Children crave spending time outside to breath in the fresh air; play freely; and enjoy the sounds, smells, and sights of nature. No matter where you live and how chilly it gets as the seasons change, we can’t forget to explore the great outdoors. Spending time in nature provides so many amazing benefits including bringing a sense of calm into our lives. Give your children the gift of nature by having fun outdoors together as a family.
I am eager to share with you the Outdoors Family Challenge created by Shannon from We’ll Eat You Up, We Love You So blog. She developed a 7-day challenge chock full of fun activities and science tidbits to help get you and your kids to go outside, live more sustainably, and connect more with nature and each other.
You are so lucky because today I am providing a sneak peak into the challenge by sharing Day 1 with you, and how my daughter and I enjoyed the activity.
Day 1 Challenge: Use Your Senses To Take In Nature
Spend 15 minutes (or more) outside with your kids, just paying attention to what is going on around you. Encourage your kids to use all five senses. Sit on the ground if possible.
Be silent for a few minutes and then ask them:
- What do you see?
- What do you hear?
- What do you smell?
- What do you feel?
- What do you taste?
For small children, it may be helpful to play a couple different games to hold their attention. For example, you can play an expanded version of the game “I Spy“. Describe sights, sounds, and smells and have them guess what you are referring to.
For older kids, you can go a little more abstract. One idea from Jen Mendez from PERMIE KIDs is to play a game called “human camera”. In this game, two people sit back to back, with one as the human camera and the other as the investigator. The human camera describes an object without naming it or any part of it they are observing with as much detail as possible. The investigator then draws what is told to them the way it is described. So, for example, the human camera cannot say an object is a flower or has a stem. Instead, the human camera might say there is a long forest green rectangle about there inches long with there bumps on the right side. On the rectangle’s left side is a green oval with jagged edges. On the top of the rectangle, there is a bright yellow circle with five long, thin white ovals circling around it. See what develops as you draw.
Also, talk about what you don’t see, hear, and feel with your children. Observing and becoming aware of what is not there can be just as, if not sometimes more, awe-inspiring and curiosity provoking.
For a couple resources on teaching children mindfulness, check out the MindUp Curriculum from Scholastic and the book Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children.
After you have taken it all in, capture your experience with a photo, make a recording of unique sounds, or simple write down your reflections about the time you spent outdoors. We invite you to post it to the We’ll Eat You Up We Love You So Facebook page or to your own social media accounts with the hashtag #outdoorsfamilychallenge.
This activity is perfect to do when your kids get home from school to break up their day. Playing outside before they rush into starting their homework is one of the best ways for your children to relax and unwind. Discover four additional secrets to ensure a happy afterschool routine in your home.
My daughter and I spent some time over the weekend taking on this challenge. We just stepped outside for a few minutes and she discovered so much by opening up her senses to what was right in her own backyard.
First, I asked her what colors she saw:
- Green leaves on bushes
- Brown tree trunk
- Blue sky
- White clouds
- Yellow in the leaves
Second, I asked her to touch different parts of nature:
- Palm tree bark was hard and rough, but higher up on the tree bark was very soft
- Leaves were soft and smooth
- Pine cone was hard
- Branches were silky
- Grass was prickly
Third, I asked her to walk around the backyard and report on what she smelled:
- Stinky mulch
Next, I asked her what shapes she spotted. She had just done a similar activity in school, so I knew she would enjoy it:
- Leaves: oval
- Stick: line
- Tree rings: circle
- Leaves: triangles
- Patterns on leaves: polka dots
Then for the best part. Earlier in the week we had coconuts removed from the palm trees. We had a blast as a family opening up one of the coconuts and trying the fruit inside. My daughter said it tasted like a carrot. We also used the coconut water and made a healthy, delicious smoothie with our amazing Vitamix blender by just adding some ice, banana, and Vega vanilla protein powder. Refreshing and straight from our backyard!
Don’t Miss The Rest Of The Challenge
To receive the rest of the challenge in your inbox, sign up now. You will have activities that you can do with your children all year long.
For even more outdoors fun, check out the Children and Nature Network’s Vitamin N Challenge.
Enjoy these books about children playing outside. Ironically, my daughter chose the book Are You Ready To Play Outside? by Mo Willems from the library a few weeks ago before I even knew about the Outdoors Family Challenge. It is an adorable book about how we can still have fun outdoors even when it is raining. We can all take this lesson to heart–please remember to incorporate outdoor play into your children’s lives no matter the weather.