Fall is a time of change – the leaves change to a variety of colors, we anticipate the change in the weather and temperature, sunsets come early and sunrise later, we watch the last of the flowers in the garden fade away. We change our clocks, our meal choices and our wardrobe...time for all those sweaters and fleece to come back out of the closet where they have been (although in Seattle it may have only been for a few weeks!) While we look forward to change we may long for time to stay the same. I enjoy the crisp, colorful days of fall, but long for the lazy, sunny days of summer while looking forward to cold, snowy days by a fire in the winter. I want it to stay the same yet remember the fun of the past and look forward to the new of the future. This is true of parenting. I loved when my sons were young. I was always happy with the age they were. We enjoyed all the “seasons” as they grew. All were wonderful and different and challenging. The joy of the “firsts” -- first smile, first words, first steps changed to first lost tooth, first sleep over, first summer camp. Then it was time for learning to drive, college applications and their first time living away from home. We have enjoyed the time with our sons and being a part of the changes as they have grown from babies to adults. We cannot turn back the hands of time. What we can do is to look back at the memories as we look forward to the new experiences to come.
This month I would like to write about my passion for the outdoors. It is so important to be outside with your children. I have to be outside. I have always been an outside kind of person. I draw so much energy from nature and being able to be outdoors. When our sons were little we did as much as we could outside. Hiking, exploring, walks in the neighborhood, visiting parks, camping and looking for worms after a rain were just some of the activities we enjoyed. This fall we will have opportunities to spend time outside in our play area to give the children different ways to exercise their bodies while being in a natural environment. They need to experience the wonder of the trees movement when it is windy, the smell of the salt air, the feel of mist on their skin. While we are at preschool these are all things they can experience in the little window of nature while we are at Outdoor Play. What do they learn while they are outside? All of their 5 senses are used while in nature. They can hear the birds, feel the wind, watch the clouds, taste a fresh picked vegetable or fruit and smell a flower. They can watch a spider spin a web, a bird soar in the air and a squirrel run up a tree. While they dig in the dirt (or sandbox) they are learning about physics and math, when they pet an animal they are learning how to interact in a kind and gentle manner, when they watch the world around them they are discovering that this is a big world and they are a part of it.
It is so important for children to be given opportunities to explore their world. Independently! Give them time to roam about, by themselves, and explore. No, I am not saying just let them run about in an unsafe environment where they could be injured but do give them opportunities to explore their world and to be independent. Give them an opportunity to explore the backyard while you watch from a distance. Let them interact with nature by climbing, sitting, running and exploring their yard (or safe outdoor area) on their own. It is just as important to be there to explain the world around them as it is for them to have a chance to experience the world of nature on their own – to develop critical thinking skills (what to believe, what to do), curiosity (what is this ...), imagination (what can I do with this) , problem solving skills (how do I climb up this rock) , and a joy of learning (developing a love of learning for learning not for a grade or the approval of others). One way to do this is to give them an area to dig. This could be in a sandbox, at the beach, in a pile of dirt or a space in the garden. Let them use natural materials, like sticks and rocks, to build with. Our sons had a huge (Curt does not do anything little) sandbox to play in. They would spend hours building roads for their vehicles, homes for their animals and dinosaurs, digging for buried treasures. I would sit nearby and read or we would build together depending on how they wanted to play that day. It was a delightful way to spend a sunny afternoon.
When we treat children's play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that's to be found in the creative spirit. It's the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.
As our sons grew their “sandbox world” changed to scaling the boulder in the Cougar Rock Campground at Mt Rainier National Park, exploring my Grandfather’s farm in Ohio, Ultimate Frisbee games at Discovery Park and hikes in the North Cascades with their friends. Nick has climbed 4 of the highest mountain peaks in Washington. He has summited Mt Rainier, Mt Baker, Glacier Peak and Mt Olympus. The year he was summited Mt Olympus Joel and Danielle climbed Half Dome in Yosemite. Greta loves the outdoors as much as Nick. We are in the process of planning some adventures next summer with all of them. I would like to think that part of Joel and Nick’s love to explore the outdoors, and the world around, was inspired by the worlds they created in their backyard sandbox.
A FUN FALL NATURE ACTIVITY
Take a COLOR WALK – Learn about the colorful diversity of nature and the usefulness of camouflage.
Gather squares of different colored paper – or let your child pick out some paint-chip cards at the store – and go on walk around the neighborhood, your backyard, or the park.
Collect things that match your color cards. Green – grass, Yellow-dandelions, Red- leaves, Brown-pinecone, etc. ( you can point out that at this time of the year all the colors that the leaves are) You can collect them in a plastic baggie or gather them up and place them on the sheets of colored paper.
Talk about the colors and size of the items you collect.
Talk about what colors are easy to find, what color is your favorite, where do find colors, how many colors are in the sky.
See if you can name something from each color.
Take some time to allow your children to explore the world around them and plant a seed of curiosity that will grow with them.
As summer fades into fall you still have time to enjoy the last gasp of summer on a Summer/September Hike. The sun is still warm in the afternoon, the crisp mornings smell so fresh and a hike gives you a chance to remember the summer fun while anticipating the fall activities.
We always enjoyed out family hikes on Mt Rainier in September. This year, while Nick was home from Madison WI, we piled everyone in the van for our annual family hike and fishing trip to Mt Rainier. I was so excited that we had found a day when all of us could go. (Sadly, Greta was not along but I’m sure she would have had added to the fun memories we will share from our trip). Remember what I said about camping bonding your relationships with unexpected events. Well, hiking can have the same bonding experience especially if your trip includes a pregnant daughter-in-law, a 1998 van, 91 degree weather, a surprise crack in the radiator and a tow truck ride off the mountain into Eatonville and then one more tow truck get home for some special bonding! It is definitely a day we will remember although not the day I had planned. We were blessed in so many ways to have the van break down at just the right spot in the road – a wide spot in the road where it connected with the road to Stephens Canyon, a construction crew with a water truck and radios that could reach the Rangers who came to assist us, rides to Paradise where Joel, Danielle and Nick could do a little hiking while I tried to get through to AAA, a nice little stream by the road for Curt to fish while we waited for our tow truck. We had an encounter with the coolest bug, lots of laughter, made the best of the situation and we will always remember our meal at Bruno’s in Eatonville and the ride home, in the van, on the back of a flatbed tow truck.
I am hoping to have a few more, less eventful, hikes before the summer sun goes away. This year the warmth of the sun is overlapping the fall of the leaves. I love it! The sound of the crunching leaves as we walked the trails at Discovery Park on a Sunday hike brought back memories of many Sunday afternoons walking the trails with Joel and Nick as little kids. This time Nick chose a set of trails we had never been on. It was a fun adventure that led us to a new viewpoint and a sweet little bunny. Labor Day weekend we were lucky to be staying on an amazing houseboat on Portage Bay. We enjoyed several new ‘explore the neighborhood’ hikes as well as a familiar hike to Gas Works Park.
There are so many places, near and far, that you can go to explore on a hike with your children. They can be short and close or up the side of mountain on an all day hike. Either way, it is a time to spend outside with your child. They love the adventure and the time to explore. Give yourself time to look at what is on the trail – ferns, small beetles, moss and the sound of birds – take a field guide to identify what you see, have some fun snacks that you can use your imagination with to add to the adventure (my friend would take beef jerky just like the pioneers would eat) and add to the adventure by sharing the sense of wonder your child has on the trail. A trail that Joel and Danielle introduced us to is between Cowen and Ravenna Park. I was not moving steadily, or with much speed, after I had a knee surgery and this trail is perfect. It is a paved trail that meanders under a canopy of tall trees next to a stream and has a park at both ends. You feel like you are in the middle of the woods yet you are still in the city. It is a fun, close adventure trail – and you can picnic or stop at a nearby restaurant for lunch or a treat.
Whatever you choose, and wherever you go, spend some time outside exploring a trail and enjoy the sunny September weather.
Day Hikes With Kids
One of my favorite summer activities involves maps. We used to make maps of everything. We made treasure maps, maps of the neighborhood, maps of anything they were interested in. We had a vast collection of maps – AAA road maps, several atlases of the US and world, maps from places we had visited (the zoo, Mt Rainier, campgrounds, walking trails, etc). If it was a map we kept it.
Young children learn that they relate to other people and physical things. To help young children
Learning about maps is creative, educational and fun. Enjoy!
In an everyday walk these children are beginning to understand how people relate to the Earth, how they change the environment, how weather changes the character of a place, and how one place relates to another through the movement of people, things, and ideas. Children's
Life is relationships; the rest is just details.
I have great memories of spending time outside during the summer months. We spent time hiking, exploring, camping, playing in the neighborhood and reading books under the tree in the front yard (the boys would climb in the tree and read their books). I asked our sons what some of their favorite summer activities were. It did not surprise me that many of the things they enjoyed as a child they still enjoy as adults. One of the things on the list was camping. Our sons experienced many kinds of camping – tent camping, RV camping, backyard camping and pretend camping.
We camped with family and with friends. We had camping trips full of traditions that included ‘we always do this’ activities, we had planned road trips to new places and spur of the moment camping fun. The trip with the most history was an annual trip to Mt Rainier with family friends. We started this tradition when Nick was 4 and Joel was 6. The longest trips were the road trips in my parents’ motorhome and our spur of the moment campouts were the ones on our deck in the backyard.
When we camped at Cougar Rock on Mt Rainier we always went hiking up a certain trail to go fishing and we always picked huckleberries as we hiked up the trails near Paradise. We have camped in the rain (once it was raining so hard we were unable to make a campfire and the boys made gutters out of tree bark to try and keep the tent dry). Once we forgot the tent poles and had to sleep in the Bronco – all four of us! Dealing with these unplanned circumstances allowed us to bond as a family while we problem solved and dealt with the problem as a family. We all have great memories of these campouts. Now that Joel and Nick are adults we have not been camping at Cougar Rock but we do make sure to have at least one day trip to Mt Rainier each year. We still go hiking up 'that trail' and we have introduced Greta and Danielle to our special places to fish and have taken them on our hikes up around Paradise.
On clear evenings in the summer (or on weekends after school had started) we would ‘camp’ on our deck under stars. We would snuggle down and sleep out under stars. The deck campouts were convenient – bathroom nearby, nothing needed to be packed up and I never worried about forgetting something. Even though the process was different the product was the same – family time spent talking and building relationships.
For our family, camping has many meanings but the two things that make it real ‘camping’ were: a sleeping bag and a campfire. There is something about sleeping in a sleeping bag that brings a sense of adventure and something about a fire that brings conversation and laughter. We would stay up late and tell stories, laugh about family memories and share favorite moments from the day. Making s’mores and gathering around the fire are still things I look forward to when we have a chance to go camping. Curt and I do not tent camp as much as we used to but I love that both Joel and Danielle as well as Nick and Greta go on their own camping trips. It is a family tradition that has been passed on from one generation to the next. Even though we do not camp together like we used to, when we are all together at the Camano house, we do the next best thing to camping – we have a fire in the fire pit, make s’mores and tell stories under the evening stars.
What if camping is not an activity you enjoy? Give your child a big bed sheet and make a tent with it (or set up a real tent in the yard). Kids love to be inside tents. I would set up a tent in our backyard during the summer as a playhouse. They would take their toys and books out to the tent, close the flap and play all afternoon. One year we had a windstorm during the night and the next morning we found our tent up the street – luckily all of their little animals and books were still inside! They enjoyed camping in the backyard all summer long. Last year during preschool the kids enjoyed playing camping. They found sticks and cooked the fish they had caught over the fire. On another day one of the parents made a pretend fire and the children sat around and told campfire stories as they roasted their pretend marshmallows. I loved watching as the pretend fire became real to these children. It was a time for sharing stories and enjoying being outside in nature – and for them it was not our play area but they were up on a mountain camping next to a roaring fire.
This is the first in the summer time activities with children series. There are several reasons that camping strengthens the bond you have with your child. When you camp you are spending time together in nature. Being outdoors reduces your stress and gets you outside and ‘unplugged’ from technology. Rarely do you go camping without some unplanned surprise. Some are positive – a deer walks through your campsite as you sit down for breakfast, your child sees his first shooting star, you hear family stories you have never heard before while sitting around the fire. Some of the surprises are not as pleasant – you forget the tent poles for your dome tent, it pours down rain, no one packed the main ingredient for the dinner you had planned. All of these surprises add up to memories that build strong families. As you deal with problems you develop a strong bond, you have a chance to use your problem solving skills
Camping With Children
Campsites Near Seattle
As Curt and I walk around Green Lake we enjoy the gift of nature in a city environment. It is a chance to enjoy the beauty of the lake, the trees and the animals. I love watching the different pets as they walk or run around the lake as well as the wildlife that lives in and near the lake. We saw an eagle land on the tip top of a huge cedar tree. It was amazing but what was even more amazing was the fact that, aside from a handful of us, no one else took the time to look up and see him. They were so busy looking at their devices they didn’t notice the eagle or take the time to look up and see what was happening around them. After we left the cedar tree I was remarking on how sad it was that people are so into their phones or lost in the music coming out of the earbuds that they are not even aware of the world around them. I know that it is nice to have the music playing as you run or the phone call to keep you company as you walk but it makes me sad to see a mom running with her earbuds in and her child in the stroller staring at an iPad rather than having a chat about the baby ducks and the sound of the leaves as the wind blows through the trees. It is important to balance technology with opportunities to make memories, to connect with your child and both of you connect with nature.
It is no secret that I like being outside. I always have. Everyone in my family knows that I get cranky if I have been stuck inside for a whole day and haven’t had a chance to be outside. As a child I ran around outside from breakfast to dinner time. I climbed trees, built my own clubhouse, rode my bike everywhere -- in the 5th grade we rode from Lynnwood to Lake Goodwin and went camping for a week (yes, it was a different day and not something I could have done now), we played in the neighborhood and sometimes we just laid in the grass to watch the clouds. It was the summer of second grade that we moved from Yakima to Lynnwood. I had been used to being outside all the time. On this side of the state they had this liquid that came out of the clouds called rain. I was stuck inside until I figured out that rain didn’t hurt you and you could play in the puddles, make things out of mud, go on a worm hunt and find giant slugs.
I have great memories of both sides of the state and the activities I enjoyed growing up. It was part of the world I remembered as a child that I wanted to share with my sons. When they were little we were outside all the time. We have a neighborhood that has moms who also like the outdoors and wanted their children to play outside. The kids built boats to float in the street gutters after a rain storm, splashed in puddles, watch ants, played capture the flag, hid in bushes, had water balloon fights and made “brews” that sat in buckets in our back yard that continued to ‘brew’ as new items were added to it all summer long. They had fun and they have great memories of being outside playing in the neighborhood. It was a learning experience that became a part of who they are today.
A part of who we are as parents comes from our experiences as a child that come from our parents’ experiences from their childhood and your grandparents’ experiences that were shared with your parents. What are you sharing with your child that has been passed down from other generations? What are you sharing that you love and want to impress on them as important? The love of the outdoors was something both Curt and I wanted to share with our sons. We love to hike, camp, bike ride, garden, go to the beach and explore the world. We would ride bikes to Discovery Park and stop to look at the fish and boats going through the Locks, build sand forts at Golden Gardens, explore the trails at Mt Rainier and camp overnight. We have many family memories of hiking while camping at Mt Rainier as well as evening hikes in the summer and fall at Discovery Park. Both Joel and Nick made their wedding proposals after a hike – Joel and Danielle were looking out at the Olympic Mountains after a stormy Fall hike at Discovery Park while Nick chose Mt Rainier in the summer and the river going through the Ohanapecosh Campround. We have many memories that include Mt Rainier and Discovery Park so I was pleased when they chose to share these special places with Danielle and Greta.
It makes me smile to remember all the places we hiked and camped with our sons and to know how much that is a part of who they are as adults. Nick has summited 4 of the 5 highest peaks in Washington while Joel and Danielle are visiting every Washington State Park. Both of them are continuing to embrace the love of the outdoors that they had as children. What piece of nature are you giving your children that they, in turn, will share with the next generation of your family?
Being outside reduces stress, engages the Five Senses, encourages imaginative play, develops cognitive thinking skills, reinforces self-reliance and is just plain fun. What activity can you and your family do this week that gets you outside enjoying nature? Big and small, walk or hike, sit or run but find a way to experience nature this week.
One touch of Nature makes the whole world kin.
When my sons were little we planted a garden. It was not a large "canning" garden like their Great Grandfather's in Ohio but a small "tasting" garden in our Ballard backyard. In my Grandfather's garden they planted beans, tomatoes, corn and peas to be canned for, and enjoyed during, the winter months. In our garden we planted corn, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries to be eaten during the summer.
When I sent him the pictures of our 3 stocks of corn it was hard to tell who was prouder - my sons or their Great Grandfather. We rarely got to eat our corn as the raccoons usually harvested the few ears that grew but we did enjoy our berries and tomatoes. The neighbor children would come to the garden and pick the fruit for a mid-afternoon picnic in the yard.
It was fun to garden with the boys and as they grew older they added to the items we had in the garden. They loved salsa so we planted cilantro and peppers one summer. From the sour cherry tree ( like the one my grandparents had in Ohio) we made pie and Nick gave jam a try.
Both Joel and Nick were in Horticulture in high school. One afternoon the teacher stopped me in the hall. She asked if they had gardened as children. I said they had. She replied. "I could tell. They have such a respect for living things." Gardening is a way to give your child responsibility for living things. Letting your child plant a seed and watch it grow gives them an opportunity to develop responsibility as they care for something that is alive.
Joel has continued to garden as an adult. He and his wife Danielle have worked hard at developing a garden that has fruit and vegetables as well as a place to sit in the shade enjoying the beauty of the flowers in their yard. Nick has given gardening a try in Wisconsin and his fiancé is doing a farm internship this summer. She sends pictures of the produce from the Farmer's Market in Madison.
My Mom likes the smell of tomato plants because they remind her of her family. We never had a garden when I was growing up but I planted a garden with my sons because my Grandfather had a garden and they loved their Great Grandpa's garden. As we continue to garden I realize that a part of past generations lives on through memories of gardens.
Curt thinks of his Dad every time we pick the raspberries in the yard, I think of our sons and trips to the blueberry farm when I pick blueberries and we all think of my Grandfather's farm when we eat corn on the cob. A memory is planted when we garden with our children and I know a part of me will live on as Joel and Nick continue the tradition of gardening with their families.
What if gardening is not something you like to do?
You can still give your child a taste of gardening - and the knowledge of where food comes from.
Research suggests that children might build stronger immune systems, play more creatively, and have more active imaginations when they play outside. Fjortoft 2004; Burdette & Whitaker 2005
What do children learn when they play outside?
All of these activities strengthen a child’s physical literacy. Physical Literacy is the fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permit a child to read their environment and make appropriate decisions, allowing them to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity mastering of situations.
When children are outdoors they become more aware of how their body works. They can run, jump, swing or sit, scoop, listen. Nature time allows them to interact with the world in many ways – quiet ways as they watch a hummingbird or listen to the water hitting the shoreline. They have the chance to hear loud sounds as they hear the waves crashing onto the rocks as the tide changes or use their own voice to make an echo. They can build their knowledge of physical sounds as they hear the splash from the rock that they toss in the water compared to the sound of a rock hitting the hard surface of the larger rocks. They are building their vocabulary as they gain knowledge of objects found in nature and how that object looks, feels, sounds, tastes, smells. It is not the same as a Google search of the same object. Touching a rock and turning it over in your hand – the feel of the cold rock as it turns warm from your body heat cannot be explained on Google as well as it can be explained by experience.
What are some activities that promote body knowledge through play in nature? Some of these activities need nothing other than being outside and some will need a few items from the house but all can be done by toddlers and preschoolers with a little adult assistance.
Nature Tape Bracelets: using a piece of clear packing tape, sticky side up, make a bracelet around your child’s wrist. As you walk around the yard or park, pick up things of nature to add to your bracelet. This is a time to teach your child names of plants and respect for living things as well as personal property. I had quite a conversation with my nephew as to why we could pick buttercups and dandelions, but not from the neighbor’s hydrangea bush. In our play area at preschool we made bracelets from ferns, grasses, buttercups, lilac blossoms, small pine cones and feathers I had purchased.
Treasure Hunt: Make a map of places on your walk ahead of taking your child on the walk. The treasure map can be drawings or with pictures from your phone. At the end of the walk you can bury a surprise for them to find. We would walk through Discovery Park and in the sandy area by the bluff they would dig up the buried treasure…a baggie of snacks or a little toy that someone had buried ahead of the children getting there. We would have that person stand nearby to keep puppy dogs from getting the treasure before the kids get there ;-)
Surprise Homes: Leave a piece of cardboard, cloth or plastic in an area of dirt or bark. After a few days have the child lift up the cover – it is amazing to see what little creatures have made a home under the cover. Worms, potato bugs and slugs love to live under those covered areas in the dirt.
Build a Village: Using twigs, rocks and your imagination build little pretend homes for the “little people”. With children in our neighborhood we built a Leprechaun Village, We used leaves for beds and dandelions flowers for pillows, rocks and bark to build tables and chairs, pine cones were made into walls and sticks were telephone poles. They even created a pond with boats and a dock. We would look for treasures the Little People would leave us (small treats) and we would leave them shiny rocks or marbles. The village stayed under my plants in my garden for the whole summer.
Scientific Search: Using child safe magnifying glasses and/or binoculars go on a walk in search of __________. You can go on a rock search, a bird search, a tree search or a flower search. I have plasticized cards with animals, plants, trees on them. A mom came up with the idea of using an erasable marker to cross off what you find on the walk. You can make your own from pictures and put contact paper over the paper for protection from the elements (and makes them tear-proof and re-usable for more walks)
Read a Book: Read a book outside under a tree. It is a great way to introduce literature and just enjoy time together in nature.
Watch the Clouds: In Seattle we lots of cloudy days but we do not often get the kind of clouds that you can just watch – the big, fluffy, white clouds. On the days we do take a blanket and go outside. While you lay and watch the clouds you can: talk about what you see, talk about colors and texture or just lay and watch without talking at all. Clouds are amazing.
Worm Walks: After a rainy day (or on a rainy night) take flashlights and go outside for a walk. You will be surprised at the earthworms that are stretched out on the sidewalks. On some nights we would count 10 on just one sidewalk square. Try to catch one – they are fast and slippery. If there are no worms out - it is still fun to be outside with flashlights!
Puddle Stomping Walk: Oh the fun of splashing in puddles. We had a favorite route to take after a rain storm – lots of big puddles for stomping in. Kids love puddles and there are a lot of discoveries you can make. How big of a splash, can you walk without making a splash, watch the ripples after the splash, look at the reflections in the still water and in the water after the splash -- These are fun questions to ask your child. Respectfully listening to their ideas and thoughts is one way to build a strong relationship with your child. No puddles to be found? Or your child (or you) prefer not to get wet -- Storm drains are fascinating with the rain water running into them and the sound that makes.
After attending the Wired to Wild lecture, by Richard Louv, I am excited to get you excited about outdoor activities for your family. The benefits are amazing and the effects are lasting. There is evidence that a connection to nature enhances social skills, mental cognition and emotional health. Your child will learn empathy for living things, develop self-regulation and have a reduction in stress (sadly childhood depression and stress are on the rise) when being in nature. It is important for your child to spend non-structured time in nature. The time you spend outside will have a long lasting impact on your whole family.
Use nature to strengthen family bonds
We have so many urban parks that encourage a family walk in nature – Discovery Park, Golden Gardens, and Carkeek Park are some of the more popular ones but there are many neighborhood parks as well. Or simply take a walk around the block. You can look at gardens (buds are forming on plants, flowers popping up out of the ground, small bugs roaming about and birds singing), collect treasures (rocks, sticks, leaves, etc.). You can go for a walk in the morning and compare it to the same walk at night with a flashlight. Go for a worm walk after a rain (take a flashlight and look for worms on the sidewalk). While on your walk you can chat with your child about what they see, hear, feel, smell.
Being in nature is a gift you can give your child that will stay with them for their whole life!
It is important to help the kids engage in nature and then step back and let them use their imaginations. It is great to see where they go! You are the first step in connecting your child to nature. If they do not know nature they cannot love nature. You cannot love something you do not know!