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Outdoor Activities for Families

photo of child with log boatCreating

Nature Weaves: Want to create a craft of interesting things you find in nature?  You can build a simple loom frame with twigs tied at the corners with yarn shaped in a square or rectangle.  A square loom about four inches by four inches is a good start, although you can make your loom as large as you want.  Next you wrap the yarn around the loom, from top to bottom, wrapping it tightly around the sticks then across the frame.  Leave a small space between each piece of yarn, about ¼ of an inch.  Now go for a nature walk and pick up anything fallen on the ground that looks interesting to you.  Some things that are great to pick up are fallen leaves, cones, flowers and feathers.  Once you have a couple handfuls of interesting things, go back to your loom and weave your items through the yarn.  You now will have a beautiful nature weave!  Tie a loop of yarn at the top, and you can hang it up. 

Nature Homes:  Animals that live in the forest have homes in trees, under rocks, and even underground.  You can have some fun creating a nature home for an animal you imagine.  Picture an animal that you may find in the forest—maybe a special kind of small mammal, a bird, a reptile or even an amphibian.  What kinds of things would this animal want in a house?  Gather some materials to build your house: sticks, rocks, leaves, moss, and pine cones are some great building materials.  Build a small house in a special spot for your animal.  When you are done, share your house with your family and friends. 

Make a Map: Where is your special place?  How can you describe this place to other people?  One great way is to create a map of the place.  Grab some paper, crayons, markers and pencils and draw all the details of why your place is so special to you.  Share your map with your friends and family and inspire them to make a map of their special places. 


Nature Walking:  Pack some magnifying lenses, snacks and water in a backpack and head into the field or forest.  Take your time, stopping along the way to examine things closely with the magnifying lens.  Stop and have a picnic in a sunny spot and discuss the things you have seen.  Here are some things to look for: footprints in the mud or snow, butterflies, grasshoppers, interesting tree bark, rock walls, good smells.  Talk about the things you have seen and shared while you eat your snack.  It is less important to identify what you discover, than it is to ask questions and make observations together.  

Sky Watching: When was the last time you saw a cloud that really looked like something?  If it has been awhile, it is time to do some sky watching.  The great thing about the sky is that it is always changing and it is always interesting.  On a warm day, lie down in the grass and watch clouds go by.  At night, you can bundle up a little bit and do the same thing, except look at the stars.  Even if you do not know constellations, it is fun to watch for falling stars.

Sunset Study:  Take the time on any day to sit and watch the sunset.  You can watch red and purple fade to gold and pink as you say goodbye to another day.  Every sunset is unique and worth watching.  For fun, you can create a sunset diary where you can record the time of the sunset and the interesting things about the show that evening. 


Bug Discovery:  Use those old plastic containers to scoop up a few insects to observe.  If you have magnifying lenses take a close look at the insects you found.  If you do not want to touch the insects, instead you can have a bug race.  Have children count the number of insects they can find in an area in five minutes.  After the race, have the children share the insects they found by pointing them out to everyone else. 

Watching Birds:  Find a spot that is comfortable to sit in the woods or in a forest edge.  If you sit very quietly, eventually birds will come along to sing, call and feed near you.  In Vermont you are likely to see Black-capped Chickadees, Red and White-breasted Nuthatches, or Dark-eyed Juncos.  It is delightful to watch birds fly around you, to listen to them call, and to watch them look for food.  If it is difficult to sit still long enough for birds to come near you, you can watch squirrels and chipmunks scurry around you instead.  Increase your chances of seeing squirrels by sitting near pine, spruce, or oak trees. 

Looking Under Logs:  Would you like to lift the lid on a secret world of the forest?  Lift up logs and you can find all sorts of things from ants to salamanders.  You may find slugs, insect eggs, fungi, millipedes, and beetles.  Please handle these creatures carefully and replace the log and the creatures when you are done.  If you have a magnifying lens, take a close look at what you find.  There are many interesting things living under logs. 


Pick Pocket Tag:  Place a strip of cloth so it is hanging out of a back pocket of all participants except for the person designated as “it.”  The person who is “it” must grab a strip out of someone’s back pocket, and that person will become “it.”  If this is very challenging for a younger group, you can designate more than one person to be “it.”

Kick the Can:  Similar to hide and seek, one person is “it” in this game and everyone else hides.  There is a tin can located in a central area.  The person who is “it” counts to 20 and everyone else hides.  When people are found they are “out.” “Out” people stand together in one designated area.  If someone is not found, they can run in and kick the can.  Kicking the can frees everyone who was previously “out” and everyone can quickly hide again. You need to be sneaky to kick the can in this game, because if the “it” person sees you, you will be out too.  This is a fun game to play in a field area with some clumps of shrubs and trees, or even in a wooded area. 

Flashlight Tag:  What is more fun than mixing hide and seek with tag?  Playing them at night!  For flashlight tag, one person is "it" and they count to 20 while everyone else hides. Then, armed with a flashlight, the “it” person searches for the others who may be switching hiding spots. The flashlight must remain on at all times and may not be covered. When the "it" person spots someone, they must use the flashlight to identify them and call out their name. When a person is caught, the flashlight is passed to the caught person, so they become "it."


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