It’s time to start thinking about where to send the kids to camp this summer. No doubt, your local parenting magazines have ads for various area camps splattered throughout. If you are going to send your kids to summer camp, now is the time to start planning. Not only will you get spots at your top picks when you register early, but you’ll avoid hearing the “I’m bored!” complaint from your kids because they’ll have something better to do than hang around the house all day ALL SUMMER.
There are those days when going outside to play just isn’t in the cards. That has been the case for my children these past few days. My daughter is recovering from a stomach bug and it is just too darn cold for my son to be outside. When the temps are in the single digits and the wind chill is fierce, his little fingers become icicles in a matter of minutes. Needless to say, we are are going a little stir crazy and could use a breath of fresh air.
In my quest to connect my children with nature, I was thinking about how I can bring the outside inside on days like this. So, I went to the cupboard and rooted around for all the collections of various natural materials we stored in boxes after the summer and fall. At the time, I was tired of picking them up of the floor and finding them hidden all over the house. Now, I was relieved to see our stone and shell collections as well as the acorns, leaves and sticks we stored in boxes. I knew an art project using these items would keep them busy for a while.
I covered the kitchen table with newsprint and combined the natural materials along with the art supplies we have on hand such as contruction paper, paint, markers, glitter, pom-poms, cotton balls, popsicle sticks, paste and old buttons. Without providing much direction, I told my kids to create something using the materials we collected. I winced, waiting for the complaints about how “boring” my idea was and all the excuses about why they should watch a movie instead. When I opened my eyes, they were both busily working on their masterpieces. “Wow, I thought, “this nature thing works inside too.”
Thirty minutes later…no I am not kidding — an entire 30 minutes…. they were still enjoying the activity and created beautiful works of art that are now adorning our refrigerator.
No doubt, the winter weather makes it challenging to keep kids connected to nature. It is much easier to connect them to the TV or computer. As I look ahead at the cold months that lay before us, I think about how I am going to do it. You are probably thinking the same thing. Well, I am here to offer help. My plan is to try to get them outside for at least 20-minutes on the more mild days, which I consider 25 dregrees and up (and includes buddling up in layers and snowsuits). On the bitter cold days, when it is too cold to go out, we will have to connect with nature in different ways. No doubt it’s going to take some creativity to do it. My formula will be to combine trips to the local nature center (we have a terrific one close by that has many great indoor activities) with reading books, going for drives and doing many, many art projects!
I invite you to join me as I attempt to overcome the overuse of electonic media to entertain my children during the winter months. I have many great ideas for indoor and outdoor activities. I would also like to hear your ideas, so please share!
As a follow up to my previous post, here is a wonderful outdoor activity you can do with your children. In that post, I listed “feeding the birds” as an easy activity to use to encourage them to go outside. Well, this one will help you take it one step further because it will help you teach them about nature.
Consider participating in the National Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count coming up in a few weeks. At the end of this post, I have included the official press release from the National Audubon Society, which includes all the information you need to participate.
If you choose to participate with your children, I recommend taking them to the library to borrow a couple of bird identification books. You can browse through them and point out birds you are likely to find in your yard. Some easy ones are Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, Black Crows, Black-Capped Chickadees and the Tufted Titmouse. Have them look at the photos or drawings and then read about each species’ habits such as what they eat, where they will build nests in the Spring, etc. Or you can browse the site www.allaboutbirds.org, courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which includes a plethora of information about birds, how to attract them to your yard and birding basics. I also suggest practicing outside with them a few days before the bird count. This will give them some experience in looking for birds and confidence in their ability to find and name them. You could also purchase a set of binoculars to help them feel like official “birdwatchers,” but it isn’t necessary.
Next, go outside between February 12-15 and count. Then, enter your results at http://gbbc.birdsource.org/gbbcApps/input. Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada use the infromation to learn more about birds and how to protect them. Be sure to send me comments about what you spotted in your backyard. And lastly, have fun!
New York, NY, January 27, 2010 – Bird watchers coast to coast are invited to take part in the 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, Friday, February 12, through Monday, February 15, 2010.
Participants in the free event will join tens of thousands of volunteers counting birds in their own backyards, local parks or wildlife refuges.
Each checklist submitted by these “citizen scientists” helps researchers at Audubon, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada learn more about birds and how to protect them. Last year, participants turned in more than 93,600 checklists online, creating the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.
“Taking part in the Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to get outside with family and friends, have fun, and help birds—all at the same time,” said Audubon Education Vice President, Judy Braus. “Even if you can identify a few species you can provide important information that enables scientists to learn more about how the environment is changing and how that affects our conservation priorities.”
Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from novice bird watchers to experts. Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the event and report their sightings online at www.birdcount.org. One 2009 participant said, “Thank you for the opportunity to participate in citizen science. I have had my eyes opened to a whole new interest and I love it!”
“The GBBC is a perfect first step toward the sort of intensive monitoring needed to discover how birds are responding to environmental change,” said Janis Dickinson, Director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab. “Winter is such a vulnerable period for birds, so winter bird distributions are likely to be very sensitive to change. There is only one way—citizen science—to gather data on private lands where people live and the GBBC has been doing this across the continent for many years. GBBC has enormous potential both as an early warning system and in capturing and engaging people in more intensive sampling of birds across the landscape.”
Bird populations are always shifting and changing. For example, 2009 GBBC data highlighted a huge southern invasion of Pine Siskins across much of the eastern United States. Participants counted 279,469 Pine Siskins on 18,528 checklists, as compared to the previous high of 38,977 birds on 4,069 checklists in 2005. Failure of seed crops farther north caused the siskins to move south to find their favorite food.
On the www.birdcount.org website, participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during the count. The site has tips to help identify birds and special materials for educators. Participants may also enter the GBBC photo contest by uploading images taken during the count. Many images will be featured in the GBBC website’s photo gallery. All participants are entered in a drawing for prizes that include bird feeders, binoculars, books, CDs, and many other great birding products.
In 2010, Bird Studies Canada (BSC) joins the GBBC as the program’s Canadian partner. “Bird Studies Canada is delighted to be the Canadian partner for this extremely valuable program,” said George Finney, President of BSC. “Participating in the GBBC is an excellent way for Canadians to reconnect with their love of nature and birds.”
For more information about the GBBC, visit the website at www.birdcount.org. Or contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473, [email protected], or Audubon at (202) 861-2242 ext. 3050, [email protected]. In Canada, participants may contact Bird Studies Canada at 1-888-448-2473 ext. 134 or [email protected].
The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible, in part, by generous support from Wild Birds Unlimited.
Photo courtesy the National Digital Library of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
I purchased the Eco Kids drinking bottle for my two children and I am pleased with the functionality and value of the product. I have been shopping for safe drinking bottles for some time and found these a few weeks ago.
Several attributes I was looking for included:
1) Small and easy to manage, especially for my two-year-old.
2) Easy to open and close
3) Damage resistant
4) Environmentally friendly
5) Kid safe
With the Eco Kids line, manufactured by Crocodile Creek of Durham, North Carolina, I got all of that and more. The insert describes their drinking bottles to be earth friendly and kid friendly. I agree and also add that they are mom friendly.
Earth friendly because they are (according to the company):
3) a great alternative to plastic
4) don’t require a protective (plastic) lining or epoxy (as does aluminum)
Kid friendly because they:
1) come in neat designs
2) are easy to manage
3) easy to open and close
4) According to the company, they do not leach chemicals and
5) contain no lead, phthalates, or BPA’s and
6) conform to or exceed U.S. and European safety standards and are tested in CPSC approved laboratories
Mom friendly attributes:
1) Don’t easily leak
2) Extremely damage resistant
3) Easy to clean
4) Opening is wide enough to fit ice cubes
5) Can handle most liquids
6) Safe for kids
7) Small and easy to store and carry along.
I paid $14.oo for each water bottle, which I thought was a little pricey. However, I think they are well worth the price and wish I could by an adult version myself.
For more information about the product or to purchase, go to http://crocodilecreek.com/. You can buy directly from the site (less expensive) or contact them directly to find a retailer. You can also purchase them on Amazon.com, but design choices are limited.
Stayed tuned next week for tips for hiking with kids and involving them nature photography. As the 30-Day Outdoor Challenge comes to a close, I hope you all get outside this weekend and enjoy some great nature-related activities.