EVERYDAY HOME | 4.12.19  |  by Julie Rhodins

Photo: American Eagle Foundation

Spring is the perfect time to break the indoor habit and explore nature with your kids.  But most of us don’t have a lot of time to spend on planning for it.  And many of us moms who work have a hard time keeping up with the house during the week and then somehow having the time to do recreation all weekend.  For many parents, that sounds equally exhilarating and exhausting.   There’s a balance to be had, for sure.  So we thought it would be great to give you ideas on how you could explore nature with your kids in simple ways — the kind of easy-to-be-had nature opportunities that your grandma would endorse.  Leave the day-long excursion for another day.  We’re talking 10 minutes here, an hour there, maybe a quick 30 minutes at the end of the day.  Nature stuff that can happen on a whim.

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Watch a Wild Animal Cam

When your kids come home from school, have the computer going with a streaming wild animal camera.  For example, they can watch an eagle mama or papa for 20 minutes while they eat their after-school snack.  If you do this several days a week, the kids will start to notice changes in the nest and have questions.

Sites like eagles.org (has Nest Cams) and Decorah Eagles have streaming 24/7 cameras online and active chats and Facebook pages to learn all sorts of cool things about eagles and other birds.

Start a Garden

Photo: Quarto Publishing Group

Photo: Quarto Publishing Group

You don’t have to get all fancy with this.  We like going to our local garden center and picking up already started veggies for the immediate benefit of seeing the plant already partly grown.  If you take your children, you’ll be surprised how opinionated they are about what they want to grow.  Make it a 110-minuteshopping trip — don’t fuss.

Have the planting be another day.  Let’s say Friday you go to the garden center.  Then Saturday you plant together.

If you don’t already have a garden space, you can plant veggies in between your regular landscape (just don’t use pesticides) or plant veggies in patio pots.

Mel Bartholomew, author of Square Foot Gardening High Value Veggies: Homegrown Produce Ranked by Value, says that some veggies have more value for the dollar.  So if you’re looking to not only have nature fun but also get a high monetary return for the effort, tomatoes and herbs are high on the list of favorites.

Hang a Birdhouse 

Have your child pick the areas he or she can see from the bedroom window or kitchen window AND that would make a good location for hanging a birdhouse.

Have your child come to the garden center and pick out a birdhouse.  Or you can pick a birdhouse online together.  We actually like wild bird feeders that are also squirrel proof (those squirrels can ruin your best bird feeding plans!).

Hang the bird feeder or bird house together and fill with seeds.  You’ll be surprised how much your child captures a few minutes here and there watching the feeder everyday.

Re-fill a Birdfeeder

Putting out more food for the birds is an easy and fun-filled task.  Sometimes the birds know that the food is there and will come right away, making for an easy and relaxing 20 minutes outdoors.

Throw Paper Airplanes

Take an 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper and fold it into an airplane.  Go outside and have fun throwing it.  Most children will gladly throw the airplane for 10-15 minutes.

Here’s a free paper airplane print out with pre-colored airplanes.

Photo courtesy: guildcraftinc.com

Photo courtesy: guildcraftinc.com

Draw with Chalk on Concrete

A bucket of colored chalk and you’re ready to go!  We love Crayola’s chunky sidewalk chalk in vibrant colors.  Kids will oftentimes spend an hour or more making their artful masterpieces, pathways for their toy cars, and other imaginative drawings.  And what’s great is you can wash it off in minutes — but we recommend you don’t wash it off too soon because kids often feel protective of their work.

What’s great about chalk drawing is that it not only engages kids’ imagination but also the children are outdoors.  They will in the most natural sense notice birds, get some sunshine, touch grass and bushes, and see the blue sky.

(This post is updated from 3/29/16.)

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