My favorite way to vacation with kids…

cabin-collage

“Wahoo! This is the coolest place ever, mom!”

Jubilant shouts could be heard as we pulled through the trees into an opening that enclosed our hideaway for the next couple of days.  We were hear to unplug, to unwind, and to reconnect as a family. We packed food, books, our coloring pencils and watercolors ready for time to slow down and savor. I’m always pretty exhausted after a weekend of speaking at a conference and we knew that we were preparing to move into a new and busy season for our family, so this seemed like the perfect time to sneak away for a break.

It’s become a bit of a tradition in our family.  Starting back 5 years or so when we’d escape to a cabin with my parents, sisters and their families.

While I love to drag my kids to all kinds of cool museums and historical sites, tucking all 6 of us into a hotel room is not on my list of relaxing and enjoyable things to do…  While it is fun to go out and see new sites, I have to say that my favorite way to vacation with kids is to rent a house or cabin somewhere and flee from the distractions and business of civilization.  I’ve shared about our “cabin” experiences before here because I’ve found them so refreshing.  There is something magical about escaping into nature to simply enjoy God’s creation and each other. My hubby is not the camping kind of guy, so renting a cabin is the way we go.  I must say that I do like having access to a kitchen and hot showers!

cabin2

This year was no different.  For three days we disappeared.  We didn’t see a single other human being and simply enjoyed hiking the trails on this property.  It was a truly magical set-up with cute trails, hidden “man-caves” and a huge porch and big lawn to play on.  We played hard, read books, went on nature walks, napped often, and of course played games (Everyone but Greta can now play Dominion! #win}.  And the best part?  My phone didn’t work there, so it was truly an opportunity to unplug, unwind and delight in cultivating relationships with my favorite people.

cabingamecollage cabinnaturewalks cabin-insta

How do you like to vacation?

Our various cabin experiences:

Because Sometimes You Just Need to Unwind and Think

Rocky Vacation Learning and What I Learned Along the Way

Wildlife Count and the Slow Demise of a Tomboy

Prayer: Opening Eyes to See the Miracle

A Welcome Break

Anytime Art

 

Gifts that Spark Nature Explorations: Nature Walk Bag

Giving our kids a few key tools to turn them loose exploring the natural world around them!

 

Get Outside! Explore and learn out in nature!
The great outdoors are so rich with opportunity.  Encouraging our kids to explore and delight in the world around us is a powerful way to set them on the course of life-long learning.  As I remember back to all of the years of hiking with my parents and having copious amounts of time to play and explore, I’m in awe at how something so simple can have such a profound affect on a person’s life.  There is something so restful and yet simultaneously invigorating about learning out in nature. And nature is all around us.  This means our kids will be learning through backyard explorations, walks around the neighborhood and of course trips into the wilderness.

So what better way to foster this in your kids than to put together a nature walk bag, so they have the tools to explore at their fingertips.

So what would you put in this bag?  Well the possibilities are endless.  I’ll give you some ideas here and then use your imagination to personalize it for your child.  You can give them the gift of adventure, scientific discovery and art all wrapped up in one bag!

Putting together a Nature Walk bag makes for a creative, fun, and engaging gift idea!

What You Need for a Nature Walk Bag

Your bag!  You’ll want to decide if you want to do a messenger style bag such as this Olive Green Messenger Bag. The size is perfect for stashing a few important things.  I like a messenger style bag because you have ready access to the contents while you are walking.  The important thing here is that it is dedicated to holding your nature walking materials.

Binoculars – for bird watching or scouting out the valley ahead on a hike.  I love this AdventurePak Binocular Set because it contains a good, kid-sturdy binoculars plus a compass, flashlight and whistle.  Having a whistle with you is always a smart move for kids getting out into nature.  That way if there is an emergency, they can use the whistle to call for help!  If you have older kids or simply want to invest in a better set of binoculars, I’d recommend these Bird Watching Binoculars.  It comes with a case to help protect them.

Magnifying Glass – If you are going to explore, you need a dedicated magnifying glass for your bag.  I’m torn between this great 5-Inch Lens or the idea of getting a folding pocket magnifier.  The benefit of a folding pocket magnifier is that it would be protected from scratches in your bag.  For this reason, even though it is half the size, I’d go with the folding option.

Sketch Book  –  Having a sketch book handy in your bag means your little nature explorer can journal their findings and draw pictures.  We’ve spent many a day out in our desert home sketching or water-coloring what we see.  It is relaxing and promotes our kids learning to pay attention to fine details!  I love this hardbound book set.  It is beautiful and looks so professional.  On the other hand, a spiral-bound journal would be easier to lay flat while they draw.

Colored Pencils – You should stock a regular pencil or two and then pack a set of colored pencils.  As you know, I’m a huge fan of our Lyra Ferby pencils.  I love the triangular shape that promotes proper pencil grasp and the color these babies produce is beautiful.  I will never hold a crayola colored pencil in my hand again.  It pays to buy quality art supplies.  Prismacolor is another top-notch quality colored pencil.  These artist quality colored pencils come in a tin and are much less expensive than the Lyra Ferby pencils.  The tin comes in handy providing storage and protection within your nature bag. Now that my kids are getting older and the triangular grip isn’t as vital, I’m considering trying these out.  My artists sister LOVES them.

Block Crayons – These are optional, but we’ve loved using these Stockmar beeswax block crayons for all kinds of leaf and bark rubbings.  They come in a tin which again makes it easy to store in your bag and they last forever!

Pencils, watercolors and a notebook make for a fun nature outing!

Watercolors – My boys (yes, my rough and tumble boys) love to go out and paint nature scenes.  {I wrote about it here!} In the craziness of raising boys, these moments with my water colors have calm moments too.  Again, quality matters.  While I know you can get water color sets for a dollar, paying a little bit more makes a huge difference.  I threw out my cheap water colors and we only use Prang now.  It’s only $2.99 and the brilliant colors produced make it totally worth paying more.

Watercolor Notebook – You need thicker paper when doing watercolors.  We’ve found upgrading to a watercolor paper really helps what we are able to create.  This notebooks is beautiful and it is the perfect size to not only fit in your bag, but for water-coloring in general.  I’ve found my kids usually don’t fill an entire full page with a watercolor design which leads to waste.  These smaller pages are perfect.  The cover depicted actually peels off revealing a solid brown hard cover underneath.

Flower & Leaf Press Our flower/leaf press is just like this one.  I love that there are no knobs poking around.  It is actually compact enough that you “could” take it with you on your walks if you want to press a beautiful flower or leaf along the way.

Zip Lock baggies – super easy to stash in your bag and then you can hold that special pebble, leaf or whatever else you want to inspect more closely later.

Bug Bottle – If you think you might find some cool bugs (and you have room in your bag), you could bring a bug jar.  As a kid, we just used a canning jar with fabric in place instead of the metal lid.  This high-quality plastic bug viewer could be an option if you don’t want to go the canning jar route. It even has a built in magnifying glass.

Leatherman Tool – Ok, this is cool enough to merit being it’s own special stand-alone gift.  And you’d never get my son to consent to keeping this in a nature bag because he insists on clipping it to his belt loop.  This little tool does not have a knife blade.  We bought it for a birthday gift last year and they have been constant partners since then.  The tweezers and pliers come in handy more times than we can count, including an episode where we were extracting a stray cactus spine or two…

Want to pair this with a book?  


Nature Anatomy is our absolute favorite to take out into the field.

Be sure to check out my other top recommendations for nature-inspired books!

Other things I’ve written on this wonderful topic of nature exploration!

Why Nature Walks {a 4 part series}
10 Reasons Why You Should Go Outside {Every day}
7 Creative Ways to Take a Walk
Nature Painting
Isn’t It Dangerous?
A {Saguaro} Forest Walk
Desert Explorations
Exploring Arizona Creation

This is my 11th installment (and I haven’t totally fallen apart yet) in a series on educational gift guides.  Click the button below to check out the rest of the series!

31 days of gift ideas that will spark and foster your children's love of learning and feed the imagination!

Fresh Inspiration for Nature Walks!

Love this resource: an extensive list of easy open-and-go-exploring ideas for #NatureWalks

Well, I’m back and settling into normal everyday life and dealing with those periodic pesky technical issues that currently center around email.  :Gasp: I accidentally deleted my entire blog/book email inbox.  So if you have tried to reach me in the last couple of weeks (there are one or two of you), I’d love it if you could resend that email.

It was such a treat to travel to two conventions this month and speak to homeschool families in both Pennsylvania and Michigan.  I’m always amazed at the love and care that parents have for their children and grateful for the opportunity to get to help encourage others! I loved getting a quick peek at Pennsylvania. I tend to think of being “back east” as all hustle & bustle city life. The glimpse of rural Pennsylvania was delightful. The following week, we flew out to Michigan. The cool thing about this was that I prayed last summer, asking the Lord to make a way for me to fly out to see my sister. Within a month, I was contacted to come out and speak just an hour and a half away from where she lives! Amazing, right? So we took two extra days to go down and see the kids and explore. The weather could not have been better. There was still a hint of crisp in the air, sunshine and lots of green.

Soon after I arrived my niece and nephew pulled me outside to check out the treasure-in-the-making that they’d discovered. We don’t have robins out here in the desert, so I’ve only seen pictures in books. The tiny eggs are simply exquisite. The kids were so excited and jabbered on about the mama robin and the ensuing wait for these eggs to hatch.

Fresh inspiration for nature walks >> and open-and-walk-out-the-door resource! #NatureWalks

Oh the magic and wonder of getting to witness this miracle unfold – the lessons in life, birth and the waiting…  Yes, taking time to observe and WAIT is powerful.  It was such a treat to speak on the topic of Nature Walks while I was up there and then follow that up with my sister taking us to her favorite place for nature walking…

We ran down trails, stopped to admire butterflies, played Pooh-Sticks, studied lily pads, tried to catch frogs, managed not to fall into the ponds, and through it all just marveled at God’s beautiful creation.

Fresh inspiration for nature walks >> and open-and-walk-out-the-door resource! #NatureWalks Fresh inspiration for nature walks >> and open-and-walk-out-the-door resource! #NatureWalks Fresh inspiration for nature walks >> and open-and-walk-out-the-door resource! #NatureWalks

And all of this made me even more excited to return home.  For some reason, I always want to kick our nature walks into high gear come summer.  It must be the fact that most people elsewhere are enjoying the outdoors, so I feel that I should be able to as well – despite our high summer heat.  So once again, we go “crepuscular” to cope with our summer temperatures and explore the beautiful outdoors.  This summer, I’m taking the guess work out of our nature walks with this amazing new resource that I found this spring.  We’ll be utilizing Cindy West’s 100+ Easy and Fun Creative Nature Walks.  It is so nice to have an open and go resource like this.  I’ve already started making a list of the one’s we’ll be utilizing this summer.  Since I’m moving back into book writing mode, I’m even more thankful for this easy resource.

Fresh inspiration for nature walks >> and open-and-walk-out-the-door resource! #NatureWalks

If you are wanting to include more nature walks and utilizing the natural world in your learning adventures, then this resource is a great go-to guide that will help keep your nature walks fresh, exciting, and rich without the investment of planning on your part.  If you are interested, she has a preview available so you can view the table of contents and see all of the great ideas that she offers.

If anyone else wants to snag this, Cindy gave me a coupon code for $2.95 off!  Simply use NatureWalks at checkout!  (FYI: the code will only work through the 17th of June.)

 

Some of my other blog posts on nature walks and nature exploration:

10 Reasons Why You Should Go Outside EVERYDAY!

7 Ways to Take a Walk

Nature Mapping the Neighborhood and a Nursery Fieldtrip

Nature Painting

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Nature making it’s way indoors and learning mapping

Nature making it's way indoors!Nature making it's way indoors...

Nature making its way indoors...

It’s been a hot week, so I guess I should be thankful when nature exploration opportunities follow us indoors, right?  I was craving flowers to grace our breakfast table earlier this week and went out front to collect some bougainvillea blooms that were spilling over onto the sidewalk.  As I placed them in a vase, Keegan notices movement.  I had looked for spiders and other ‘blackish’ bugs, but failed to notice the slender camouflaged praying mantis.

Enraptured, we watch it slowly crawl around.  Boys eagerly put their hands out to capture it.  This is when we discover how smoothly and quickly this graceful creature could move.  He fairly danced over the petals.

“How many legs does he have, Trey-Trey?” I ask the 5 year old.  Older boys bit their lip to avoid shouting out the answer. Inwardly, I exult.  “Eeeee! A small sign of self-control.”  The 5 year old counts, but then comments on the funny looking front legs.  I ask the boys why they thought to call it a ‘praying’ mantis…   Boys study intently, as our little friend stops his dance and looks around.

“He rubs his front lets together and it looks like he’s kneeling to pray!!!” One boy exclaims.

Their attempts at catching him begin again in earnest.  But that little leaper jumps up arms and tickles the neck.  Boy squeals commence – whether from delight or fright, I cannot tell.  I step in and cup my hands around the little guy as we quickly make for the back door.  Nature study is officially over – at least the indoor portion.  On the back porch, I repeat a reminder to not kill our little friend.  Unlike cockroaches, we WANT praying mantis’ around.  They eat other bugs.  We google them and boys sit watching gory pictures of their insect meals pop-up.  We wonder aloud whether or not ‘preying’ mantis might be a more appropriate name.  hmmm, maybe there is a double meaning to its name.

While I’m typically not a fan of having bugs in the house, this was a nice break from hunting for bugs outdoors.  At least it was one of the ‘good bugs.’

 **

On a different note, we finally began work on nature mapping our yard.  We took another tour of the yard, reviewing plant names and headed indoors to start drawing maps at the kitchen table.  I explained birds-eye view maps similar to some we found in the book, Me on the Map.  I had no idea how challenging perspective would be.  My perfectionist son insisted on copying my map down to the last curve and my independent one mirror-imaged half of the yard, but not the other.  We’re going to slow down and work on some more map-making skills – starting with mapping their bedroom.  Tomorrow we’ll head across the street and do our map work outside where it will be easier to get the correct perspective.  Oh the joys of learning…  The boys have the opportunity to not get frustrated and view this as a failure {although my perfectionist was starting to panic a bit}.  Instead they get to learn to view {perceived} failure as simply part of the process!

{I love seeing what stood out to the 5 year old from our backyard…  The spotty grass – due to recent problems with our sprinklers and birds in the tree outside our window.}

Nature Mapping our yard - learning mapping skills

nature mapping our yard - an opportunity to learn mapping skills.

The Daily Outdoor Challenge!

This post is part of my Friday summer series: The Daily Outdoors Challenge where we commit to spend time outdoors – in play or nature study!

Crepuscular < Our word for the summer

Open-ended nature explorations: an important ingredient to your day! Open-ended nature explorations: an important ingredient to your day!   Open-ended nature explorations: an important ingredient to your day!Open-ended nature explorations: an important ingredient to your day!Open-ended nature explorations: an important ingredient to your day!

The shadows lengthen and a light breeze is blowing.  The temperature still hovers above 100 degrees, but with no sun beating down from overhead the dry heat is bearable.  Dusk approaches and just as most desert animals come out of hiding now, so do we.

The boys race ahead, thrilled to be free of the confines of the indoors.  We stop and inspect our shadows, in awe at how tall we’ve become.  The boys notice that the Mesquite trees are once again dropping seed pods.  They reminisce about gathering them last year, grinding them into flour and making our own mesquite tortillas.

We are mesmerized as we spy a lizard doing push-ups.  Boys soon find feathers and brainstorm how colonialists must have made their own ink for quill pens…  They collect feathers and plot a course of action.

I smile and sigh as Treyton runs up to me with his fresh wound over one eye from an encounter with our wicker cabinet and the DIY haircut that he began.  Yes, we need this time outdoors.

As we run free, I remind them of all of our desert animal friends and I re-introduce them to a favorite word of mine this time of year:

CREPUSCULAR: (of certain insects, birds, and other animals) active at twilight or just before dawn.

That is what we resort to each summer – venturing out in the early morning or after dinner.

It’s been a busy week and I’ve been a bit under the weather.  But spending these moments outdoors at dusk tonight help me release the guilt of nature-mapping goals not yet accomplished and remember that even in open-ended nature walks their observation skills are honed and we are ever learning.

I not only recognize the benefits of making a plan, but am also thankful for the fresh reminder to appreciate the beauty of keeping it open-ended too!   The bottom line is that we NEED that daily time outdoors!

The Daily Outdoor Challenge! A Weekly link-up to share outdoor adventures and nature study ideas!



Nature Mapping and the Nursery

Taking a field trip to a local nursery for 'nature study' for a 'nature mapping the neighborhood' challenge!

Last week, I mentioned that we are starting our Daily Outdoors challenge up again and that our family goal for this summer was to ‘nature map our neighborhood.’  We’ve been crazy busy this week with VBS and convention prep, so we haven’t started drawing our maps yet, but we did take stock of our yard and than pack up for a “field trip” to our local nursery.

There is something about being surrounded by beautiful living plants, even if they are still in plastic pots with labels on them.  The boys loved exploring.  As we identified plants and trees that we have in our yard, they started to write down the names.  We are collecting our information to begin the actual mapping process!

Have any of you ever taken a ‘field trip’ to a local nursery?  The staff are always ready and willing to answer questions and you can actually learn the names of the plants that you see in your neighborhood.  As a biology major in college, I’m sort of ashamed now to admit that I made it through without taking a single plant biology class.  At the time I simply wasn’t interested.  Now I’m trying to make up for lost time.  And where does one go when they don’t know a whole lot about plants?

A local nursery, botanical garden or an arboretum.

The local nursery is a win-win because it is FREE and CLOSE!  As the weather heats up and gas prices continue to rise, I’m loving this combination.

How to plan for a Nursery Fieldtrip?

To transform this from merely a shopping trip into a ‘field trip’ you’ll want to plan.  Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Make a Plan – Decide on your goals. Identify plants in your area, learn how to care for plants, learn to identify perennials vs. annuals, etc?  The options are endless!
  2. Formal Tour or ‘Self-Guided’ – Determine if you want to do it on your own or make it a little more formal.  Many nurseries would love to give you an official tour or answer questions you and your children may have. We did an impromptu ‘mom-guided’ tour this time.  I would love have the kids write down questions on how to properly care for the plants in or yard and go back again.  I would also love to plant some fruit trees, so we might do a research trip on this as well.
  3. Pack supplies: We took a clipboard and pencil to take notes. Because it is already pretty hot, we packed water.
  4. Review etiquette: I’ve found it always prudent to review proper behavior etiquette before going anywhere.  This was no exception.  We discussed that this was a business and not a park.  They were to be respectful, not pull any leaves and/or flowers off the trees, or run around like crazy ‘normal’ boys, etc.
  5. Just do it!

Taking a field trip to a local nursery for 'nature study!' Taking a field trip to a local nursery for 'nature study!' Taking a field trip to a local nursery for 'nature study!' Taking a field trip to a local nursery for 'nature study' for a 'Neighborhood Nature Map' challenge.

Taking a field trip to a local nursery for 'nature study' for a 'nature mapping the neighborhood' challenge! Taking a field trip to a local nursery for 'nature study' for a 'nature mapping the neighborhood' challenge!

I gave them a little bit of free reign here…  They found a mammoth sized lizard and ducked around and between different plants to track it before it quickly outsmarted them!

Nature Mapping Your Neighborhood: How Will It Work?

The plan is that we’ll start with our yard.  We want to identify each plant.  They will draw a picture of it, write the name down and for my oldest a few pertinent details about that plant.  Next they will each draw a map of our yard – front and back yard and the general shape of our home.  Finally they will color it and label the plants!  From there we plan to move out and map our neighborhood, identifying interesting plants and trees along the way!

I’ve mentioned my love of maps before when we did out year of geography that I wrote for my son’s kindergarten-ish year.  As the daughter of a cartographer (map maker) and a geography major it is in the blood, I suppose.  We recently re-read one of our favorite books on maps, Me on the Map {and reminisced about our own Me on the Map books that we made}.  We can’t wait to get started.

How did you spend your time outdoors this week?

Daily Outdoors Challenge


Related Posts:

7 Ways to Take a Walk

Active Play Boosts Brain Power

Nature Painting

Wildlife Count and the Slow Demise of a Tomboy

Mountain getaways are a time to explore, discover and delight in the myriad of wildlife encounters!
A trip to the Tonto Fish Hatchery proved fascinating as we inspected the various species of trout that inhabit Arizona waters.  Are we the only weird one’s left that enjoy reading all of the signs?  Our zoo did away with most of their posted information because they said that no one reads them anymore…
Of course, this trip to the hatchery only spurred on the boys obsession with learning how to fish!  In true city-slicker fashion, this was the FIRST time {gasp} that the boys went fishing.
They were thrilled with their catch and I have to tell you that this former tomboy still has some crazy good fish cleaning skills! 🙂  As a girl, I would walk up and down the creek each time we would go camping asking people if I could clean their fish.  Then I would gather the younger kids around and give them all a fish anatomy lesson!
Like old times, I gathered MY boys around for that super cool lesson!
Bugs were EVERYWHERE.  Our favorites were the walking sticks and praying mantiss’.
As Trey-man and I returned from the creek one morning, I spotted this little guy scurrying across the path.  Isn’t he just too cute?!?!?!?  The inner-tomboy emerged once again and I was able to catch this little fellow and take him back up to the cabin.  The boys were quick to create a little habitat for him and he was the recipient of copious amounts of love and attention.  We found it fascinating that he could change colors!  He patiently endured all of this love and attention and was rewarded with help in making an escape that afternoon much to the boys disappointment.
That was not the end of the wildlife adventures.  You see, we were in bear territory and found tracks that seemed to indicate that one had even been near the cabin in recent days…  We love the “Who Pooped in the Park” series on animal tracks and scat.  I’ve written about the Sonoran Desert version and found the information helpful when inspecting the abundance of tracks and scat up north. Next year, I think I’ll try and find the Grand Canyon version to broaden our understanding of animals in the northern part of our state.
I felt pretty smug while managing to stay calm, knowing bears were around and then eagerly inspecting the daddy-longlegs that Xander brought INSIDE the cabin to show me.
But I was undone by this little fuzzy creature…
Keegan wanted to bring one home as a pet.  We convinced him to leave this guy in the wild.  But somehow one of its relatives managed to stow away in the van.
After feeling a tickling sensation on my arm, I let out a high pitch girly squeal while frantically brushing it off. This woman who can clean fish, capture horny toads, inspect tracks and scat screams like a grade-school girl at the up close encounter with of one of these harmless caterpillars…
My status as former tomboy is looking to lean heavily on the “former” end of the spectrum.

Our Daily Dose of Science!

Monsoon season has a way of luring us outdoors…  The smell of the creosote, the dip in temperature and puddles, puddles everywhere!

I think the boys couldn’t be more pleased with the ‘daily outdoors challenge’.  They know that if I’m feeling iffy on going outside that they can just bring this up and hold me accountable! 🙂

We had fun walking the neighborhood, inspecting the retention basins which had a couple of feet of water and we collectively mourned the loss of one of our trees out front in the aftermath of recent storms.

Monsoon season is also when some of our desert wildlife that has been safely hiding underground comes out to play.  A fascinating croaking sound met our ears as we embarked to explore our flooded neighborhood.  While building dams with river rock, we discovered these little toads out and about.  I believe they are Colorado River Toads, sometimes also called Sonoran Desert Toads.  But after listening to the call of the American Bullfrog, I’m not sure.  They were quite busy that night and within two days when we were outside again, exploring the water that was left, the boys discovered TADPOLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh this is one of the beauties of childhood. Memories came flooding back from my childhood and the many instances of wading in the lake behind my home capturing tadpoles and then taking them home for the remainder of their metamorphosis.

There is something so special, so powerful about tangible, impromptu science lessons like this.  We studied frogs last year, but even reading about it in books or doing some fun activity doesn’t even begin to compare with the real thing.  Watching the transformation take place before our very eyes is simply amazing.  This morning our little tadpoles merely had two tiny legs. By dinner time, they are sporting tiny arms too.

It is a timely reminder to seize the ‘real-life’ learning opportunities that come our way because context and experience are potent allies in the learning process.

So we continue our daily outdoor challenge.  I haven’t been doing it perfectly, but life is settling back into routine and with it the daily habit of time spent outdoors WITH my children.

The Daily Outdoor Challenge!

A Week of Walks!

Since evening heat isn’t too intense yet, we’ve taken to an after-dinner walk. Greta’s in bed by 6pm and my amazing husband does the dinner dishes each night (How blessed am I???), so the boys and I have taken this time to depart for an evening stroll! Because we get bored easily, we came up with a couple of variations to add some fresh spark to these adventures!

So here you go.

7 creative ideas for taking a walk!
1. Color Walk

This was the most popular of our walks this week!  We simply took our colored pencils and a tiny notebook and marked a square for each main color.  As we walked, we hunted for different colors and kept a tally of what we found!  The only rule I had was that we couldn’t count the bark of every tree for our brown category.  Although I did allow them to include twigs from a bush and bark from a tree as two distinct sightings!

This Red Bird of Paradise was one of our favorite sightings since we could mark off both the red and orange category in one fell swoop.

2. Listening Walk

We love doing these.  The book, The Listening Walk, inspired us to throw this into the mix.  {I mentioned this book last year when doing my series on Nature Walks and books that inspire them!}

Simply map out your walk and then keep as quiet as you can so you can see how many different sounds you can discern.  Keegan even bent down to the ground to see if he could determine if ants made noise.  I’m sure they do, but we were unable to detect it!  For these walks, any kind of sound counts – birds, lizards sliding through the bushes, an airplane going by, a siren in the distance…

3. Phonemic Walk

We play around a lot with letter sounds.  A favorite game in the car is to make our way through the alphabet trying to come up with as many words as possible to go with the currently assigned letter/phonemic sound.  Phonemic awareness is an important precurser to being able to read and the ability to break a word down into its phonemic units is an important skill in needing to be able to spell well.

We decided to try this out on our walk.  At the zoo, each boy was assigned a specific sound and kept a tally of what each found with that sound.  At home, we filled a notbook page with the alphabet and wrote down what we found on our walk that fit with each sound.  The goal is to fill up every space!

4. Animal Count Walk

These kinds of walks are a bit more rewarding if you head to a nature preserve, but we were surprised at how many different kinds of birds we found in addition to lizards, ants, cockroaches (ugh) and even a cottontail rabbit!  Not bad for our suburban desert neighborhood!

I’m not sure where they are nesting, but two roadrunners have taken up residence near our home.  We love catching glimpses of them running around our front yard!

5. Misty Walk

With the temperatures continuing to climb, we enjoyed filling our squirt bottles with ice water and heading out.  The boys had fun walking into a cool mist as they pumped away.  And naturally, it evolved into a squirt battle!

6. Race Walk

I don’t know if anyone deals with this, but my boys like to RUN!  I ran into problems last year though when they would get carried away and run too far in front of me.  I didn’t want to have to yell to get them to stop, but being hugely pregnant and trying to stay OFF bed rest didn’t make it easy to race and catch up.  We instituted ‘race walks’ where I set a goal, i.e. two lamp posts, the stop sign, the end of the street, etc, where they can race to before stopping for me to catch up!  They love these race walks and it is an incredible way to burn their seemingly endless energy!  It also has been great at teaching them to pay attention to my verbal instructions which my four year old has a particularly difficult time doing.

Since Greta has been going to bed early, I’ve had fun racing with them.

7. God-Talk Walk

These are my favorite of all.  Typically they work best when I only have one child with me, but we’ve also had a few God-Talk Walks that work out well when they are all with me.  We take the time to thank God as we walk for things we are enjoying in His creation.  I love slowing down and drawing our attention to the Creator of this beautiful world we live in.  Another way to have a ‘God-Talk Walk’ is to model using this time to just converse with God.  God and I have our very best conversations when I’m walking, hiking or jogging.  There is something about the fresh air and a busy body which helps my heart and mind slow down and connect with the Lord.  I’ve starting telling the boys about what I do on my walks and then will pray out loud as I walk with one of them.  My favorite part is when I share with them the importance of listening and then we talk about what God is impressing on our hearts.  Oh these are precious memories that I know I’ll treasure forever.  My prayer is that they will see how natural and essential spending time with the Lord in prayer can be.

100+ Easy and Fun Nature Walk Ideas book

The Daily Outdoor Challenge

The Daily Outdoor Challenge!

What would happen if we made a commitment to spend special time EACH and EVERY day outdoors?

I’d venture to guess that we would feel:

  • more relaxed
  • more connected with our family
  • more connected with the Lord
  • more productive with the rest of our day

I’d venture we would be able to:

  • think clearer
  • focus better
  • enjoy life more

Recently, I was asked about spending time outdoors with my little one’s.  Living here in the desert it is often assumed that the summer months just aren’t conducive to spending time outdoors.  To a certain extent that is true and one of the main reasons why we do much of our formal academic learning during the hot summer months.  Because really, what else is there to do when it is 115 outside?

But what if…  what if, we turned that perception around and found time {albeit possibly at the beginning and the end of the day} to enjoy time outdoors?

I’m taking on the challenge of spending a minimum of 20 minutes outdoors each and every day with my children.  I’m not talking merely adding up time running to and from my car to the next air-conditioned building.  I mean fun, carefree time enjoying God’s beautiful creation and playing with my children outside.

I often boot them outdoors because the benefits to letting them unwind are monumental.  But I think it is time that I give myself the boot too!

Each Friday, I’ll be posting a diary of our outdoor adventures and I’d love for some of you to join me.  Do you think you can commit to spending some time outdoors each day with your kids?  It could be as simple as taking a walk, playing basketball, inspecting bugs or working in the garden.  I’d love for you to come back and share either by linking up a blog post or sharing your adventures in the comments or on our facebook page!  Let’s see if we can inspire one another to spend more time outside with our families.  And for those of you in nicer summer climes, you can brag about how wonderful your weather is and the myriad of wonderful outdoor options you have.  I’m ok with that too!  Although, beware.  Come August, I might be packing up my bags and bringing the family for a visit!  And come January, I’ll be bragging about our weather when you can’t shovel a path to your car!

Want to join in on the fun?  Grab our button, and then link up your post each week!

The Daily Outdoor Challenge
The Daily Outdoor Challenge

So here is what we did this last week:

SATURDAY:
I should probably start writing these things down, or start going to bed earlier, because for the life of me, I can’t remember what we did that day…

SUNDAY:
I am sick and stay home from my boys AWANA Awards night. :\  Greta and I did enjoy spending almost 30 minutes sitting in the Adirondack chair staring up at the blue sky.  Sometimes we just need to be still and breath in fresh air!  I could feel my head start to clear and my tummy calm down.  Mercifully, it put her in a sedate mood too.

MONDAY:
We dig around in our compost pile and started transporting some of it to our garden plot.  I’m determined to get rid of my black thumb one of these days.  We are preparing our beds now for a fall garden and enjoyed inspecting all of the hundreds of tiny bugs and other organisms that took up residence in our compost pile.  The roaches that have taken up residence there were not appreciated or admired however. :shudder:

TUESDAY:
My sister is in town visiting!!!!  We meet at our favorite nature preserve.  The boys enjoy jumping in the creek and we count quail.  I bring our watercolors thinking they might want to paint as we’ve done previously, but they are too excited seeing cousins again.

Keegan and I had a Bible Moment-Nature walk that evening.  While our Bible Moment didn’t quite live up to my {probably unreasonably} high expectations, we discovered a bee’s nest that had been turned over and stopped to inspect it for a while.  Bee’s were everywhere.  We noticed the flowers falling off of the prickly pear cactus and discussed the possibility of trying our hand at making Prickly Pear Jelly this year when the fruit ripens!

WEDNESDAY:
A storm swept in, making it a perfect day for an umbrella walk.  We took turns telling each other what we loved about God’s creation.  At the top of my list is the creosote bush that gives the desert it’s characteristic ‘rain’ smell!

I’m FINALLY starting to identify some of the birds around here.  We are thrilled to see several Killdeer on our walk around the neighborhood.

We stop by to see if the bee hive is still there.  Most of the bees appear to have died – either from the rain or hail.  We can’t decide.  We simply sit and ponder.

THURSDAY:

In honor of the 237th anniversary of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga (hurray for practical math application!), we staged a re-enactment in the backyard!

FRIDAY:
Despite temperatures around 98 degrees, we set out while dinner cooked to see what was happening with the beehive.