Nature Is The Answer!

So if nature is the answer, what is the question. Here are just a few examples:

Q1: What will help your child better focus in school?

Q2: What will help your child develop gross and fine motor skills?

Q3: What allows kids to develop their imaginations?

Q4: When kids spend time here their social skills are improved?

This post isn't filled with the latest scientific research. It isn't suggesting that nature is the answer to every problem. But it is meant as encouragement to take a break from our tech-immersed, fast-pace world and reconnect with what really matters. The benefits may surprise you.

We, as a society, spend a TON of money on educational apps and toys, sensory bins, elaborate playgrounds and vacations for our kids. I am not saying those things are bad. But I am saying that if we just simply take our kids outside we won't need as much stuff, our kids will be a little happier and we will all be a little wealthier.
Kids making nature bracelets last month.
Please don't get me wrong, if you are doing those things for your kids it means you love them and want what's best for them. You are working hard to give them everything you think they need to lead happy and productive lives. But do they really need all the stuff? This is something I have been thinking about for a while. I even have a series of posts with suggestions for outdoors activities that don't need extra equipment.

I see A LOT of blog posts and news articles recommending educational apps. There are apps for everything. You can hand your child your phone and they can improve their writing, speaking, geography or math skills. So many of us believe the time kids are spending on technology is beneficial just because it is educational. If they are learning it must be good. Right? I think we may be wrong.

I don't think that technology is altogether bad. It definitely serves a purpose and has some benefits. It is easier than ever to find information and, lets be honest, it is a lot of fun. And fun is needed. But do our children really need more information? Do they need to spend every minute of the day "learning"? NO! Playing is learning for kids.

I am a big fan of sensory bins. as long as they are full of sand and outdoors. Individuals and schools are spending time and resources to come up with elaborate sensory bins. In reality I think we should just spend our time and effort taking kids outdoors and cleaning them up afterwards. Let them dig in the dirt, climb trees and get dirty. Most of the skills they need will come and playing outdoors is a great way to practice. Invest the money in proper clothing so our kids can play outdoors in any weather.

On the home front. If your family is feeling the stress of everyday life and of running the kids from one activity to another? Take some time for nature. Take time to get away from the everyday stresses and reconnect. You can hike, camp, or visit free sites in any city. You don't need to spend a lot of money to have a wonderful time as a family, especially when your kids are young.

Now, just to clarify. Spending time outdoors is not a fix-all. Even though I think we are over-diagnosing kids with ADHD and similar disorders; they are still real and no amount of time spent outdoors will make them go away. But I do believe our kids will be happier, better adjusted and more successful if they just have time to play outdoors. If kids with ADHD are not finding ways to manage their condition in a healthy way, they will do it in unhealthy ways.

What benefits have you and your family experienced from spending time outdoors?

If you need some inspiration for outdoor activities, follow by Kid - Outdoor Activities Pinterest board!
Follow Mae @ OutdoorsMom's board Kids - Outdoor Activities on Pinterest.


Running Is Totally For Me (book review)

As some of you may know, I reached a goal I set for myself this past April by running my first 5K. Let me tell you, it felt amazing to accomplish something other than laundry or house cleaning. I am by no means an avid runner, I am more of an avid hiker, but I have continued to run and I haven't found anything that compares to a "runner's high". I don't think running is for everyone but I do think everyone can and should find ways to have fun being active. And this is exactly what the book Running Is Totally For Me is about.

The book starts out with the main character, Madi, plainting (her favorite activity). But she decides she wants to be more active and sets out to try a variety of activities with various friends. As you probably already guessed, she finds running to be her favorite activity.

My kids related to the book because they had tried many of the activities and wanted to talk about them. I loved that I got to learn more about what they love and perhaps want to try in the future. My kids are young so I am in the mode of introducing them to different types of activities.

One message that I appreciated from this book is that it shows kids they can be good at multiple activities. Madi loves painting but she can also love running and makes time for both. Variety leads to a full and fun life. Kids need opportunities to explore and try new things.

The BEST part of this book is that it's a call to action. It doesn't matter what you love, just that you find it and do your best.

But the book doesn't stop there. The author, Cassie, has put together a couple activities to actually get your kids moving and thinking. Head over to Totally For Me and check them out. We chose to play the dice game. The kids had fun but we added a twist of our own. On the blank die we drew in our own activities; jumping jacks, somersaults, skipping, etc. Just a fun mix of activities to get the kids moving. The kids even kept playing after I was finished.
My daughter kicking a soccer ball.
Last note, Cassie is a local Oklahoman and I love supporting women who are getting out their, making their dreams happen and encouraging us to do the same. You can find more about her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She has planned a lot of fun events associated with the book launch this week; Periscope readings, giveaways and Q&As. Head over to the Book's Facebook page and join in.

Cassie is also offering a special price on the book this week, $7.99 instead of $9.99. Use the code Launch (case sensitive) from 9/28 thru 10/3 to purchase your copy.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge to facilitate this review but all opinions are my own.


Camping With Kids: The Essentials

Can you remember the first family camping trip with your kid? Ours was very memorable in many ways. We had fun but it ended up being colder than we were planning. My son slept maybe 3 hours and that only came after crying (we did try to put him down early so our fellow campers didn't have to listen to crying late at night). Trying to set up camp was a challenge as my son didn't realize the dangers of the road and to top it off the ranger station was closed when we arrived so we couldn't buy wood. Funny enough, all these year later I laugh about the struggles and smile about the good times.
Camping With Kids: The Essentials
He slept on the way home because he didn't sleep the night before. 
Thankfully we didn't give up despite set backs and we have gotten a lot better at planning and executing our trips. Camping as a family has brought more unexpected "adventures" than I ever thought possible. I love camping but my husband, on the other hand, isn't as big of a fan. Honestly he hates it, but we still camp fairly regularly so I can't complain. Lucky for me he realized early on that there is something special about spending time as a family in nature and away from technology (you can read more about that here). But we, me especially, had to learn a "new" way to camp and have had to make a few adjustments. Here is how we have learned to make our trips more fun and less stressful.

Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft

It is the time of year when many nuts and seeds are starting to show their faces and, if your kids are anything like mine they are always collecting them. Right now I am just trying to get them to carry the items in their pockets instead of always handing them off to me. Can you relate? I love watching them collect but this year I thought I would take it a step further by sneaking some learning into their outdoor play? After all, our kids should experience the fun of learning.

One aspect of collecting is helping our kids notice differences; but, there are reasons why seeds and nuts have their specific shapes, sizes and colors. These simple activities are designed to help you and your kids understand some of those differences. Except for the craft, you don't need any special equipment.
Nature Walk: Seed and Nut Hunt + Craft

Activity 1: How many different types of seeds and nuts can you find?

This activity is pretty straight forward and very easy for kids. Bring a bag for collection or a camera to take pictures of the different seeds and nuts. Remember that some nature centers do not allow the collection of plants.


20 After School, Outdoor Activities

My son only gets one 30 minute recess per 7 hour school day. Personally, I think this is very pathetic. Kids need time to play outdoors; and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Some of my favorite articles right now on this subject are Green Schoolyards as Havens from Stress and The Decline of Play in Preschoolers - And the Rise of Sensory Issues.

It is obvious my son isn't going to get much outdoor time at school; so, I am extremely committed to spending some time after school or in the evening outdoors. The easiest way for us to do this is to visit local parks/playgrounds or play in our own yard. But honestly my kids get a little board sometimes if there aren't other kids to play with. So I have to come up with activities that keep them interested in being outdoors and aren't much work for me. Here are a few of our favorites, so far.

1) Go on a playground scavenger hunt. Or try a nature scavenger hunt.
2) Race toy cars down the slides.
20 After School, Outdoor Activities
3) Collect & Sort: A Spring Nature Walk or what ever season it happens to be.
20 After School, Outdoor Activities
4) Make a video for grandparents. Our parents don't live close and they just love watching videos of the children playing.
5) Have a water gun fight. Easier than all the clean-up from water balloons, not as much work as going to the pool and more environmentally friendly.
20 After School, Outdoor Activities
6) Make homemade Popsicles or hot chocolate (depending on the season) for a park visit treat.
20 After School, Outdoor Activities
7) Create an obstacle course using the playground equipment. Race or just see if the kids can make it through the course.
20 After School, Outdoor Activities
8) Bring binoculars & bird watch. Some of the time birds are close enough to see without binoculars.
9) Bring sidewalk chalk for tic-tac-toe or hop scotch.
10) Bubbles - you can never go wrong with bubbles!
11) Color hunt - pick a color & find as many items in that color as you can.
12) Have a pizza picnic - order your favorite pizza & eat it at a park.
20 After School, Outdoor Activities
13)  Explore trees in the spring, winter, summer, or fall. Help your kids notice how the trees changes with the seasons.
20 After School, Outdoor Activities
14) Pick up trash - may not be extremely fun but it teaches respect & responsibility. We always leave a place cleaner than we find it.
15) ABC game - find letters around the park; both on signs and shapes in the playground equipment.
16) Catch and release fireflies or butterflies.
20 After School, Outdoor Activities
17) Pick wildflowers, press and make sun catchers or bookmarks.
20 After School, Outdoor Activities
18) Go on a bug hunt.
19) Read a book.
20 After School Outdoor Activities
20) Make nature bracelets. We used duct tape and it held most of the items my kids collected.

Bonus - Play nature bingo. This is really cute.

What are you favorite activities while at the park?

20 After School, Outdoor Activities


The Complete Guide to Campfires

Campfires are one of the best parts of camping. I love the smell, the sounds and the food we cook over them. But there is an art to building the perfect campfire; it takes a little practice and patience. So whether you are a newbie or seasoned camper, use this guide to hone your campfire building skills.
Here is an overview of what you can find in this guide:
  • Fire Starters: Most wood you buy at the campground doesn't come with kindling or the small fuel needed to start a fire. This section pulls together a good variety of DIY and pre-made fire starters. This is something to prepare before you leave for the campground. 

Helping More Kids Get Outdoors!

My family and I spent the day at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in southern Oklahoma. We are only an hour and a half from this beautiful and unique park that we explored and enjoyed for FREE. We visited natural springs and waterfalls, spent time learning about native wildlife in the stunning visitor's center (I'm talking building that stretches across a creek with a wall of floor to ceiling windows for enjoying the view) and played in the cold, spring-fed creek (prefect for a hot summers day). But not every child has an opportunity to visit such amazing places. But for $5, the price of a Starbucks latte, you can be part of a grassroots movement and help children have a park experience who wouldn’t otherwise have one.


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