Archive | Green Hour A Day

Superpowers In The Forest

Kids will listen and absorb information when it’s fun and cool!  We learned about the animal (invertebrates to be exact) with super powers many years ago on a nature walk. My oldest son has never forgotten it because relating nature with identifiable facts is what keeps learning interesting for kids!  Here is a picture of what reminded us of superpowers in the forest – the most beautiful banana slug I’ve ever seen. We watched it move for 10 minutes..I couldn’t get over it’s size and how it was moving along the forest floor using it’s tentacles. It’s included in this short video narrated by Francesco who is 10 years old. All these years later he remembers and shares why slugs have superpowers!

Video – discover a super power during your next nature walk!

 

Francesco makes reference to licking a slug. He did this years ago with a parks board guide because slugs can numb gums and tongues. The native culture used this for toothaches. I wouldn’t recommend trying this unless you are sure the species of slugs is safe because I do know certain slugs contain parasites (black slugs) and you wouldn’t want to be licking that!  Banana slugs are perfect for gently trying the super glue fun with a finger!  Rub gently twice, wave finger in the air to make it tacky, pick up an item from the forest floor.  Guaranteed your child will never forget who has superpowers!

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Scavenger Hunt In The Woods

 

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Scavenger Hunt In The Woods

I’ve been wanting to plan a scavenger hunt for years!  It seems like the coolest way to keep kids entertained, spend time in nature, and host an outdoor themed party or activity. After hosting my son’s 10th birthday party and organizing a great scavenger hunt over the weekend, I realized that until you put your own special touch into the hunt, it becomes easier and fun to plan. I’m going to give you a cheat sheet so that you can organize a fun scavenger hunt quickly – even make it a fun weekend activity for the family. I discovered that scavenger hunts are a special way to unite older kids with nature and that is so important in this world where our kids seem too busy with sports and electronics to properly engage.

You first need to ask yourself, “what is your goal with the scavenger hunt?”  I wanted my son’s friends to be able to run free, climb, make noise, engage and learn during the scavenger hunt. When kids are enjoying themselves and have the opportunity to learn something, especially facts about nature, I think it’s magical. So my first task was to find a place that met the criteria for this scavenger hunt. My entire family went and walked through a park with old growth trees, lots of ponds and streams, an easy trail, and not super busy so that the hunt would be relatively un-interrupted. While we were walking through the trail where the hunt would be setup, I tried to find subtle things in nature that you would only notice if you were searching. .  . a field of baby ferns (snap – took a picture), a tree in the shape of a √ mark, a tree that looked like it had a face, a pipe sticking out of the earth, a distinctive toadstool, etc. Each mark along the forest I took pictures…more to remind myself of these clues once I got home.  Later these pictures would be printed and were the bonus items for the kids to ‘seek’ in the scavenger hunt.

So now I had a place where kids could explore water, climb, and run free. . . but I also know my audience and knew that might not be enough. If there’s one thing I’ve learned raising boys, a physical challenge or activity is always a great idea. I only did three of these activities, but wish I had done a couple more. They were by far the highlight for me to watch and the kids to complete.  I ripped up a sheet and a bolt of fabric and made fabric strips. These were used to mark the trees which look amazing in the forest! The fabric markers are great for the environment because they don’t cause damage to the trees and can easily be removed after the hunt is over. Each team was told to look for a different color of fabric so they didn’t mix-up their tasks. Here is how the fabric markers looked – I added a heart graphic because I love them.

When team 2 saw these green tree markers they knew a clue was nearby. At the base of three trees there were clues to:

1) Pickup a stack of burlap sacks under the clue, nominate 3 kids (there were 3 sacks) and these kids had to jump along the forest in the burlap sack until they reached the next clue. Watching the kids jump along the forest floor in their sacks was pretty awesome and a very popular activity!

2) At the next fabric marker, I left a tape measure under the clue card and the team had to measure the width of the tree and record the measurement in cm and inches.

3) The last marker was next to a creek with a fallen log. The team had to cross the log and if the person got even a drop of water on them…another team member had to complete the challenge. This was a big highlight too!

A few other ideas that would be great scavenger hunt activities are: have the team complete a leaf rubbing, measure an old growth tree with their bodies and count how many kids it takes to measure the tree, and/or remove the tree marker and select two kids to have a three-legged race to the next tree marker.  Here is a picture of some burlap sack racing along the forest from my son’s party:

 While each team was walking through the forest they had a book to record 4 sets of criteria: seek, find, listen, collect. It kept them busy and each team member kept passing around the check list of items to be searching for – great team work. Here are a few samples of my favorite from each category:

Seek!  It’s important to tell kids that items to seek should not be touched or removed from the forest.

◊ animal tracks – what animal was it?  ________________

◊ something faster than a snail

◊ poo – doesn’t matter what kind.  (lots of laughter finding this one)

◊ item that begins with the first letter of the birthday child’s name

◊ a nurse log

◊ an old growth tree (takes at least three kids to wrap their arms around)

Find!  These items were placed in a cloth bag and they are okay to be removed from the forest because they are no longer alive:

◊ fern

◊ bark

◊ a heart shaped rock

◊ a rock the size of the birthday boy’s hand

◊ feather

◊ a river rock (smooth)

Listen! At different intervals while we would stop and listen. When all the group members stopped talking we’d hear lots of noises that otherwise would have missed:

◊ a bird song

◊ running water

◊ people talking

◊ leaves crunching

◊ cards driving

◊ frogs

◊ crickets

Collecting!  This was my favorite because each group was given a plastic bag and items that shouldn’t be in nature were to be placed inside. Basically these kids were cleaning up the litter from the forest during this portion of the hunt! Teams could list out each item they collected and then add why it didn’t belong in nature in their book, but we just discussed it every time something was found..rather than writing it down.

The last portion of the hunt I completed with my team at the 1/2 way mark. The planning of this Q&A portion of the scavenger hunt was so much fun for me because I called my local Parks Board and asked for their help. I wanted a ‘fun facts’ section of the scavenger hunt that would be interesting for the kids and also teach them awesome forest facts!  I thought it was important to call my local parks board rather than just using Google so that the information would be related to the forest they were searching.  Here are a sample of the questions and answers – aren’t they interesting?

1) What animal in the forest is known for their ‘super glue’? (Answer: if you run your finger along a slug, wave it in the air so the slime gets tacky, then put your finger against a rock, it will stick to the glue.  Try it but be gentle to the slug!)

2) Name three tree types in the park.

3) How many mosquitoes can a bat eat in 1 hour a) 30 b) 200 or c) 600.  The answer is 600.

4) Eagles use the same nest ever year – they just keep adding to it. At the end of their life, would the nest weight as much as a car? Circle Y or N.  (The answer is Yes)

5) True or False. A strand of spider web is stronger than an equal thickness strand of steel. (Answer is True).

I remembered the first fact about the slug after a forest tour we did years ago.  The rest came from a very stunned forest guide that had a crazed mother calling him on a Friday afternoon asking for help with her scavenger hunt. <grin>  You gotta use facts that are interesting for kids and I thought these were great!

At the end of the scavenger hunt we probably could have tallied up the sheets, plastic collected, and questions answered but I didn’t. The boys had a great time, I loved watching them, and since we were at a park, the boys ate sandwiches and then played outdoor hockey and soccer before going home. Lots of fresh air, teamwork, and fun.  The loot bags contained wooden decoders so the adventure inspired fun could continue after the party guests went home!  I hope these steps give you a general guide of how to create a really fun scavenger hunt, but the most important part is to personalize it yourself!

 

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Get Outside This Winter

Have some squirrely kids at home these days?  Mine are all climbing the walls and going to school full-day and having physical activities afterwards isn’t denting their energy! I’ve realized this time of year it’s extra important to get that dose of fresh air! We tend to go into hibernation mode this time of year but kids need to get outside even more. Many schools keep kids indoors if it’s raining so they get very little outside time in wet North American climates. I get a lot of inspiration from the websites I’ve listed below – they have amazing ideas for keeping kids engaged with unique activities for encouraging the outdoors! I’ve also teamed up with a new sponsor this season and it’s very exciting. A local mountain, Cypress Mountain has offered my family some excursions on their Mountain to experience this ski season. This is my favorite mountain to ski and I’m so excited to enjoy some bonding time with my children up the mountain. Can I be honest? I went up Cypress Mountain with my boys last winter and it was one of the best days of my parenting journey. I don’t know what happened… could it have been all that fresh air, the memories of skiing when I was a child?  I don’t know but some magic clicked that day and the one-on-one bonding time a had with the boys was intense. You want maximized quality time with your children?  Take them into the wilderness or up a mountain. Talking while riding up a chair lift, the comradely checking on each other while going down the slope, the exhilaration you experience while enjoying a truly beautiful sport is wonderful and it’s one I hope all parents can enjoy once with their children. If you don’t ski – I would suggest an equally great time is snow shoeing, tobogganing or tubing on a ski slope. It is carefree fun and your kids need to see this side of you, completely relaxed and loving the outdoors.

This is a picture of my sons and I on New Year’s Eve. Our first time night skiing and the city lights in the backdrop were stunning!

Two sites that offer wonderful tips on enjoying outdoor winter activities are:

Let The Kids Play – an blog that is probably aimed at more preschool aged children but their articles are so incredible, order children would benefit for the activities too!

The Grass Stain Guru
– helping parents make a resolution to impact physical and mental health for their children – PLAY MORE!


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Resources to Get Parents and Children Outside Enjoying Nature

Summer Fairy Garden and Fairy House

Geocaching – Eco Activity For Entire Family

 

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Going Forward From Earth Day – 5 Tips

We know I’m not one for keeping it short, but I figure I’ve expanded on posts dear to my heart already within the article so I’ll include the link if you’d like more information. I honestly believe that at this point we are all making conscience decisions in our everyday lives and maybe that’s why Earth Day felt a little less hyped this year. If that is the case – that is awesome. If you are new to the process of ‘greening’ your life, here are 5 tips that will help you. Also remember, anything that is harmful to the environment is also toxic to human health. So if you’re not quite ready to change your lifestyle or consumerism for the planet, think about making these changes to help your family live a longer and healthier life.  Here we go!

1) Vow to never again use the self cleaning option on your oven. This convenience based option is known to kill household pets. Non-stick surfaces combined with very high heat produces a terrible toxic off-gassing that is not healthy for your household. Read more here.

2) Take an hour and review your personal care products on the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. This is the best resource for identifying cosmetics, sunscreen, personal care products that might contain toxic ingredients. This is a valuable resource to check before you go shopping for that next bottle of shampoo or item for baby. With the number of options out there today, check out how your cosmetics score and switch over to non-toxic, organic products.

3) Think about your family’s fragrance. What does this mean? When you go out in public – is there any part of you that could cause a reaction to someone sensitive to synthetic scents? I get a reaction from people that use dryer sheets or fabric softener. Think about the synthetic scents you omit in public including perfumes, deodorants, household cleaners/air fresheners, and laundry routine. For more information click here.

4) Let the outdoors in! Did you know that the inside of your home is probably filled with more toxins that the outdoors? Ban all room deodorizers and simply open a window. Let the fresh air truly ‘freshen’ your home and eliminate odors. For more information click here.

5) Consumerism…this one’s important. It’s the biggest problem with the environment and the clutter taking over our homes. You need to think about every purchase you make. Where will it end up? Where was it manufactured? What is it made from? These are the questions we should ask every time we purchase that next Easter gift, birthday gift, clothing shop, etc. If nothing else, you asking these questions will promote change. I have personally witnessed this shift in consumerism mentality. I know parents love to ask “where is this product manufactured?” I know from asking hundreds of parents that they will pay more for having something made locally and supporting a local artist or toy maker. Let’s keep this shift in how we shop going and reach every industry and let them know it’s important. We want locally manufactured goods that are safe for our families. Period. It’s no longer acceptable to produce toxic toys overseas and have our children play and wear toxic chemicals. My hope is that by this day next year, Earth Day is only symbolic of what we incorporate into our lives everyday and that we ask ourselves these questions everyday.

I read an article by Lisa Frack from EWG that made me really think about Earth Day changes and wanted to share. For more information on changes you can make that will help your health and planet, read her article called If You’ve Done One Thing, You’ve Done Something. I for one will be looking into a water filter. I also have a few idea I’ll be implementing at my kid’s school that I’ll share. What about you?

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Supporting Local Is Vital To Our Future

I’m noticing an exciting movement brewing and it really became apparent watching the social media mediums talking about Earth Day this year. There’s been a big shift to simplify purchases and reduce our insatiable appetite as consumers. The movement to drastically reduce what we are spending combined with saving our money for quality and locally produced items will be a huge difference in the North America economy in 2010. When you are shopping – are you asking where things are made?  Is this influencing your decision?

Many parents are putting a big focus on re-using what they already have. If you resist the urge to go out and purchase items you think are needed – you’ll always be surprised what you can make do with at home. I found it so interesting reading moms posting on Twitter wondering why to celebrate Earth Day this year they needed to go out and purchase a gift for the planet? A great question and hopefully not the message parents were getting from the media this Earth Day. Even though I’m a proud owner of a green business, I’m hoping it was the message for families to re-connect with nature and eco-activities that made Earth Day celebrations truly special this year. When talking about North America’s problem with over-consumption – even greener options – would not have been the true message of Earth Day this year.

Back to the topic of supporting local.  For years we’ve now listened to the words ‘reducing your footprint’ ‘smaller footprint’ and this no longer only means recycling.  To me, these words truly mean better decisions, asking questions, and supporting local whenever possible; from the food we eat, to the everyday items we use.  I have stopped saying “but everything is made in China!” Why?  Because it’s simply not true.  We simply gravitate to all the choices from China because they are the cheapest.  When I am buying something that is made overseas – it’s not because I can’t find it….it’s because I want that low price. The only thing that will help this problem is supply and demand. The more people that join together to support our local businesses – the cost for these quality items will go down. You can ask Europeans what the cost is for their lovely wooden toys.  It’s not what we pay here because these items that are known for quality and safety, need to be transported which costs money. I find it impossible to believe we can’t find the same things here and support a local farmer or artisan that is gifted with quality craftsmanship, etc.

It’s sad to think that our economic struggles in North America could be lessoned if we followed what all other countries do – support our own manufacturers. Network within your own group of friends or social media forums and ask who around you can sew, make quality items from wood, or where you can purchase food locally. Following a path of purchasing less and reusing what we have, then following a blueprint as a consumer of quality, sustainable, locally made items that can be recycled or are made from recycled materials will change the way we shop this year. I’m excited for Earth Day 2011 because  I think these concepts will truly be understood and followed by parents.

Please share your actions that help make everyday decisions more earth friendly. Here are a few fun ways to talk to children about reusing household items and reducing purchases that might not be required. Examples include:

Making home made play dough. Did you know that traditional play dough containers are not recyclable and the quality of the play dough cannot compare (or last as long) as the home made version?

Don’t throw away your broken crayons – save them for a rainy day project of melting them down and making new crayons to use.

Understanding that children simply don’t need buckets of new clothing that is made overseas, printed with traditional inks and materials. It honestly feels better to purchase less, spend more, and support a local “made in North America’ clothing store.

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** Badger sunscreen contest note **  The winner Jen has been contacted and the contest is closed.  Thanks to everyone that completed the referral form or posted a comment to the Mommy Footprint fan page!

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