I bet you remember “back in the day” when kids spent the majority of their time outside. A gal used to eat breakfast, and then head out the door with a sandwich in her backpack. She’d holler for Spot, her dog, and the 2 of them would be outside until mom called them in at suppertime.
It used to be a challenge to get some of those kids back inside. For some moms, like mine, it was a challenge keeping the outside … outside. Frogs, lizard, snakes and other creatures I liked would arrive in coffee cans beside the lunch table. The excitement began when we looked over to see the can empty and my newfound friends missing — somewhere in my mom’s clean living room.
So, how do you get your child to embrace the outdoors as much as I did, or maybe even half as much?
Create a love for the outdoors
When LG was a young child, I took her hiking. She would complain about being tired of walking, so I’d carry her as we traversed beautiful landscapes. There came a day when she was too big to carry. She needed to walk to see the things I saw, and to develop an interest in the outdoors. So, we created an outdoor journal to encourage her.
How to make an outdoor journal
What you need:
2 pieces of construction paper
6 to 10 sheets of plain paper
3 – 3 inch pieces of string, ribbon or yarn
Miscellaneous crayons or pencils
Hole punch or stapler
Glue stick (to adhere things to the pages when you return)
Take 2 pieces of construction paper to make the cover. The cover color should be of your child’s choosing, since it is his or her book. Your child can create a design for the front. Insert 12 or so plain sheets of paper between the construction paper. If you use a hole punch and then yarn to tie the pages together, additional pages can be inserted later. If you don’t have a hole punch, or don’t have a lot of time, you can quickly staple the pages together along the edge. Take note, however, staples can poke little fingers. Later, use the glue stick to affix items to the book pages.
What to put in the journal
I assigned LG the task of writing in her book, and also finding things outdoor related to put in it or to draw in it. Below are some examples of items to include in your little one’s book.
Leaves — We once hiked a long, winding trail and instead of the typical complaining, she stopped every 10 feet to pick up a leaf to put in her book. Each leaf, in her opinion, was more beautiful than the next. She had the pages of her book overflowing with a variety of leaves in no time at all.
Insects — It is a must to teach your child about bugs. After all, according to Entomological Society of America member and Pulitzer Prize winner Dr. E.O. Wilson of Harvard University, there are nearly 10 quintillion insects in the world. WOW! That is an endless amount of fun and discovery for kids.
You may not want your child bringing insects home, or squishing each one to put into the journal. That is where more illustrations come into play. Have your little one draw a picture of the bug.
Flowers — Flowers are always an eye-catcher to those who are on their level. Rather than picking an entire bouquet, pick a petal to stick in the journal, and then have your little one draw the rest of the flower around it. If the two of you decide to pick a flower to be pressed between the journal pages, don’t forget to inspect it for those not so creepy-crawly things.
Tracks — With all the wildlife in the world, it’s fun to discover what walked there before you. Point out tracks to your youngster. Compare how big the track is in comparison to his or her hand or foot. Ask your child what animal it is. Your little one can draw a picture of the track in the journal with a note of what it is.
Here’s where technology can come back into play. When you get home, look up the tracks using programs such as My Nature Apps to see if your guesses were correct.
Feathers — Occasionally your kiddo will be lucky enough to find a plume from one of our fine flying friends. These treasures are always fun. Some will fit inside the journal; others may not. Each feather will need to be checked for the above-mentioned bugs, and may either be used as plumage in a cap, or as a wand to wave in the air.
Regardless of what your child ends up with in the journal, it’s all about the fun of teaching and discovery. You can even do this in your backyard, by the pool. Quality time in the outdoors will instill a bond and a lifetime of great memories.
*Warning: This project may lead to longer hikes and bigger smiles.
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