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Nora in nature
The Outdoors with Littles

Nowadays, it is hard to get your kids away from screens. Growing up, I was always outside playing with the neighborhood kids, riding my bike around, exploring nature / the park, and playing outdoor games: I basically lived outside whenever I was awake. The outdoors teaches your kids life lessons. It forces them to explore with things found in nature, such as sticks, leaves, etc. While you can take real toys, there is nothing better than playing with sticks and dirt.

We were recently in the Smoky Mountains in East TN, where everything around us was nature. It reminded me of how important it is to get your kid(s) outside. While I wanted to get out and see things every day, my kid just wanted to make things and use it in the outdoor spaces. Therefore, a trip to the local hardware store to make a project with things my preschooler picked out was the perfect activity for the day. We made a boat for rubber ducks out of some scrap wood, paper boxes, duck tape, hooks, and string. It was pretty fun. While I am not as crafty as my husband, I was still able to make a basic 'boat' out of just these few items. Get creative and let your kids enjoy the outdoors. We made this project outside, and we went to the little creek to try them out after. We also made a fishing pole out of a long stick. We just put rope and a hook on it, and voila - there you have your fishing pole.

Cardboard box boat in the local creek outdoors
Cardboard box boat in the local river in Townsend, TN

Even when you are not on vacation, there are plenty of things do with your kids in your backyard or at a local park. Did you know young kids love nature scavenger hunts? We did one at the Spring Break playdate with Memphis Moms at Chucalissa. They just had a basic sheet of things to find in nature, and we used a brown paper bag to collect our items in. We found sticks, leaves, acorns, pine cones, etc. It was a fun activity! Now every time we are outside, Nora wants to go find flowers, sticks, or what she calls "beautiful nature things" somewhere. She asks where things come from, asks what they are, and we even have deeper conversation about how things were created. It doesn't have to be complicated to be fun and educational!

Even when the weather is cold, hot, or rainy, there are things you can do outside. There are places with front porches/shelters where you are sheltered from weather that you can hang out under. Or, you can have your kid put rain boots on, get their umbrella out, and splash with them in the rain. I am not advocating for going outside in dangerous weather, but I am just encouraging you to find a way to be outside in ANY weather condition, not just when it's a nice sunny day. What I find most frustrating, and hear most frequently when the weather is not 70 degrees or sunny, is it's "too cold," "too hot," or "too windy" to be outside. Sometimes, those things are true statements; however, you can have great conversations, life lessons, and fun in no matter the weather.

If you're still not sure, try these:

Cold? No problem. Bundle up with hats, gloves, etc. and just go outside for a max of 30 minutes.

Windy?  Build & fly a kite.

Hot? Bring a fan.

Humid? Bring a change of clothes so you can have ice cream indoors once you're done!

Icy? Find icicles around the house.

Snowy? Try building a snowman or have a snowball fight.

As long as the weather allows you to safely be outside (even if it is just around our house), I encourage you to get that outside time.

Jumping in puddles outdoors
Jumping in puddles with rainboots (or in this case, snow boots) on.

Outdoor air is so good for your kids. It instantly releases positive energy. It helps children thrive. It keeps them healthy. There is evidence that children who are outdoors more, live healthier lives. There is something about nature and the outdoors that keeps children at peace. They get a boost from being outside, it is good for their brains, and it is good for mommy's and daddy's mental health! If you need more evidence, I recommend you read a book like "Last child in the woods" or do your own research.

If you need any inspiration for outdoor activities, check out this Memphis Facebook group that is focused on outdoor activities for kids. You can also check out Tinkergarten, which is focused on getting kids outside. If you are looking for something more specific to the season of the year, check out my other post.

So, when is the next time you will take your family outside?

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