They’re curious. They need time to imagine and play and explore. They want to be inspired and nature does the trick. [Read more…]

Winter Nature Play

In my family we make it a goal to have unstructured play in nature every day. Unstructured play in my family means giving my children access to a safe environment without toys, playground equipment, electronics, etc. and give them the opportunity to explore nature and learn to be creative on their own. I notice a huge behavioral change when we don’t take time to spend in nature. My children tend to be calmer, more obedient and happier when we spend time outside. Child development specialists have preached the benefits of nature play for years, just a few of the benefits are: an increase in your children’s academic potential, social skills and creativity.

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I Love Dirt Book Review

I Love Dirt by Jennifer WardDirt used to be the only place for kids to play, before we concreted most of it up. As recent news has shown playing in the dirt and grass actually made kids healthier a lot of parents are tossing their kids back into the yard for some old fashioned fun. That’s where the book I Love Dirt by Jennifer Ward comes in.

This is one of my favorite books of ideas for getting kids outside and playing. I Love Dirt is more of an activity guide, featuring 52 wonderful ideas for kids ages 3-8 to get out in nature, explore, and even learn something along the way. The various activities span the entire year, covering ideas for spring, summer, autumn, and winter. No matter if your kids are in the middle of a city, out in the suburbs, or already enjoying the country side you will find something worth doing. I love that Ward also included little “Help Me Understand” sidebars for adults to help us explain the science aspects of nature.

“Here is the potential for much fun, many meaningful experiences—and a trove of shared stories.”

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Nature Words Dropped From Children's Dictionary

“Humans seldom value what they cannot name.”   -Elaine Brooks

To make way for modern tech terms such as BlackBerry, blog, voicemail and broadband, the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary has opted to drop terms pertaining to nature.  No longer can a child check this dictionary and learn more about the blackberry, dandelion, acorn, heron, otter, magpie, sycamore, or willow.

 

Why were these words deemed expendable? A statement from the Oxford University Press clarifies: 

the 10,000 words and phrases in the junior dictionary were selected using several criteria, including how often words would be used by young children.

I’m sorry, maybe I’m missing something here…but which word does your child use more? Broadband…. or dandelion?

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Into the Trees: A book About a Child's First Adventure Into the Woods

Mini G\'s first adventure into the forestI grew up in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. We had a yard with trees, and the park and river were not too far away.  I was fortunate my parents took me on weekend hiking trips in the Hocking Hills of southern Ohio (although I called “hocking in the Hiking Hills”). Reading Into the Trees, part of the Mini G Deluxe Baby Gift Set, I was reminded of my early adventures into the woods as a child.

Those early, enjoyable hiking trips set the stage for my environmentalism and decision to live in a remote, natural setting.

Into the Trees is the story of Mini G’s first walk into the woods. In the forest, Mini G discovers many natural wonders:

Gurgle. Gurgle. Bubble. Bubble.

Mini G had found quite a surprise.

“Look, Dad!  Look!  Look what I’ve found!

There’s water bubbling up right from the ground!”

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5 Simple Holiday Crafts to Decorate and Celebrate

holiday nature craftsEditor’s note: The following post was originally published on Green and Clean Mom. “Green & Clean Mom can inspire you to try a little harder, be a catalyst for change and to offer you some new tips and news on how to be the green, sexy and sassy mom…I know you are!”

When I think back to my childhood, I remember spending lots of time around the holidays making decorations and food for our family celebrations.

Some of the simplest activities were also the most fulfilling, because we were actively creating, not just purchasing. The time that went into each craft or treat was also a gift, a gift that said “I took the time to personally craft this for you. You’re that special to me.”

I started a short list of my favorite simple holiday crafts from the past, and I’m hoping that you readers will add to it in the comments. [Read more…]

New Study: Inner City Children Residing in Green Neighborhoods Grow Up Healther

row houses in BaltimoreInner city kids have it hard for a variety of reasons. From poverty to low performing schools, these children often suffer from poor diets and nature deficit disorder.

A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has found that greener (i.e. vegetation in yards, parks, etc.) inner city neighborhoods result in healthier children.

Researchers from the University of Washington, Indiana University, Purdue University and Indiana University School of Medicine followed more than 3,800 children between the ages of 3 and 16 for over two years. The predominantly African American and poor children’s neighborhoods were measured for “greenness” by using satellite imaging data of vegetation. Janice F. Bell, PhD, University of Washington assistant professor in the department of Health Services at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, explains the results: [Read more…]

Green Gorilla: Create a Natural Thanksgiving Centerpiece

natural items for a fall Thanksgiving centerpieceEditor’s note: The following post originally appeared on Green Gorilla.  “Gorilla in the Greenhouse” is an action-packed animated web show that inspires kids to take real-world steps towards a healthier environment.  The show is distributed through the kid’s web channel Green Gorilla (www.greengorilla.com), which is host to a variety of kids activities, videos about issues important to kids, music and eco-merchandise.

Create a Natural Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Mom and Dad have got a lot going on these next two weeks before Thanksgiving.  Ordering the turkey, figuring out the stuffing, making pies…yummy! Why not help them out by creating an awesome natural centerpiece for the table? It’s the perfect opportunity to get your nature hat on and your creative juices flowing.

Go for a walk in a nearby park and collect anything that you think would look good on the table.  There’s loads of Autumn stuff out there…lightweight twigs, fallen leaves, pine cones, acorns. Go for whatever you can find based upon where you live…you want your Thanksgiving centerpiece to reflect your own part of the country. Look for natural objects of different shapes, sizes and colors.  The more variety you have on, they greater they will look on the table. [Read more…]

The Lessons of Sand Play

playing in the sand is good for kidsEditor’s note: The following post was written by Professor Elkind, chief scientific advisor for Just Ask Baby.  David Elkind is currently Professor Emeritus of Child Development at Tufts University. He was formerly Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Education at the University of Rochester.  Just Ask Baby is a site devoted to:

providing our community of members with all the information, resources and support they need to help their children develop socially, emotionally and intellectually – and at their own pace – during the critical early years of their life…The information we provide is 100% based on decades of scientific research by some of the leading child development experts. We are also 100% un-sponsored by manufacturers and 100% un-influenced by advertisers.

The Lessons of Sand Play

While watching my great-nieces, Raven 3, and Stella Blue 5, at the beach on Cape Cod this summer, I was again impressed by the freedom, involvement and concentration of young children’s beach play.

They dug holes in the sand and enjoyed simply flinging the sand with their shovels; they filled pails with sand and built a sand castle, then filled the pails with water and washed it away. Stella Blue wanted me to bury her in the sand, and seemed delighted as I poured buckets of sand on her feet. She kept urging me to cover her toes as well. These two young children happily occupied themselves for hours on the warm beach sand. This kind of play is easy to understand but has a larger lesson as well. [Read more…]

Prevent Wintertime Nature Deficit Disorder with Natural Pod's Puddlegear Rain Wear

Natural Pod\'s Puddlegear rain wear for kidsIf you live in the Pacific Northwest, you can’t let rain stop you from going outside.  My family hikes, gardens, and frolics in the continual rain of the winter months.  Outfitting my kids for our wet adventures is a challenge until I discovered Natural Pod’s Puddlegear rain gear.

Natural Pod is a Canadian company specializing in natural items for play and daily living that are mindful, creative and inviting for your family.  Like many parents that recognize nature itself is the best natural toy, Natural Pod wants your children to enjoy the outdoors year round.  Just consider this great description of Puddlegear rain gear:

To kids, rain is a just another toy, offering unlimited opportunities for splashing fun. We think that’s a great attitude. These clothes are perfect for playing in. They are attractive, sturdy and designed for children’s need for freedom of movement. Naturally, all of this clothing meets every possible quality and safety requirement.  Puddlegear raingear is made in Europe by Abeko. A Swedish company that has been known for quality and function down to every last button and seam for 60 years . And kids think its cool too! [Read more…]

Summer of Gaia

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/v/oNR1olm03nA&hl=en&fs=1]

Have you ever considered doing “summer camp” in your own backyard? I used to be the Nature Director at a summer camp and can promise you, the magic that can be discovered on a summer afternoon can last a lifetime!

Not only do I write for Eco Child’s Play, I write a series of novels called Gaia Girls Book Sereis. In Gaia Girls, the heroines are granted cool powers and sent on “Gaia Missions” to help the earth. They are able to do this because they are so connected and aware of the Earth (Gaia). I suspect that the majority of us reading and writing here at Green Options spent a portion of our childhood outside getting connected and I want to do my part to make sure the next generation loves Earth enough to care for it. So this summer, I’m combining my nature director experience, with the fantastical fiction. I’m inviting one and all to participate in “The Summer of Gaia!

Each week, I set you on a Mission that will open up all the magic Gaia has to offer. [Read more…]

Nature Birthday Parties and Blessing Ways

For the 8th year in a row, we are celebrating the birth of our children at the river. The river is a big part of summer life where we live. It provides a cool respite from warm summer temperatures, in a community that lacks swimming pools, air conditioning, and half the town lives off-the-grid. The river provides entertainment for children and adults alike, and our parties our a community celebration. This is not your typical children’s birthday party; adults actually outnumber the children in attendance as it takes a village…

Our first river celebration was my Blessing Way. A Blessing Way is an alternative to a baby shower, and it is based on a Navajo tradition. My midwives led our “Humboldt eclectic” ceremony, in which I was surrounded by strong women friends (the men joined us later for food and river frolicking). Each friend brought a candle and symbol of strength for the altar, which was then set up in my home for the birth. Everyone also brought a bead, which was added to a necklace that I wore during my labor. We sang songs, told a collective angel story, and wrapped ourselves together with yarn in a circle. When the yarn was broken, each friend was wearing a piece around her arm or ankle. The yarn was not to be removed until I had given birth, and each time a friend noticed their piece of yarn, they were sent positive energy and thoughts my way. Often, these pieces of yarn will fall off on their own when it is time for the mother to give birth. My hair was lovingly braided to symbolize my new role as mother, and I was treated to a rose water foot bath and massage. [Read more…]

No Child Left Inside Video

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