Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Outdoor Education and Camping!

Tablets, smartphones, laptops, eReaders, television, game systems: There are so many reasons for your kids to stay inside and stare blankly ahead not absorbing the world around them (note: I put eReaders on the list because a lot of times I see kids using them they’re playing games, books are okay 🙂

I’ve posted a few articles about being outdoors with children and how it’s educational for them, but this weekend is our first attempt at taking our three year old camping. I am nervous and excited but it also prompted me to look up educational reasons to take your kids camping that I wanted to share. (Update: we didn’t make it through the night. We did get to do some of these things though it was fun for awhile just playing in the woods so…still worth a shot!)

1) Outdoor Education- this is an educational initiative all its own now. Many countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway come to mind) have outdoor education as part of their normal school curriculum. It consists of everything from hiking trips to playing more outside, to having several recess breaks throughout the day, to fishing trips. In the New Zealand Curriculum Framework, they state that providing outdoor education gives students “opportunities to develop personal and social skills, to become active, safe, and skilled in the outdoors, and to protect and care for the environment.”

2) Problem solving- many spur of the moment issues can arise while camping. Is that poison ivy? Is there rain coming? Taking children camping can help them better their problem solving skills and quick thinking techniques. To prep for the trip have your children be involved with packing their own supplies. Obviously, guide them to pack essentials but let them really decide what they want and what they do not.

3) Imaginative play- camping provides ample opportunities for imaginative play. Being out in nature surrounded by trees (or the ocean if you choose to camp on the beach) gives them a backdrop they aren’t used to at home. The campfire is also a great place for imaginations to take off. Take turn telling stories. If you are having trouble starting, try making up new endings to stories you already know. Like what if Little Red Riding Hood didn’t realize that the wolf was pretending to be her grandmother? What if they lived together for a while, how would the wolf act?

4) Unplug! Along the same lines as imaginative play, being outdoors and camping really gives you and your family a chance to unplug together. It may be tempting to break out the phones or bring the iPads but don’t. Spend your time together, together. You are not home so you shouldn’t be worrying about work and things that can be dealt with once camping is over.

5) Cooking in a new atmosphere- cooking is a great learning experience. Measuring, mixing, and playing with different textures and ingredients. Camping provides a completely new way to experience the learning process of cooking. Bring some pre-made items like pancake mix and let your child help with pouring it on the pan over the fire. In addition, being outside instead of in the kitchen might help you not worry so much about the mess.

Here are some activities to do with your children while camping to make the experience fun and educational!
Scavenger hunt- there are many available online if you don’t want to create one yourself
Frisbee or catch
Fishing or crabbing
Bubbles
Crafts- a lot of ideas out there on Pinterest. Here are some I really like.
Sand toys

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Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, Uncategorized

Playing in the Woods

I’ve had several posts about getting outdoors, and playing, and how they positively affect intellectual growth (and bonding!) of a child. I was reading up and found some great play ideas for being out in the woods and with the cold season approaching (still hasn’t hit us quite yet) I thought this would be a great time to get some ideas out there.

1) Journey Sticks

Journey sticks have a rich history, most popularly attributed to Native Americans. Journey sticks are to represent someone’s individual experience. Along the way of a long expedition or important travel, the person creating the stick would gather pieces of nature to attach to their stick. Then they would return and tell of tales of their journey.

To create a journey stick find a good sturdy stick during the beginning of your hike through the woods (you can also choose to just accumulate items to take home and make the stick once there). As you go through the woods look for special items- a brightly color leaf, a feather, a special flower. Bring along some tape, string, and straight pins to attach them to your child’s stick.

 

 

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(Click on photo for link)

2) Nature Photography

Being out in the woods is a great place to get your children to appreciate photography and beauty of nature in general. You can do this in a few different ways. If your child is older, you can let them use your digital camera or phone if you feel they are responsible enough. Give them a list of things to try to get on photo: a bird, two different colored leaves together, a tree that looks like it has a face. If you have a younger child, you might not want to trust with anything expensive, so get them a disposable camera. Make sure before heading out into the woods that you explain there are only a certain amount of photos on the camera. Teach them to take one photo at a time and learn to use their eyes and ears to find new and exciting pictures to take.

 

3) Story Telling

The woods are the perfect backdrop for so many stories. Fairy tales, ghost stories, adventure tales, and legends seem to be more believable when told surrounded by nature. If you live somewhere with a state park that allows fires try going on an afternoon hike and end the day with a story and some snacks by the fire. You don’t have to camp overnight to enjoy tales and s’mores. If you can’t have a fire just find a spot to sit under a large tree or a place to spread out a blanket and relax for awhile. Some great stories to tell are:

Little Red Riding Hood

Robin Hood

Hansel and Gretel

Rumpelstiltskin

Local tales- look online or at your local library to find myths and legends that relate to your area.

Just like wanting to read at the beach, this is also a great time to bring along a few books from home and just sit outside and read together.

 

4) Scavenger Hunt

If your child is old enough to read then make up a list of items to find while out in the woods. If they are not then just tell them one thing at a time as you go along your hike.

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(Click on photo for link)

5) Coloring and Art

Sometimes you can do the same thing you would be doing at home just while outside! Find a nice spot to set up; if there is a picnic area use that, if not find an area to lay out a blanket to play on. Don’t forget something hard to lean on if coloring on the ground (clip boards are great for this). You can color things you see, trace leaves off of the ground, or put leaves under your paper and color so you reveal the leaves’ stems.

 

6) Bubbles

I can find a reason to put bubbles on any list I make honestly. Bubbles in the woods are just pure magic. If you are creative try combining bubbles with another activity, like story telling. Make up a story about how fairies are attracted to bubbles or that in the woods you are currently in bubbles are supposed to reveal treasure. If you can, sneak a quarter or something they consider treasure, and hide it in the direction the wind seems to be going.

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This website (click on photo for link) has some great ideas for if you are camping and need activities for overnight.

Playing outside is a dying art form so any chance you get to get out there with your child do it. Here are some tips for starting a garden at home and getting your child involved. Rain isn’t always an excuse to stay in either.

Posted in Education, Family, Gardening, parenting, Social Change, Uncategorized

Simple Living for Teens

My husband and I have been trying to buy a house for almost a year now (although I assure you it seems like decades). While doing so I started to become obsessed with this hole small house movement that is going on. I know I’m a little late on the trend and it’s all over the place now but I still was on Pinterest finding anything I could about tiny homes and how to convince my husband it was a good idea.

Well we did finally find a house and it’s not tiny by the tiny home standards (1,120 sqft) but some would consider it small so I am calling it a win! However, what got me thinking about the tiny homes and why they’re so great is that fact that they force you to live more simply. I didn’t have much in the way of material items growing up and I lived in a small home. But that made me more apt to go outside, spend time in the living room, and not accumulate things. I think now it’s easy for kids and teens to get swept up in this “he/she has more than I do” competition that happens.

Just the other day a mother was talking about taking her son to a birthday party. She had gotten the friend a generous gift but during the party he received a new iPod touch from a different friend. The woman’s son was upset thinking maybe they didn’t give his friend enough. This is a problem in my opinion that affects a lot of young people. Here are some ways I have read about to help your kids and teens understand how to live more simply. I think that understanding the concept and it’s benefits will help them in the future.

 

For an example of a tiny home built by a young person (college student but still) check out this article.

 

1) Let your kids start helping you shop early on. Show them that it is a process to narrow down what you really need. If they just see you come home with a trunk full of food then it would reason that you just go to the store and throw a bunch of stuff in your cart all willy nilly. Take them and show them how to be selective so you don’t end up getting things that will cause waste.

 

2) Get your kids (especially your teens) more excited about the outdoors. There’s a lot to do outside all year round. The more people are active outside their homes the less likely they are to keep acquire stuff for inside. Gardening is one great activity. Sports, walking, owning an outdoor pet or one that needs to be walked, hiking, playing in the snow and rain, animal hunting, swimming, water balloon or shaving cream fight, catch fireflies. There’s endless things to do in the outdoor. Like…

Cartoon of tents and campfire.

3) Go camping. We are huge camping lovers here and there’s nothing like getting back to the basics to unwind. There’s something about turning off your phone and leaving your computer at home and just sleeping in nature. Totally cheesy I know but I can’t wait to get my daughter into camping. Seeing how relaxed and how much fun it can be doing something so simple will help instill that way of living.

 

4) Decrease your family drama. Living simply doesn’t just mean reducing your clutter, items, and wants. It also means getting to a more easy going state of living. Having open communication as a family and reducing the amount of stress and tension is a benefit of simple living.

 

5) This idea isn’t for everyone. When I was in high school I heard someone give a speech at the church I went to at the time about a program called CFCA (Christian Foundation for Children and Aging now called Unbound). It was a Christian nonprofit that worked in several countries. It wasn’t a typical sponsor program. They actually built towns and farms for people to work at and live in, in addition to providing monetary help to sponsored children and elderly. I talked my mom into sponsoring a kid (his name was Johnathan) who we helped from age 10 to 18. We went to visit him in Guatemala when he turned 18 and talked to him about how our support had helped throughout the years. We had been writing him at least once every other month for all that time so I felt like I actually knew him. Growing up with that helped me when I got a little greedy. Even as an adult when I decided to sponsor my own, it really keeps you in check when you start to get overwhelmed with what really isn’t important. There are other nonprofit and volunteer ideas available that will have the same affect on your teen and family.

Posted in Family, Gardening

Why Start a Family Garden

Remember that Lima bean experiment you did in school with the wet paper towel? You got to watch over time the roots grow and the bean start to sprout into a plant. Other than that one tiny bean I don’t recall any sort of gardening or growing of food education when I was in school. There are some schools now that have programs for this but most do not. That is why I am doing a four part post on why you should garden with your children, what the advantages are, how to do it successfully, and some fun activities to incorporate.

Chances are you have at least one place that you remember as a kid, which was outside, that you liked to go to. Maybe it was a relative’s garden, or the woods behind your friend’s house, or even the local farmer’s market. I remember a friend of the family had an old plantation. In his backyard was a small bush lined maze with four pockets. Inside were things like a bird bath, or a fruit tree, or different kinds of plants, but walking through there just transported me to somewhere else when I was younger. You can make a small magical area for your kids right in your own backyard. Don’t stop reading if you think your yard is too small or you don’t have the area that would be needed. Even window plants, porch plants, indoor gardens, and other small areas can work.

                                                                                               (Results may vary, fairy not included in all gardens, not typical outcome)

With STEM education still on the rise learning environmental science can never start early enough. Getting firsthand experience with nature and watching things grow can give you child an educational boost in the science department. Also getting kids outside and working in a garden starting a young age will make them less likely to become couch potatoes. Childhood obesity is no joke and is still, even with all the great resources out there, a major problem. If your child starts to appreciate the outdoors and everything they have to offer you can probably avoid this problem. They will be getting physical exercise while gardening and learn a sense of responsibility. If you are growing fruits and vegetables then learning good nutrition and becoming interested in eating these natural foods will also create healthier children.

On top of everything you will bond. You will start something that you and your children do together that will become almost a tradition. Something they will remember and (hopefully) keep up into their teen years when they are the hardest to reach.

Another huge plus to gardening and growing foods with your children is improving their self-esteem. Some signs your child maybe experiencing low self-esteem can range from not trying new tasks, cheating at games or on tests, becoming withdrawn, being over sensitive of other’s feelings about them, and even trying to be too helpful at home. Gardening can instill responsibility and also give them a sense of pride. They can show off what they have done and say “I made that grow”.

Even though we do not want to cheat per say I found a great list of plants which are easier to grow. Seeing the end product and their plants be successful can be crucial to keeping their interest in gardening alive, especially in the beginning. There are also ideas for indoor and potted plants.

See list here. 

A good garden is something you can work on all year long, so don’t assume you can only use this as a way to bond in the spring and summer months. I will show you in the activities post how to make some of the garden excitement last throughout the year.

More on this to come…