Finally, spring has arrived. The daffodils are blooming, buds are popping on trees and the weather is warming up.
Yes, this means it's time for your household spring cleaning, but take a break and get your family outdoors. Consider it a spring clean for the senses, and bring some fresh air and vitality into the body. Even an hour outdoors can do wonders for any child or adult.
There is nothing more grounding and invigorating than a walk in the woods, especially for children living in a primarily urban environment. The key to walking in the woods with a family is to keep it light and easy. If new to this activity, consider it more of a meander and don't be too ambitious. Pick a short adventure and have fun with it.
Don't be afraid to let the kids get a little dirty. Wear clothes that allow them the opportunity to romp around and play. The woods can be a place to let go of some of the usual parental trappings, if only to encourage enjoyment for the kids and a desire to explore the woods again.
Respect the Woods
Always be respectful of the woods and creatures that live there. Follow the national park motto—leave no trace—which means leave no trash and don't take pieces of the woods home. Also, try to stay on park service paths.
Activities in the Woods
If the idea of just going for a walk in the woods doesn't sound exciting enough, or if it's difficult to lure the rest of the family out of the usual routine, make it a little more than a walk.
Some possible activities include:
Bring lunch or snacks and a blanket. Take a break half way through the planned walk, spread out under a pretty tree or in the warm sun and share food together. Pack a special treat that kids will remember and associate with the walk.
Grab a notebook, a bird book and perhaps a pair of binoculars. Turn the walk into a birding quest. Keep track of the birds discovered and begin a life list. Most bird books have places to keep track of birds seen in an index.
Stop and Listen
At least once during the walk, encourage everyone to stop moving and talking, and stand still for at least a minute. What noises do you hear? Use the experience to talk to each other about what it felt like to be quiet. Repeat the exercise throughout the walk.
Keep Eyes Open
Examine the woods, the ground, the plants and the trees. In the springtime, there is a great deal of growth. Look for the signs of spring: buds on trees, sprouts coming up from the ground or new creatures about. Initiate a game of "I Spy with My Little Eye" to encourage others to look around. Keep a running tally of certain flowers, buds, trees or critters.
Bring along some trash bags and rubber gloves and take time to clean up the woods. There are multiple community, county and state-wide efforts working to regularly clean up our natural environments. Search online for an effort to join, or help organize one in your area.