Swap Screen Time for Nature Time

screentimeBetween TVs, phones, and computers, the average American child spends seven hours a day in front of a screen. Some of that is educational material, but still, it’s time for kids and adults to trade in some screen time for some real-world outdoor fun, especially before winter kicks in. The outdoors is too much fun to ignore!

  • Fall is a great time to get outside and make crafts from what you find in your own backyard—gather pine cones, twisty twigs, rocks, fallen leaves, etc. to make fun fall décor like wreaths and table art.
  • Bust out the chalk! Let your kids turn your sidewalk and driveway into their own versions of Picasso paintings or superheroes. Play hopscotch, sketch out mazes, or create oversized tic-tac-toe boards for some friendly competition.
  • Use strategically placed deck chairs and old sheets to create backyard forts. If you really want to give your kids a template for creating their own backyard hideaway, think about getting a geometric dome climber—not only is it ideal for climbing, draping it with sheets turns it into a geodesic tent. Use more old sheets to create a (securely tied!) hammock or two, and the dome turns into a home away from home.
  • Hold a scavenger hunt in your own backyard, complete with clues and the occasional hidden treasure. Now that the kids have their textbooks, give them a jump on their studies by pulling the clues from what they’ll eventually be learning.
  • If your kids are avid storytellers, ask them what the backyard insects and other critters are up to. Why is that squirrel rushing around? Is the bee heading back to the hive, or does she have other places to go before heading home? Who’s the grasshopper’s best friend? If your kids like to write or draw, not only will making up nature-based stories boost their creativity, they might come up with characters they want to flesh out on paper. Maybe they’ll dreamup the next Antz or Zootopia!
  • Thinking about having a garden next year? Get your kids involved in what they’d like to grow, whether that’s veggies or herbs or decorative flowers. A plan-now, harvest-next-year project will help kids see how to set long-term goals and then enjoy the rewards down the road.
  • Check out your nearest nature center or state park to see what’s on their calendar—they often have activities geared towards kids. Local nature societies sometimes host walks through local wooded parks to talk about native plants or go birdwatching, too, and community centers and libraries also offer nature-based programs.
  • For some hands-on indoor nature, the next time you buy raw sunflower seeds to snack on, have your kids plant a few seeds in a small pot on the windowsill. Not only is it fun to watch the sprouts come up, it’s a great way to connect food with farming. (And it’s a great way to see if the seeds are really raw, because if they aren’t, they won’t sprout.) You can eventually transplant the seedling to a bigger pot…or you can add the sprouts to your next salad or sandwich and start the process over again.

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