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    > Giving Thanks for Nature

    Giving Thanks for Nature

    Giving thanks for nature and what nature gives us is my favorite part of Thanksgiving, especially in times of climate crisis when so much of what we took for granted is under threat. Giving thanks to Mother Nature and the plans and animals around us is also a great way to show children that our planet’s natural environment is a treasure to be cherished, as well as enjoyed and protected. 

    As a Thanksgiving tradition, 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 Thanksgiving afternoon or later in the weekend to take stock, 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 Appalachians. In California, our Thanksgiving outdoor activities included coastal tide-pooling or forest hikes with friends. In the UK, Thanksgiving now means a weekend in some remote outdoor location to hike and swim. Whatever we do, the highlight of Thanksgiving for my girls is unplugging and spending time outside with friends.

    Here are a few ideas to inspire your own outdoor family traditions for Thanksgiving.

    Say What You Are Thankful For in Nature

    Sometimes, we forget to say thank you to people who make our life happy in so many ways and we forget to tell them how much we appreciate them for being an important part of our life.

    To give thanks for nature, you could all start a sentence on nature with “I am thankful for …” and let everyone say what they love in nature. I’ll start.

    • I am thankful for the willow tree in my backyard that provides shelter to nesting Bluetits in the spring.
    • I am thankful for the Serpentine lake where I swim every week in Hyde Park, as it enables me to enjoy the passing of seasons with a community of friends.
    • I am thankful for the rain, as it irrigates the Earth and waters the plants that feed me.
    • I am thankful for autumn leaves that are so gorgeous in the woods and transform a morning walk in a visual feast for the senses.

    Keep going. What are you thankful for in nature, how can you give thanks for nature?

    This sweet video can serve as inspiration.

    What are you thankful for in nature? A video by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

    Give Back to Nature by Volunteering With Your Local Parks

    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.

    Volunteering in parks can be as simple as picking up trash and plastic waste.

    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.

    Say Thanks to Nature by Supporting Your Local Parks

    Nature is free for us to enjoy, but it costs money to preserve it.

    How Can We Support Nature Preservation?

    By becoming an active supporter of your local parks, you can help:

    • Buy land to be protected for future generations
    • Pay rangers and staff for park maintenance and education
    • Pay for the maintenance of public facilities (waste disposal, restrooms, water fountains, parking lots)
    • Build and maintain trails
    • Raise awareness for park activities
    • Get school kids into parks to learn about environmental education
    The overlook and vistas on the Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park.

    Ways To Help Nature for Thanksgiving (and Beyond)

    There are several ways you can help parks.

    • Donations. Money is the easiest way to support your local parks as they are usually non-profits and need financial support. You can read their annual reports to know how donations are invested.
    • Time. You can help parks by volunteering a few hours or a few days, alone or as a family. If you cannot physically go to a park, you may still be able to volunteer remotely by helping with office duties, fundraisers or communication campaigns.

    FindYourPark features a comprehensive Support page with many opportunities to support the National Park System.

    Go Hiking with Friends

    Besides volunteering and supporting parks, hiking is a great way to show your appreciation of nature. On Thanksgiving day, walking outside, breathing in some fresh air, stepping out the door to walk around your neighborhood, are simple ways to get in tune with the season before getting down to business.

    Walking the dog on Thanksgiving

    In its simplest form, it’s just walking with comfortable shoes. If you’re more ambitious, sturdier hiking boots might 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 so that we can work an appetite outside and come back to prepare the Thanksgiving feast when night falls. 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 sandwiches for lunch! Check out this selection of vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes to bring out your creative side.

    DIY Cul-de-Sac Fun Runs and Turkey Trots


    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.

    Thanksgiving Yoga

    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 are familiar with yoga and know other poses standing for people or animals, feel free to include them in your 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!

    Finding Jingle Bells


    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.

    Thanksgiving Canoeing

    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.

    Make A Fall  Leaf Placemat


    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.

    Parting Thoughts on Thanksgiving and Nature

    This holiday season, take time to think about what nature has given your family this year. What have you been particularly grateful for? Whatever you do, focus on what you have around you and try 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.

    More on Thanksgiving Activities for Kids

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