Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Giving thanks for Nature is a great way to show children that we shouldn’t take Nature for granted and that Nature is a treasure to be cherished as well as enjoyed and protected. As Thanksgiving gets nearer or as a way to celebrate the solstices or Earth Day, these family activities show how much we care for Nature and what we can do to help protect it.
While waiting for dinner on the day of or on Black Friday to recover, outdoor family traditions are a fun and healthy way to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. I always love the peace of quiet side of nature around Thanksgiving, as the end of November offers some gorgeous late autumn days on the brink of winter. One year, we were in Virginia with friends and the day after Thanksgiving, enjoyed a winter wonderland walk on fresh snow in the woods. In California, we’ve enjoyed some coastal tide-pooling or forest hikes with friends. Whatever we do, the highlight of Thanksgiving for my girls is spending time outside with a bunch of kids. To them, the actual dinner is barely an intermission between frantic daytime games and thrilling nighttime games.
Here are a few ideas to inspire your own outdoor family traditions for Thanksgiving.
If your children are old enough, volunteering is the best way to say thanks to your local park rangers. You can help them weed a trail, maintain the park or clean coastal areas. A few years ago, we volunteered to remove invasive Douglas fir on Mount Tamalpais in California. Not only did our girls have a blast snipping branches with huge scissors, but the rangers organized a wreath-making workshop with the chopped trees.
To find family volunteer opportunities, look at the events organized by your local county parks, state parks or national parks. Alternatively, you can empower the kids by letting them take charge of a nature clean-up activity.
Nature is basically free for us to enjoy, but it costs money to preserve it. By becoming an active supporter of your local parks, you can help
There are several ways you can help parks.
FindYourPark features a comprehensive Support page with many opportunities to support the National Park System.
Besides volunteering and supporting parks, hiking is a great way to show your appreciation of nature. On Thanksgiving day, hiking is a perfect half-day activity before getting down to business and doesn’t require any prep. In its simplest form, it’s just walking with comfortable shoes. If you’re more ambitious, proper hiking boots will be required. The best hikes include some flexibility around Thanksgiving as you’re likely to have different ages in your group and different ideas of fun.
On Thanksgiving day, I invite my friends in the early afternoon so that we can work an appetite outside and come back to finishing preparing the Thanksgiving dinner around the end of the afternoon. Depending on the year, we’ve taken the kids tide-pooling, walking in oak forests or climbing rocks.
The Black Friday or Thanksgiving weekend hike is my favorite picnic of the year. One year we went looking for a ghost airfield. Another year we went all Star Wars in the redwoods. This hike is great because you can make delicious turkey sandwiches for lunch! This recipe is fun (just add mayo) and this selection will bring out your creative side.
Written by Amelia who lives in Yellowstone National Park, Tales from A Mountain Mama is full of great outdoors ideas for families with young children. Her cul-de-sac Fun Run and race idea is perfect for Thanksgiving, including a link to printable race cards. Adapt the idea to the place where you’ll be spending Thanksgiving or find a local park where the kids in your group can run free.
Giselle, from Kids Yoga Stories, has a very kid-friendly way of teaching yoga. She lives in San Francisco and her Thanksgiving yoga sequence is inspired by the book Thank You, World, giving thanks to Nature. It’s a sequence of poses, each one thanking an element of nature. There, you’ll find trees, birds, sun and sky, rain, etc. If you “speak” yoga and know other poses standing for people or animals, feel free to include them in the sequence. To make this Thanksgiving yoga sequence an outside activity, do it on a large picnic blanket with kids or an open play parachute. Kids love twisting themselves like pretzels and yoga is a great way for them to relax!
Jacquie, from Edventures with Kids, hails from Kansas City where winters are blistery cold and full of snow. Her Finding Jingle Bells tradition is a variation on the classic treasure hunt and it takes kids outside after Thanksgiving. Did you know that elves visit neighborhoods right after Thanksgiving and that sometimes, they lose jingle bells on their excursions? Well yes, they do. Find out more in Jacquie’s post and in her Kids Activities for Thanksgiving. You can also, like me, drool on her pictures and wish for a white Christmas.
Leave it to the Canadians to know a thing or two about paddling lakes. Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies provides a different perspective on Thanksgiving as it’s Canadian Thanksgiving, thus earlier in the fall (mid October). Written by Tanya who lives near Calgary, this blog is a never-ending source of inspiration for winter wonderland pics. If you live in lake country, check out Thanksgiving at Lake Lillian in Columbia Valley and take the kids out for a paddle or a bike ride on Thanksgiving.
If you have a leafy backyard or park nearby, this activity combines the best of outdoors and indoors. Step 1: go outside to gather some leaves. Step 2: make placemat. It’s easy and should keep the kids busy as they collect, glue and ID the leaves they’ve found. You can find the instructions for this placemat at Nature Craft: How To Make An Easy Fall Leaf Placemat.
Have fun and remember to spend time outside with the kids as much as you can. It’s fun, it helps you stay fit and everyone will sleep better!