Tips to help you connect your family to nature!
A few minutes outside can work wonders for your kids' stress levels and overall feeling of well-being. There are lots of quick hacks to get your kids outside for 20 minutes- like hosting a mud party! (Photo Credit: Shutterfly.com\Christin Lola)
It’s a new school year, with potentially lots of changes for your children: starting elementary, middle or high school, or maybe a new school altogether; figuring out class schedules; getting to know teachers or a new friend group; feeling overwhelmed with assignments and new routines. This time of year can be stressful for young people. Here is a great antidote: 20 minutes outside!
Our friends over at Generation Wild (Great Outdoors Colorado) compiled a fantastic list of ideas for quick 20 minute activities to get kids active and outdoors. A few minutes outside can work wonders for your kids’ stress levels and overall feelings of well-being.
Here are just a few of the 20 ideas for 20 minutes outside from Generation Wild:
It’s not always easy to get kids to turn off the computer or put down the game controller. So how do you get them to play outside? Here are a few tried-and-true strategies that will actually help get them off the couch and out the back door.
Try relocating their favorite indoor activity to the outdoors. Nudge them to read, draw, or play with their favorite toy outdoors in the fresh air. Being in an outdoor environment is an entirely different experience—it may encourage them to “play” in a new way.
Make outdoor time into family time. Sometimes kids just want to spend time with their parents and other loved ones. Taking walks, having picnics, and making park visits together are all great ways to incorporate Mother Nature into your family routine.
A little variety can spice up outdoor time. We have the best backyard here on the Western Slope of Colorado, so consider exploring a bit farther–farms, forests, mountains, and lakes. This gives kids different ways to experience and think about the outdoors. The same place can be completely transformed during different parts of the year or even different times of the day.
The more the merrier! Kids inspire other kids. Adding a friend to the mix might be just the nudge needed to inspire their inner adventurer to come out. This strategy is especially effective with older kids.
Playing outdoors makes for more capable, knowledgeable, and self-sufficient youth. And, an independent youth is a safer one. Start your kids’ outdoor independence by taking small steps, like playing in the backyard while you observe them. Before you know it, they will be running all over the neighborhood, just like you used to do.
If we all spend a little more time outdoors in our neighborhoods, we’ll make more friends, know more about one another, and create communities that parents and kids feel comfortable in. It’s a simple idea that will benefit everyone.
For older kids and you, time outdoors is invaluable in helping to reset thoughts and priorities and dispel frustrations or anxieties from work or school and recharge yourself. A run or bike ride along a river or a walk with a friend can be revitalizing and a brief escape from troublesome issues. Encourage your teen to engage in an outdoor game like Frisbee golf, Ultimate Frisbee, or try a new outdoor sport like climbing or paddling with a SUP.
You don’t have to have all the ideas. That’s where Generation Wild comes in. Follow Generation Wild on Instagram and Facebook, and you will get all kinds of ideas and inspiration to get your kids outdoors. Check out “The List” of 100 things every kid absolutely has to do before they are 12 (generationwild.com/the-list). The list has some great ideas for time outside, like digging up worms, dancing in the rain, skipping rocks, tubing down a creek, catching a crawdad, and more. If you are a kid at heart, you may be surprised at how many things you can already check off!
Through Generation Wild, you can also connect with more than 250 incredible partners around the state that host outdoor activities and youth programming. Friends of Youth and Nature’s Provider Page also has a list of providers who engage kids in outdoor programs and environmental education activities by county (Delta, Mesa, and Montrose).
There’s a lot to discover out there. While you are having so much fun playing outside with your kids, think of all the benefits they are getting from hanging out with you in nature.
Wearing his adventure vest, full of pockets to stow away treasures, this explorer is ready for the A-Z scavenger hunt!
A few weeks ago I was asked to watch my niece and nephew for the afternoon. I was thrilled and had big plans to take them for hikes, jump on the trampoline, order takeout, and other fun things only the “Cool Aunt” could provide. But what I was quickly reminded of was that I would have to compete against the Almighty Screen in order to get to play with my niece and nephew. After a mild effort, I was ready to throw in the towel and just be okay with making spaghetti and watching the kiddos “game” on their virtual devices. Their tablets were pointed at the ceiling broadcasting voices of neighborhood children simultaneously plugged into the game and subsequently checked out of the present moment. Then, a small opportunity presented itself − the tablet-encased voices were shouting, “We have to go and eat dinner!” This meant I might have some leverage to persuade my niece and nephew to play with me, a non-digital entity. I quickly suggested a walk in the sunshine, which was ignored. Then I suggested riding bikes, which got me a “maybe.” When I brought up the idea of a scavenger hunt, I finally got a reaction! My nephew leapt off the couch and, ran upstairs to put on his adventure vest which was full of pockets and made him look like he could have been Steve Irwin’s assistant. My niece, who rarely wears shoes, was off the couch looking for her flip-flops. Although not true adventure wear, I wasn’t going to stop our forward progress into the outdoors.
1 point for the Cool Aunt!
We ran around the front yard looking for clues and quickly putting them in a pocket of the adventure vest. We climbed over bridges, stormed through gates, looked under rocks, and absorbed a good hour’s worth of Vitamin D. For our next go around, my niece suggested a version of a scavenger hunt that would let us all play at the same time and more importantly would expand our adventure beyond the familiarity of the front yard. As we made our way around the block my nephew asked, “Can we go as far as we want?” I gleefully said “Yes,” and the memories of trying to get him off the couch just a few hours earlier quickly faded from all of our minds. Later, I would hear things like, “I like looking closely at the tree bark because it is so interesting,” and, “we may need flashlights because I don’t want to quit!”
Another point for the Cool Aunt.
The Cool Aunt A-Z scavenger hunt:
As Michele Hart – the “cool aunt” discovered with the right enticement, - you too can get those kids off the couch and their screens. From close-to-home forays to summer-long hunts, an outdoor scavenger hunt introduces a healthy dose of competition while giving kids a chance to be free to explore and learn to observe!
There are all kinds of ways to set up a scavenger hunt for younger and older youth. Here are some additional ideas:
Clue and Route-based Teamwork: When you want to take a team-based approach, you can hide a list of clues or riddles, one leading to the next, with a prize waiting at the end. The kids work together to solve the clues; for example, “This tree has strips of bark that peel off and burn easily making it an excellent fire starter. Go here for your next clue!” (Destination: juniper tree.) And the next clue: “Now that you’ve found the juniper, look for the home of earthworms, vegetable scraps, and grass clippings.” (Destination: compost pile.). Tailor your clues to your kids’ age group and interests—and get creative with your prizes: s’more fixings, fishing gear, or just simple bragging rights.
Season-Long Treasure Hunts: These are the granddaddies of all outdoors scavenger hunts: the season-long activity accomplishment checklists! These involve visiting a string of locations and/or accomplishing a certain set of activities within a season (summer vacation, for example) or beyond. Items might include: spend the night out under the stars, catch and release a fish, go canoeing, reach the top of a mountain, build a shelter out of natural materials, spend the night in a canyon, etc. There are over 100 things every kid absolutely has to do before they are 12! For instance, have you peeked under a rock in a creek to see what’s underneath, walked a tight-rope on a log, dug for worms, danced in the rain, waded in a stream or spotted the big dipper? These are just a few of those 100 things. Need the list? You can download it from Generation Wild – The List. Most of these things you can do in a park, or in your backyard. You don’t have to go far to have fun outside - you just need to go!
Start a summer tradition with your family - simple quests for the littles and more complicated hints possibly riddles for the older kids - or have teams composed of multiple age groups for even more comradery. After all, no matter what your age, who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt?
To see the results of the A-Z scavenger hunt visit FOYAN Facebook. For some great hip pocket trail games and links to the backyard bucket list- go to our home page (www.friendsofyouthandnature.org)
It’s half way through July, and there are a million things to do outside if you’re a kid! If you are feeling a little bored, check out “the list” your friends made of 100 things every kid absolutely has to do before they are 12. You would be surprised at the things you have already done, but there are so many more new ”to do’s” to check off. For instance, have you peeked under a rock in a creek to see what’s underneath, walked a tight-rope on a log, dug for worms, danced in the rain, waded in a stream or spotted the big dipper? These are just a few of those 100 things. Need the list? You can download it from Generation Wild – The List. Most of these things you can do in a park, or in your backyard. You don’t have to go far to have fun outside- you just need to go! How about making a worm hotel, or a sock garden? Bake some tasty s’mores in a sun oven or make a soda bottle sprinkler? You can get video instructions on these backyard hacks and more at generationwild.com.
Parents, being outside surrounded by nature can have amazing effects on your kiddos but sometimes it is tough to figure out how to motivate your kids to go outside and play. The Generation Wild Movement, sponsored by Get Outdoor Colorado has plenty of fresh ideas to help you raise an outdoor kid, from kids nature books, to cool apps like Sky Guide which makes stargazing simple, or Merlin - a free app that identifies any bird in North America.
Interested in expanding your home range? Some say we have the best backyard around the west with acres of outstanding public lands. There are almost 40,000 miles of public trails in Colorado and many of them are not far from your neighborhood. Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) is an app that is your guide to finding and exploring those trails. COTREX features maps for the trailheads across federal, state, local, and private lands with public access in Colorado. Shared knowledge by local users on hiking and Mountain biking trails is an incredible source of the best up-to-date information. The Western Colorado Hiking Project includes 25 featured hikes and 5 (not to miss) gems while the Western Colorado Mountain Biking Project provides information on 280 bike trails in the area including 37 featured rides.
Friends of Youth and Nature (FOYAN) is a non-profit that is a one stop shop to connect you and your kids to outdoor adventures: hiking and mountain bike trails, organizations that provide really cool nature adventures and places to rent gear in Montrose, Mesa and Delta Counties. FOYAN also provides links to maps and apps that will help you find the best places to explore. Take a look at the FOYAN website (friendsofyouthandnature.org) and find out who is sponsoring nature and outdoor programs near you.
Nature is good for kids in so many ways! It promotes confidence, creativity, imagination, a sense of wonder, and teaches responsibility. And, believe it or not, studies show interaction with nature reduces stress and fatigue in our children. Maybe the adults could use a bit of that Nature RX as well! There’s no shortage of outdoor adventures waiting for your kids in western Colorado. These resources will help you and your kids make the most of this summer.
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