Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Every weekend is a great opportunity to take kids outside, but Saturday May 16, 2015 is extra special. It’s the 5th annual National Park Trust “Kids to Parks Day”! Participating is super easy–all you have to do is get outside with your kids in a U.S. local or national park. That, in itself is reason to be happy but there’s more.
By participating in Kids to Parks Day,
We love taking our girls out in nature and Kids to Parks Day is our kind of day. I’d like to share 5 classic outdoors family adventures that everybody should try on Kids to Parks Day because they’re easy, fun and cost nothing.
#1 Have a Picnic By The Water
Nothing says family fun like the opportunity to splash in a river, a lake or the sea. When out with our girls in California, we’ve always made a point to picnic by the water so that the picnic could double as play time. Whether going for a swim or simply dipping their feet in the water, my girls are crazy for water stops. Our favorite places are Lake Tahoe, by the Merced River in Yosemite National Park, and any sunny beach in the Golden Gate National Recreation area (bonus points for Angel Island because it’s an island and islands are that much more fun).
#2 Go On A Treasure Hunt
Treasure or scavenger hunts are a great way for kids to explore nature at their own pace. Most parks’ visitor centers have leaflets with treasure hunts for kids or themed scavenger hunts to look for signs, clues or plants. For examples, check out the National Park Trust’s Park Adventure Booklet (scavenger hunt is the 2nd activity).
We’ve experimented with quite a few possibilities and as my girls grew, have adapted treasure hunts to suit their interests and hobbies. They’re now 9 and 11 years old and while treasure hunts are still a big favorite, they’re more sophisticated than when they were preschoolers. The best treasure hunts so far have been a candy cougar (as in this one), a nature bingo treasure hunt (as in this one) and an orienteering treasure hunt (as in this one). However, the clear winner of all treasure hunts is the edible hike where you pick (and eat) edible plants along the way (as in this one).
#3 Find Small Critters
Lift a leaf. Pick up a rock. Who’s there? Small critters are a never-ending source of wonder and discovery to children who rarely see wildlife up close when they live in a city.
Do your kids like butterflies? Worms? My 11-year old is fascinated by lizards (she’s holding this blue-bellied lizard), grasshoppers and beetles. Sure, black bears are more impressive wildlife sightings but the humble frog or damselfly is way easier to find and can lead to hours of pond-life exploration. Embrace your critters and get to know them! Also, ask local park officials and don’t pick them up if they are harmful. You never know. Critters don’t come with instructions on their back.
#4 Climb Trees
Way better than the playground’s jungle gym, try climbing trees! Kids find trees with low branches very hard to resist and how could they not? Engaging their balancing skills with a certain sense of adventure, trees give kids a nature opportunity to take a few risks (which is good) and learn their limits while exercising their climbing skills. Oh, and it requires to focus to reach higher branches.
We love climbing trees!
#5 Go Camping
Everybody’s favorite! Camping in parks still is the best activity to get kids close to nature as they get to spend a lot of time outdoors. Gazing at stars at night, playing tag in the sunset, roasting marshmallows over the campfire, waking up to pancakes and sausages, listening to nature sounds, are many of the pleasures of camping. Have you tried camping with kids before? Here are some camping tips to get you started.
To enter for a chance to win the Kids to Parks Day Package giveaway, all you have to do is to fill in the Rafflecopter form and comment below on your favorite outdoors family adventure. The package (a $75 value) includes a “Buddy Bison” mascot stuffed animal, 2 National Geographic Books (National Geographic Secrets of the National Parks and National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide U.S.A.), a CamelBak BPA- and BPS-free reusable bottle, a T-shirt, and a NPT Park Activity Guide.
From the entries on this blog post, a winner will be randomly selected.