Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Very busy the next couple of weeks

It’s going to be a very busy few weeks. I’m helping plan a major camping trip and that’s going to take up a lot of time. I will try to blog a bit, and I’m jotting down ideas for some great upcoming blog posts. Here’s what’s coming up that I have so far:

– dealing with Mosquitos in a few different ways
– speaking of bugs – how to avoid making them creepy
– proper clothing for sunny days and avoiding dehydration
– using art to discover nature

And more, as I find new and exciting things. Stay tuned.

Frogs are green contest

Just a quick post to share the Frogs are green art contest.  This is a program that helps kids learn about amphibians and how to protect them.  It’s for kids aged 3 – 12.

More info can be found here

Garden update

Our garden is beginning to thrive.  Our little guy likes going in with his “scooper shovel” and helping to dig around in the dirt with us.  He helped plant the seeds and we’re pointing out the plants that are coming up.  So far, we’re seeing evidence of radishes, peas and carrots (and one lonely bean plant).  I think it’s really important for kids to know where their food comes from and it’s delicious to eat vegetables you grow yourself (plus, my wife wanted a garden – I’m pretty lazy when it comes to gardens and I like the idea, she took the initiative and bought the stuff).

The seasonal wisdom blog published a bigger article today of five reasons kids should garden.  I agree with them on all points and I suggest that you take a read here.

Summer is here!

The first day of summer is here!

School will soon be out and kids everywhere will be heading to summer camps and other things that parents have signed them up for to provide child care while they are out of school. Many parents have taken some kind of summer vacation but, our system isn’t really set up for that. Most people get only three weeks of vacation time a year which doesn’t really coincide with the eight weeks most kids get off.

So, off the kids go to various summer camps, day camps, hockey lessons (I still don’t quite get those in the summer) and, more often than not, to their basements to play video games.

Let’s focus on the positive for a few moments though, shall we? Finding the right summer camp. I should let’s you know that I’m in the summer camp business, there’s your disclaimer, so I’m really biased to my type of camp. But here are the things that you should be looking for in a nature based summer camp:

First, it should focus on nature. When I look at the average camp brochure these days, I notice that a lot of them are computer camps, sports camps and sometimes even fitness camps. A nature based camp will focus on games and learning about nature. Ask the camp director what sorts of activities your children will be doing. If all you hear are soccer, canoeing and games and there is nothing about free time with nature, look elsewhere.

Next, it should be in a natural area. While I think there is value in the community based day camp, if it doesn’t go to at least a natural park, it’s not going to expose your kids to nature.

Finally, residential camps are better than day camps, especially for o Oder kids. Day camps don’t offer the chance for kids to learn about stars, experience sleeping in a tent or really internalize the nature experience. They’re good if nothing else is available, but they’re not as good.

Please, if you get a chance, send your kids to camp. There are few experiences that are as transformative as a good summer camp experience. Plus, it will give your family something to chat about around the campfire.

Simple pleasures

On Saturday, I took my son for a picnic in the park.  We didn’t get all complicated about it with a basket and a blanket.  We went to the local convenience store, bought hot dogs and chocolate milk and sat on the grass.  We looked for birds and squirrels.  We saw the ducks.  We didn’t get too deep into the reason why we were out there, we just enjoyed being outside.

Then I taught him how to roll down a hill.

I should probably mention that my son is three and I’m in my mid 30s.  It’s likely been fifteen years since the last time I rolled down a hill (at least ten).  We had so much fun!  There was lots of giggling and laughing.  There was an awful lot of “again daddy!”  We must have rolled down that hill in the middle of town twenty times.

Eventually we had to go home, but the next time we see a hill in the middle of a park, I know what we’ll be doing!  Creating memories and teaching that there is more fun to be had outside than inside.  Naw – we’ll just be having fun rolling down a hill!

Hockey, nice evenings and nature

As I’m writing this, I understand that game 7 of the Stanley Cup is on. I know that because my twitter feed is all a twitter with people “cheering” for the game. I don’t think I’ve seen as many people excited about hockey since the series in the early 90s when it looked like the Leafs were going to play the Habs in the finals. How does that connect? I listened to the final game of that series on the radio while sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows. I distinctly remember the game ending, turning the radio off and looking at the stars. I suspect that, tonight, most people will watch with their kids, turn off the tv and go to bed.

So – here is a challenge to you all. When the game ends tonight, take your kids outside for a second and show them the big dipper (if this was winter, when hockey is supposed to be played, I would suggest Orion – my favorite constellation). Talk about the full moon and how earlier today there was a lunar eclipse. Help them connect a memory that will just be about their team winning (or losing) with a natural experience and they will remember it forever.

Leaf Snap

I used to be one of those people who thought that tech had no place in the wilderness. Slowly, that has begun to change. A big reason is apps like Leaf Snap. This really cool app allows you to use the camera on your iPhone, iPod touch or ipad to take a photo of a tree leaf and it will identify the tree for you. Right now, it’s Eastern US only, but as a proof of concept, it’s a great idea!

Good tech can be a great way of engaging the video gamers in your family. I’m going to check out some more as we move forward.

Garden update

Wanted to give you a quick garden update this morning. Checked on the garden and we have a nice row of radishes going. Exciting news.

Out in the garden

My wife and I put in a garden this past weekend. It’s a great way to not only teach out son about where food comes from, but also how to dig in the dirt and appreciate being outdoors. Not that it’s that hard for him to appreciate being outdoors. He’s been outdoors his whole life. We go for walks in our neighbourhood (currently a summer camp, but it’s also been an urban area, a cottage and a city from time to time. We spot trees and local animals. We smell leaves. What we don’t often do it travel somewhere else to find nature. Nature is all around us – it’s not something that you have to drive a long way to go see. When I was growing up in Toronto, we used to go explore the ravines and the local parks. We’d dig on the beach and skip stones. I believe that it was those experiences that led me to have a passionate connection with nature and that those experiences still exist today, if only we would allow our children to do them.

David Suzuki just wrote a great article about backyard nature in his blog – he says that we need a new kind of NIMBY – Nature in my backyard. I agree and have been saying so for the past few years. If we could just convince people to head out into their backyards and look for the local species that are already out there – the birds and bugs, the plants and animals – we would be much father ahead in helping kids to get out of the basements and outdoors into nature.

Having a family garden plot is a great first step to that goal. Plant some easy crops – our radishes are already coming up! I should point out that we’re not really gardeners, so this will be a work in progress. It’s just one way that I’m hoping to be able to help you get your kids outdoors.

That’s what this blog is really all about – easy ways for you to get your kids into nature. Over the next few months, years, days and weeks, I’ll be sharing some of what I’ve learned, some ideas that I’ve picked up along the way and neat new things that I notice that just might work. I’ll likely also get up on my soapbox from time to time and I’ll share just why nature is important. Hopefully you’ll come along for the ride.

A day at the zoo

I actually wrote this a few months back and never got around to posting it:

A great way to get kids interested in nature is to tIe them to the zoo. It’s fun for all ages and you can, likely, learn about local species in a controlled environment. By getting an idea, up front, about what you should be looking for on your nature walks you’ll greatly increase your chances of actually seeing something when you’re out. Most zoos have a local species area (the Calgary zoo even has local trees!) and, far too often, these areas are ignored by the public in favour of exotic areas featuring lions, tigers and zebras ( admit it, you thought I was going to say bears, oh my). My experience shows that these areas are less crowded and that a child is just as excited to see a moose as they are to see a giraffe. What a great place to explore together!

Here are some ideas to try while you are at the zoo:

– try sketching one of the animals – make sure that you note the features
– try sitting near an animal habitat and listening – Many open air habitats attract local birds, etc
– look for misplaced species – today we saw deer mice in with the monkeys
– try to guess the animals without looking at the signs using field guides
– make sure that you visit at least one exotic species – and compare features

So – the zoo, an easy place to share a bit of local nature