I’m not an outdoors person; I don’t pretend to be and I don’t apologize for being elements-averse. After all, why camp in the woods when you can, I don’t know, be served breakfast in a hotel bed? Why paddle through a lake when you can lounge on a pontoon? And *why* spend a minute – never mind hours – outdoors in Canadian winter, skiing down a mountain as the wind whips past your face?
Because my kids want to. And as we rediscover nature, we’re discovering a love for the outdoors.
For the past six months, encouraged by Nature Valley and their #RediscoverNature campaign, we’ve been doing our best to get outdoors. From a trip to Niagara Falls to a recent weekend in Mont Tremblant, we are embracing the elements and getting reacquainted with Mother Nature.
When we first embarked on our mission, I’ll admit, it felt like work. Scheduling time outside, planning weekend getaways. However, as we continued to incorporate family activities into our lives, suddenly it became – wait for it – like second nature.
Are you looking for ways to rediscover nature? Here are 10 simple nature activities, courtesy of Nature Valley:
1. Go on a Scavenger Hunt. Make a list of items. Start by exploring the environment around you. Commonly found items like specific types of leaves, plant products and animal tracks are a great place to start. Your little scavengers are bound to stay engaged until every item gets checked off their list.
2. Count Tree Rings. Ever wonder how old a tree really is? Find a tree that has been cut down. Then use sandpaper to sand the surface of the stump until it is very smooth. Start at the center and count the rings. Each ring stands for one year in the tree’s life.
3. Catch and Release Frogs. A great springtime activity! Frogs can be found near clean water without a lot of current. A simple net is both the easiest and gentlest way to catch one. Once you’ve placed your net over your found frog, reach down and place your hands gently around its back, holding on to its hips. Cradled in the net, gently lift it up with its legs pointing straight out behind it.
4. Puddle Jumping. Something so silly like puddle jumping actually has amazing benefits. It induces high levels of endorphins which is the body’s source of joy! All you need is a little rain (or wet snow) and a little courage to get wet.
5. Bird Watching. Canada has a beautiful array of birds to take in at any time of year – even winter! All you’ll need is a pair of binoculars and a camera (to capture your findings). With a little research, you’ll find that many parks are in fact birding hot spots and offer birding hikes as part of their natural heritage education programs.
6. Go for a Hike. Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities enjoyed by all ages. Planning hikes near attractions like streams, waterfalls or vantage points is a great way to build anticipation. Take time to identify things along the way. Look for wildlife. Touch and explore along the way.
7. Go on a Bug Hunt. Another great activity to save for spring! Children are naturally curious about the world and in nature there’s an abundance of insect life to discover. You will need a magnifying glass, clipboard, marker, paper and a jar if you want to collect what you find. Together, collect what you find or count up your discoveries and enjoy the best of math and science.
8. Stack and Balance Rocks. Build your own inukshuk. This simple art piece also acts as a welcome sign to visitors. Begin by collecting rocks of various shapes and sizes. Ones that work best are flat on both the top and bottom. Start by placing the stones on top of one another looking for the best balance. If two rocks won’t work together, try turning them over or moving them just a little bit to find a better fit.
9. Make a Terrarium. Not only are terrariums beautiful to look at, they freshen the air too. To make your own, start by choosing a glass container. Add rocks for drainage followed by a layer of moss. Add 2 to 3” of soil, depending on your plant’s roots. Dig little holes and add your plants. Lightly water your terrarium and you’re done.
10. Find Shapes in the Clouds. Find a peaceful piece of green space where you can lie on your back. Be sure to get comfortable (you may be there for a while). Look up and let your eyes adjust to the light and shadows. With a little bit of imagination, you’re bound to find shapes, animals or faces in those clouds.
I spent the morning researching another weekend away in Mont Tremblant. Yes, a weekend that involves spending 80% of our days outside! It’s a welcome change from the norm, and knowing that I’m exposing my kids to nature – while rediscovering it myself – is a pretty awesome thing.
Rediscover the joy of nature with your family! Click here for more information from Nature Valley.