Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Getting Kids Into Nature: Great Websites

We've had lofty ambitions here at the Natural Capital for lots of posts about fun activities to do with kids outdoors. But, why reinvent the wheel? Here's a list of great websites and blogs that already have a ton of resources for fun with kids and nature.

  1. Nature Rocks is a website full of activities that you can search by the amount of time you have available and the age of your child. They're organized into themes like explore, create, and play. Check it out -- you're sure to find good ideas here. Sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and the Children and Nature Network.
  2. Green Hour is a program of the National Wildlife Federation aimed at getting kids outside for an hour a day of unstructured play. They, too, have a searchable list of activities, as well as a blog. I liked their recent post on how to work in outdoor time during the busy school year.
  3. Ranger Rick is another project of the National Wildlife Foundation, and it was my favorite magazine as a kid. Their website posts seasonal activities, crafts, and book recommendations.
  4. The Children and Nature Network was created "to encourage and support the people and organizations working nationally and internationally to reconnect children with nature." Check out their guide for starting a kids' nature club.
  5. Take a Child Outside is the home of "Take a Child Outside Week," September 24—September 30, 2009. They have a simpler list of activities but some of them are quite sweet.
  6. Let's Go Outside is a website sponsored by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They have an elaborate, kid-oriented website called Neighborhood Explorers where kids can earn "patches" as they complete projects, answer trivia questions and play games. Action projects include building bird houses, planting native plants, and adopting new habits, such as recycling and conserving water and electricity.
  7. Sanborn Western Camps has a PDF of 101 Nature Activities with some fantastic ideas. Some are group activities, but many could be done with one or two kids. A 100 inch hike? Love it. (Thanks to the Grass Stain Guru for passing this one along!)
  8. Where the Other You Lives is a campaign by the Ad Council aimed at getting tweens outdoors. (Work warning: lots of audio on this site!) They've got a few on-line activities, and a PDF book of outdoor activities, here.
  9. Wild Zones is a website dedicated to resources for designing outdoor play spaces that encourage unstructured play in nature: building forts, making nature art, playing in the mud -- things that may not be encouraged by a typical park. They offer a PDF toolkit that describes the concept and gives ideas for how communities can create Wild Zones.
  10. The Grass Stain Guru is of the philosophy that  childhood should be "Messy. Muddy. Slimy. Silly. And most of all, joyful...[and] spent outdoors as much as possible." In addition to writing about all that, she has a cute "Mystery Critter" post on Saturdays for kids (ok, I play too).
  11. Play Outdoors has a blog they call "the Campfire" which "aims to provide inspirational tips, tricks and motivation to get your kids and the whole family outside playing together." They first caught my attention with this post on sunscreen, which applies to adults as well as kids.
  12. The Outdoor Parent is "a collection of surfers, climbers and skiers who have embarked the greatest adventure -- parenthood -- and lived to tell about it." This is a relatively new blog but I really like their tone so far -- and loved their post on teaching girls to pee outdoors.
  13. Mama Joules blogs about science and kids, and much of her science involves the outdoors. I especially liked her post this summer on cricket ears. Which, apparently, are located on cricket knees. Who knew?
  14. Similarly, the Growing With Science Blog includes lots of hands-on nature study. See this post on nature journals, or their fun "bug of the week" series.
  15. Nature for Kids is a blog by two parents with three kids under the age of six. (How do they find the time?!) They have quite a few good posts for fun outdoor activities with young children. Recent activities have included shadow drawings, footprints, and "binoculars" made of toilet paper tubes
  16. Birdfreak (a bird conservation blog) has some excellent guides to taking kids birding.
That should keep you busy for a while! But who did we miss? Feel free to post more resources in the comments.

Like the photos in this post? Mouse over for credits; a click takes you to the photographer on Flickr.