For many of us growing up, nature was a playground full of possibilities. Even today, stopping to smell the flowers, pointing at passing birds, or jumping into a pile of leaves can evoke feelings of nostalgia, laughter, and joy. But the busier our lives get, the harder it can be to find time and motivation to be active in nature, especially for families. The good news is that no matter where your family lives—whether it’s the urban jungle, the country, or anywhere in between—there are plenty of easy, flexible activities that will get you and your kids outdoors.
At Boys & Girls Clubs, children and teens participate in a variety of outdoor programs that encourage STEM learning and encourage curiosity, leadership and other social-emotional skills. Our partnership with LLBean furthers these opportunities by helping clubs bring nature-inspired learning activities to youth of all ages with the Outdoor Social Recreation Playbook for Boys & Girls Clubs.
Take a page from our playbook with three activities to get your family exploring, learning and playing outdoors together.
Bird watching – or birding – is like real Pokémon Go! Whether you’re in a backyard or traveling to a new place, birding allows youngsters to connect with the wildlife around them while trying to “catch them all”…or rather, so many species of birds identify as possible.
How to watch birds:
Birds are sometimes difficult to spot but usually easy to hear. Have the children close their eyes and listen. Then have them point to where the birdsong is coming from and imitate their sounds.
While spotting birds can be easier with the help of binoculars or a camera, they don’t have to be enjoying themselves. Find a spot with your child and focus on staying calm and listening for the movements of birds (or other animals!).
Turn it into a game! Make a bird watching bingo card and fill it with names and pictures of local birds. DIY binoculars from household items, and if you’re having trouble finding real birds, look for signs they leave behind like nests, cracked seeds, and pellets instead!
A nature journal is a great way to record your observations, thoughts, and feelings while exploring or relaxing in an outdoor environment. It also creates space to encourage creativity, ground emotions, and gain mental clarity.
How the Nature Journal works:
Have the children collect a notebook, journal, or stack of paper and a writing implement. Then encourage them to let their creativity run wild by creating their own nature journal. Have painting materials such as markers, pencils or paint ready or even fill a scrapbook with nature photographs.
When writing a nature journal, find a comfortable spot and encourage youngsters to be present by focusing on their surroundings, listening, and even smelling the world around them.
Provide youth with guidance such as:
- I notice…
- I wonder…
- That reminds me of …
Or just let them draw, write, doodle and paint while thoughts and feelings spark their imaginations.
Designing and building bird feeders is a great way to welcome more birds and color into your outdoor spaces and use up materials you already have! The result is a beautiful decoration that is also a food source for the local bird community – perfect for the colder months.
How to build a bird feeder:
Explore online guides to bird feeders and find one that uses materials readily available to you, like glass bottles, paper rolls, or even apple seeds.
Gather your materials and bird seeds to assemble the bird feeder and customize it with decorations.
Make sure the bird feeder is clean and the bird seed is as dry as possible.
Place the bird feeder in a safe place, e.g. B. in a tree or near other shrubs, so that the birds can feel safe when they visit. Be patient! It can take a few weeks for the birds to discover the feeding ground. Feel free to experiment with hanging it in different locations and spreading seeds in areas near the feeder to attract birds.
When young people develop outdoor recreation skills and healthy habits, they become present in the world around them with life skills that support their emotional well-being and physical health.
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