Monday, September 26, 2011

101 things to do outside with children #8: go barefoot

Here in Minnesota, we are savoring these last remaining sunny days of fall. Soon enough we'll be dressing in layers and our feet won't see the sun again until April. But there's still time to enjoy nature barefoot-granted, we have to wait until the sun's been out a while so our toes don't turn blue, but still. Whatever the weather is in your area, take off your shoes! Running around barefoot is something that comes naturally to most children, and is a great way to connect with nature. But, as adults, we tend to forget the simple pleasure of being barefoot.

Everything feels different when you're barefoot! Walking on a warm sidewalk, padding barefoot through the grassy lawn, and snuggling your toes into a sandy beach-all sublime experiences, to be sure. Such a great way to get in tune with the many different textures and terrains of nature. Just take off your shoes and notice how things feel. Does the grass tickle? Is the ground cold or warm? Being barefoot is so good for balance and coordination, too. There are about 20 muscles in each foot, so give them a chance to work. Shoes are necessary for many things, and in many places, but any child will tell you that tree-climbing and rock-wandering are activities best done barefooted.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

101 things to do outside with children #7: Listen for nature

Airplanes tearing through the sky overhead. Buses lurching to a stop, then starting again. Cars racing past. People shouting and talking. Dogs barking. Car doors slamming. Garbage trucks roaring down the street. Sirens wailing.

This is what my children and I noticed in just a few short minutes of walking through the neighborhood. last week. Granted, we live in an urban area and these kinds of noises are par for the course on any given day. Early in the morning, as we're walking to school, so much noise feels like an assault on my senses. It gives me an appetite for nature sounds.

Where you live, what kind of noises do you hear on a regular basis? How many of them are nature-based? Here in Minneapolis, it's sometimes hard to "tune out" the city sounds, and tune in the nature sounds.

The other day, when we really tried, we could hear some nature sounds, buried in among the city noises:

an angry squirrel chuck-chucking in a nearby tree,
a goldfinch twittering as it bounced through the sky,
a crow, clearing its throat,
and of course, lots of wind (we're ushering in a cold front, after all!)

Admittedly, this was really difficult! Of course, all things get easier with practice, right? We're practicing finding nature sounds now, in the mornings, when we're all still tired and especially need some gentler noises to help us greet the day.

Where you live, how hard to you have to try to find the nature sounds in the cacophony of everyday life? Can you do it?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

101 things to do with children outside #6, celebrate something!

This seems like a good weekend to consider how much we have to celebrate.

Children are such great teachers for us! They celebrate everything. Life is still a party, and nature is a great playing ground.

When in nature, I'm moved toward gratitude. We enjoy so many freedoms, and we have access to so many wonderful natural areas and special places in this country. Despite the political turmoil,the nightmare economy, and the environmental crises that face us, really, there is so much to celebrate. Nature can soothe the spirit and heal many emotional wounds indeed.

I encourage you to grab your family and find something to celebrate this weekend. Our city has an annual festival celebrating one of my great loves in nature: monarchs. But you don't need a festival to celebrate. (Of course, they sure do help!)

Celebrate colors, the changing seasons, a beautiful flower, a sunset. We are so lucky to live on this amazing planet at this amazing time. What can you celebrate this weekend?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

101 Things to do outside with children #5: Notice something new.

It's already jacket weather here in Minnesota,at least in the mornings, and that means the beginning of a whole new season for nature play.

School has started for both of my little ones, but we're still finding plenty of time to get outside. During the transition from summer to fall, or any season's change, it's a great time to heighten your awareness of what's happening outside! Of course, here in Minnesota we notice the temperature's change first, but there are so many other things going on. The leaves have just barely begun to change, as pointed out by my very astute 4 year old, J. Just look at this tree:

He called it a "half and half" tree. he pointed this out to me on our walk home through the neighborhood. We'd gone out in search of migrating monarch butterflies (and oh, we found so many!) but I was so caught up in finding butterflies I forgot to notice some other pretty amazing things. How lucky for me that he pointed it out. I would have walked right past.

Maybe in your part of the world, the seasons aren't yet changing. Or maybe they're farther along than they are here. Go outside and let your child show you what they see. Share in the discovery together.