Thursday

Buddy Bison's Yellowstone Adventure Book Review + More Outdoor-Inspired Books for the Whole Family

The fact that his book includes a Bison makes it a hit in my house. My kids have been playing with their stuffed Buddy Bisons from the National Park Trust for almost a year. I think they took to them especially well because we live in Oklahoma and we get to see wild bison from time to time. When we received a book with him as the main character they were excited. And Buddy Bison's Yellowstone Adventure is Buddy's debut appearance in a book.

Here's what I love.

  • Celebrates the history of our National Park Service and our very first National Park. 
  • Great introduction on what to expect at Yellowstone National Park and explains some of the phenomenons the kids will see. For example, the steam from the hydrothermal vents is not smoke from a wild fire. 
  • Lots of fun facts about Yellowstone woven into the story. This was my favorite aspect of the book. 
  • Explains some of the science behind what kids see when visiting the park. For example, why are there so many different colors in the hot springs. Don't worry, it is on a level most elementary kids can understand. 
  • The book uses real pictures along with illustrations. Yellowstone is very beautiful and deserves to be highlighted. 
  • There are suggestions at the back of the book for protecting the park during your visit. Most of them are just good ideas for visiting parks in general. 

What I would change. 

  • The first time I read the book I wan't super impressed with the story. But after reading it again I realized it gave me to perfect opportunity to talk to my kids about wandering off during our park visits. So I guess there isn't really anything I would change but this was one of my first impressions. 
I highly recommend the book for anyone planning a trip to Yellowstone with their kids. But it would also be wonderful for people who want to connect their kids to the larger National Parks but who can't visit in person.

I love reading almost as much as I love the outdoors. We spend quite a bit of time outdoors in the winter but I still miss the green of the spring, summer, and fall. Books are a great way to get more "outdoor" time when and always lift my spirits. Here are some of my favorite books so far.

For the Kids: 

  • Goodnight, Campsite by Loretta Sponsler - This book introduces kids to all types of camping and campers. 
  •  Let It Fall by Maryann Cocca-Leffler - Easy read with fun pictures. 
  • Animals Everywhere by Simon Abbott - This book covers different types of animals by ecosystem. Both of my kids really love this book. 

For the OutdoorsMom(or dad):

For the Nature-Lover:

For the Adventurer:

The mark of any good adventure story is not just the thrilling tales but it leaves you with a sense that you can make your own adventures and dreams happen despite your circumstances. Life is an adventure and good can be found. I know I have mentioned these books before but after all my reading they are still my favorites. 
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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

    Monday

    DIY Tic-Tac-Toe Valentines (free printable)

    Valentine's Day is my least favorite holiday but the kids love it so I play nice. In a effort to reduce the waste associated with Valentine's Day I decided to upcycle and make our valentines from an old t-shirt and rocks we collected during outdoor play. Please check out the bottom of the post for a collection of upcycled and nature-inspired valentines from my fellow bloggers.

    Where Families Are The Focus

    The outdoor industry focuses very little on families. Most advertisements feature fit young men and some women, many times athletes, doing high-adventure activities. I am not saying those athletes don't deserve attention for their accomplishments, they do; but the industry as a whole could do better at reaching a larger demographic.

    REI has even gone so far as to move all infant and toddler gear to online sales starting fall 2016. I am not trying to be critical of REI. I understand they have to make sound business decisions. But it is just further proof that the younger generation is not experiencing the outdoors as much as they need to.

    So where do families look for support in their outdoor adventures? In addition to bloggers ;), Outdoor Families magazine is focusing solely on families and encouraging them to build lasting relationships and memories through spending time outdoors.

    The magazine caters to all types of families.They bring inspirational stories to light, offer tips for successful family outdoor adventures, highlight gear for kids and give a voice to families who love the outdoors.

    Here are my favorite article from the past year.

    To celebrate this 1 year anniversary Outdoor Families Magazine is hosting the Sand and Surf Family Adventure Giveaway. One luck family of three will win a free 6-night vacation. Head on over and enter.

    Tuesday

    Top 10 Nature-Inspired, Candy-Free Valentines

    Valentine's Day is my least favorite holiday. I get tired of all the candy (we still have some left over from Halloween that I need to throw away) and I hate all the waste associated with Valentines. So I gathered up a few ideas that reduce waste (you can plant the paper with the seed in the Forget-Me-Not valentines, etc.), inspire kids to get outdoors (lots of encouragement to garden here) or just give the kids something they will actually play with our use as opposed to eat and throw away. So whether you are into DIY valentines or just print and cut, there is something here for everyone.

    1. Forget-Me-Not Valentines from OutdoorsMom. Just make a "glue" out of flour and water and add seeds. Seeds can be planted attached to the paper. 
       
    2. DIY Recycled Seed Paper Heart Valentine from jamonkey. These require a little more work. I have made seed paper and it does take time and a little patients. 
    3. Nature-Inspired Valentines from Wilder Child. Very cute and easy. 
    4. Seed Packet Valentines from Arts & Crackers. I love valentines that encourage kids to get outdoors. 
    5. Rockin' Valentines from Rain or Shine Mamma. You could collect rocks from outdoors and have your kids paint them if you don't want to buy them. 
    6. Bee My Valentine from Polka Dot Chair. A huge pack of Bumblebee Erasers (aff. link) is very inexpensive from Amazon. I love gifts that are practical and it doesn't get more practical than erasers for school kids. 

    7. Love Bug Valentines from Nature For Kids. These Insect Finger Puppets (aff. link) would be so fun or you could go with a simple plastic Bugs (aff. link) as pictured below.

    8. Nature Valentines from The Nature Conservancy. These are buy far the easiest; just print, cut and sign. 
    9. Zoo Valentines from The Blue Ribbon Cottage. These Little Zoo Animals (aff. link) are perfect and inexpensive or you could do these Mini Zoo Animal Erasers (aff. link).

    10. Wood You Be Mine. I found this one on Pinterest and thought is was very cute. There isn't a blog post or website besides Flikr so you will have to create your own label but I did find these Wood Ballpoint Pens (aff. link). So fun.
    Remember to be kind to Mother Earth and recycle all the paper valentines you can!

    Pin It For Later!

    Looking for more inspiration for your Valentine's Day activities? Look no further.

    Top 10 Eco Friendly Valentine’s Day Crafts from Nemcsok Farm
    Top 10 Valentine Keepsake Gifts from Rhythms of Play
    Top 10 Free Printable Valentines from Our Whimsical Days
    Top 10 Valentine’s Day Dinner Dates with Kids from Our Good Life
    Top 10 Valentine’s Day Treats from The Resourceful Mama
    Top 10 Heart Crafts for Preschoolers from Powerful Mothering
    Top 10 Valentine’s Day Sensory Bins from Still Playing School
    Top 10 Valentine’s Day Sensory Bottles from Little Bins for little Hands
    Top 10 Candy Experiments for Kids from Lemon Lime Adventures

    Top 10 Free Printable Valentines for Boys from Preschool Powol Packets

    Thursday

    Bins, Buckets & Beyond: The Complete Guide to Camping Organization

    A large part of any activity being fun for me is organization. I have found this is especially true for camping. Camping is a lot of work with a family and the more organized I keep my gear and planning, the easier it is to prepare for our trips. And on the flip side, the more organized I keep things at the campsite, the less I have to do when we get home. Here are the best tips I use and information I found on keeping camping trips organized.

    At Home

    These ideas help keep camping equipment clean and organized at your house. But if gear is organized at home it will most likely serve you well at the campsite too. Bonus: Restock used up items when you return home from your trip. Makes getting ready for the next one much easier and you are less likely the forget something.
    • Buckets: I keep our odds and ends organized in buckets. I love them because buckets can be used as extra seating, they keep gear protected because they are water proof and durable and can be used to carry water. The disadvantage is the shape. The round shape isn't as bad during storage at home but sometimes it make packing the car a little more tricky. 
    • Bins: If you have the space, this is an amazing way to organize for camping. Use as many or as few tubs are you need. I just recommend buying good quality tubs. They will take a beating on your trips and you don't want them cracking and falling apart after only a few uses. 
      Source
    • Tool Organizer: Another brilliant way to organize camping essentials. This one is the Stanley FatMax (aff. link). When our buckets wear out I will be doing this. I love that it doesn't have to be on a table to be useful. 
      Source
    • DIY Camp Kitchen Chuck Box: For the hardcore DIYers out there, this one is for you. 
      Source
    • When we pack up at the end of our trip we clean out the tent so we won't have to do it when we get home. It takes us longer to get packed up to leave, but I feel like we save time over all because we don't have reset up the tent when we get home. If there is a lot of dew on the tent we wipe it off the best we can with a towel, pack up everything else and go for a hike. We generally bring a hand towel for this purpose. When I had a smaller tent it didn't bother be cleaning it when we got home. 

    Planning The Trip

    • The Ultimate Family Camping Checklist - I used to forget something every time we went camping until I started using a checklist. I was a little arrogant and I thought I didn't need one because I had been camping so much. I was wrong. It is no fun camping without an essential item. 
    • 8 Space Saving Tips For Family Car Camping - This is one of my most popular post and has lots of ideas for cutting back on the amount of stuff you have to bring on your trips. 
    • 5 Ways to Simplify Your Next Camping Trip - Camping trips don't have to be long or at an exotic location to be memorable. If camping close to home means you can go more often, then stay close to home. More ideas in this post that will make camping less stressful. 
    • Camping with Kids: The Essentials - If you are new to camping with kids here are a few things to consider as you are planning. The first time we went camping with our toddler we left the stroller at home and didn't bring a high chair. Mistake! It is very nice to have a place to put the child, with a snack, while you pack and unpack. 
      A small walker is a great way to keep toddlers happy. They can mover around a bit and have a tray for eating. Takes up less room than a stroller too. 
    • Tips for Finding New-To-You Recreation Areas - Feeling blah about your go-to camping spot or have you recently moved to a new area? Here are a few of the resources to help you find new campsites.
    • The Complete Guide To Campfires - Campfires are one of my favorite aspects of camping but they can be a pain if you don't plan ahead. Like the time we showed up to our camp ground to find the office had closed EARLY, like 3 p.m. instead of 5 early. Therefor, we didn't have anywhere to purchase firewood and our meal that night had to be cooked over the fire. No fun! We ended up having to drive back to town, 30 miles round trip, and had a very late dinner. If you are camping in the off-season, call the park ahead of time and make sure you are going to be able to get what you need. 
    • Tips for Creating Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & on a Budget - The name speaks for itself. We have been able to see some pretty cool places just by following these tips. We visited the Petrified Forest National Park two Christmas's ago on our way to see family. 
      Large petrified log.

    On The Road

    • Thule - We have the Thule 846 Quest Rooftop Cargo Bag (aff. link). We use it for light weigh items like sleeping bags and pads. We feel like it not only saves space but time as well because we do not have to fit items individually into the car. We load it in the house or tent then transfer to the roof. This particular bag is not waterproof (they do have bags that are). We just wrap the items in 32-33 Gallon Contractor Bags (aff. link), not trash bags, and they stay dry. We reuse the bags; they are very durable. 

    • Trailer - Rent or buy if you are going on a LONG trip. Makes the car ride more comfortable. 
    • Road Trip Hacks for Kids - Not all of these will work for camping but a lot will. My favorite are these window caddies. Why didn't I think of that?
      Source

    At The Campsite

    I will admit, it can be hard to keep things organized at the campsite but it is possible. Here are the best tips I could find.
    • Shoe organizer turned camp kitchen. They recommend using a plastic organizer because it is more durable and somewhat waterproof. I would disagree. Plastic would hold water and the entire thing would have to be emptied out and hung upside down to dry. Cloth would be able to dry on its own and could be washed in the washing machine. Either option is a great idea.
      Source
    • Camp Shower Lanyard: I have been in more camp showers that I care to count and I wish I would have had this in every single one. Make it fun and let the kids pick out the different items in their favorite colors. She made her own lanyard but a store bought one could work too. 
      Source
    • Organizing the Tent: This is one of my most popular pins in Pinterest. I wish I could say our tent was always this organized, but I admit it usually isn't. I find the most important items for keeping our tent organized are a Whitmor Mesh Laundry Bag (aff. link) and a clothes bag that allows easy access. Digging through a bag to find what I need it annoying and I never get things reorganized. I love using my backpacking pack because it has great access and plenty of compartments for keeping things organized. Plus, if it gets dirty I don't mind.
    • Over 20 Ideas That Will Make Your Next Camping Trip Amazing! Fun post with lots of good ideas for organization and more. For our next trip we will be trying the Mystical Fire Flame Colorant (aff. link). Not related to organization but fun none-the-less. 
      Source
    Your turn. What are your best ideas for organizing for camping trips?


    Wednesday

    Goodnight, Campsite (book review)

    There isn't much better than a GOOD book about something you love and it was very obvious after reading Goodnight, Campsite to my son that he loves camping. The first words out of his mouth were "Let's read that again!".

    Goodnight, Campsite (aff. link) explores different types of camping and campers. The result is a book that can open up new activities and types of camping to young readers. Not only did my kids get to read about something they love, it gave us an opportunity to talk about aspects of camping we have not explored yet.
    The book is written for preschoolers but my kindergartner loved it as well. He became a little obsessed with the campground talked about in the book. I had to keep explaining that it was a pretend campground. My daughter just kept asking to go camping; all weekend!

    Why I like this book.
    • Introduces kids to different types of camping. We only tent camp at this point but I hope to backpack as some day. This was a fun way to introduce it to my kids. 
    • Introduces kids to different camping activities. We have never taken our bikes camping and my son thought is was a little crazy to ride bikes over rocks. I told him it is actually a lot of fun and that we would try to take them on our next camping trip. 
    • Activity while reading the book. There is a squirrel on every page of the book. Sometimes he is obvious and sometimes he is not. Either way the kids had fun trying to find him. 
    • Activity for your next camping trip. Can't have too many activities for camping trips in my opinion, especially ones that don't require much equipment. All you have to do is print out the bingo cards at the back of the book. 

    Both the author, Loretta Sponsler, and the illustrator, Olga Shevchenko, are avid outdoor adventurers. Loretta has traveled all over the United States with her family pulling their RV and exploring nature's wonders. She is very excited to help others discover the joys of camping. You can find more about the author, illustrator and the book on their website Goodnight, Campsite.

    All around I am very excited to have this book in my library. The kids love looking at the pictures. I love reading about one of my favorite activities. And it gets us all in the mood to go camping.

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book to facilitate this review but all opinions are my own.

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