If you’ve got kids, or grandkids chances are you’ve also got a Flat Stanley or two lying around. School’s out, but summer’s here, and the National Park Foundation has something new to help get kids outside and into our parks!
Then, once you’re done, take them to your closest National Park, enjoy the day, and before you leave, take a pic! When you get home, you can post your photo, and be sure to include some hashtags: #FindYourPark, #FlatRanger, and #FlatBison.
To me, this is totally a pre-planned complete day of fun! These little guys set the stage for arts & crafts, your National Parks, get kids outside, and then coming home to wrap it all up with some fun posting and sharing the experience with your family and friends. Looks to me like a great way to connect with your kids, spend time in nature, and make some summer memories.
And if you need a list of your closest National Parks go here: Explore Parks.
To find out more about our new friends Flat Ranger and Flat Bison, here’s the digital download center page for National Park Foundation. You can visit the footer on the site for more information.
I did not receive compensation for this post. I am not an affiliate of National Park Foundation, but I do encourage to do all you can to help sustain our parks systems and get kids outside. Your support to good organizations that work hard to support our parks helps to do that, and I think National Park Foundation is one of those organizations!
Out here in Oregon and into California, we have our handsome banana slugs, but the real beauties in summertime for our east coast and Midwest friends, are fireflies.
Growing up in Ohio, fireflies were our summertime treasure. They magically lit the humid summer nights, with the crickets as their chorus, and when they were gone, it was time to go back to school.
I recall seeing them everywhere as a kid, but when I moved to Massachusetts, I noticed, in the summers, they were nowhere to be found. I just assumed they’d be everywhere in summer, but apparently that isn’t the case, because when I moved to Oregon, I didn’t see them here, either.
I hope you’re blessed enough to live in a location where they live, but if not, it’s worth taking a trip someday to catch a magical display of their beauty.
Fireflies, known as Lampyridae, and are not actually flies, but beetles. Their bioluminescent chemical that makes them special is called Luciferin, and it’s 100% cold light, so it’s also 100% energy efficient!
This same bioluminescence can be found in other forms of life such as fungi, marine life, glowworms, gnats, and snails. We haven’t seen any of our banana slugs light up, but we’ll keep hoping!
There are many different types of fireflies, and not all of them light, but the most popular of the fireflies are the Synchronous Fireflies.
They are the ones, that every year, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, thousands of families travel to see. According to the park, the mating season (or the time that the most fireflies are present, and emitting their glow) is from the third week in May to around the third week in June.
WHERE’S THE PARTY?
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, around early June, the park hosts a Synchronous Firefly viewing event. The park shuttles guests from the Sugarlands Visitor Center area, and takes them to the Elkmont viewing area.
The park hosts a lottery beginning in April for guests to sign up for a lottery to be shuttled to the viewing area. Names are released in May whether their application for a parking pass to the event has been successful or unsuccessful.
To get an insider’s view into the event, watch this video:
This year the event takes place from Thursday, June 7 to Thursday, June 14,so unless you know someone who’s got one, looks like you’ll have to wait ‘til next year.
In the meantime, you can enjoy this beautiful video post on YouTube to get you in the spirit of summer…
Credit to the Great Smoky Mountains Nature page for this information, found here:
We’re a diving family, so we think a lot about the ocean and its place within the world, but you don’t need to be a marine biologist, a diver or even a swimmer to grasp the importance of our oceans and how they help us every day.
If you’re just getting clued into World Oceans Day, and it’s nearing dinnertime, don’t worry – You’re not too late!
So how much time do you have today to do your part in teaching your kids how our actions contribute to the health of everyone on our beautiful blue planet? Only 5 minutes? That’s okay! It’s all you need for a mini-lesson, to get their wheels turning up there about our oceans.
Start with NatGeo. Their images make an impact and really drive home the message that our plastics use is really fouling up the planet.
On the site, take one giant step with your kids toward doing your part by taking the pledge together to reduce your plastics use. There are 4 different pledges to choose from. Let your kids decide which one they want to focus on, then commit together!
Visit the Ocean Conservancy site to learn about how you can plan ahead to make a big impact on the trash polluting our seas. You can sign up, and commit to taking part in an International coastal cleanup, on September 15, 2018.
Then with your remaining 5 minutes, you can go around the house, and see how many plastic items you have, and how you may be able to reduce your use! Better still, if you still use plastic grocery bags, you can take action today, go around and collect them all for recycling at your local supermarket, then commit to reusable cloth bags, together!
If you have more time…
Take a moment to Google #WorldOceansDay and see the wealth of opportunities to take action flood the screen. We can do so much, and the biggest step we can take is opening up dialogue about the environment with our kids.
Here are a few simple questions to open up the topic and get them thinking critically about the impact of their actions in the world.
Yes, many people are out there now trying to solve the world’s trash problems, but it’s also up to us, the consumers, to take responsibility for our usage, and do all we can to minimize the impact of our consumption on our world, and that includes our oceans.
Today is the perfect day to start!
Featured image ©Lisa Coriell
Someone really smart once told me that she has always viewed her role in parenting her kids to see herself more as a tour guide than anything else.
This was in the same conversation where she invited me to see my parenting role differently.
Faced with the decision to let my relationship with my fiancée go on long-distance indefinitely, or to leave my co-parenting role, to opt for visiting parent, I swore to her that I would never move away from my child.
Never say never.
When we craft our own limitations, life has a remarkable way of throwing us into situations that stir our calm, organized lives into a tailspin.
Now, I live 3,500 miles away from my 10-year-old child during the school year. It is not easy. Not for anyone involved. But to be with my husband, and to contribute to raising my child in the best way I know how, this is what we do.
That means my time with my son is limited, so we need to make it count.
When I fly to see him every month during the school year, or he to my husband and I on his vacations, our time is scheduled. Finite.
If we have a crappy day on the last day we are together, that’s what we are left with until we see each other again. So, you can bet your life I place a lot of importance on our time, while at the same time, struggling to avoid placing so much importance on hard structures in our time, that it stresses everyone out if things don’t go as planned – because trust me. They don’t.
Since I have moved to Portland, OR, from the east coast, it has been my top priority to find new and healthy ways to stay connected to my son even when we are apart. We were incredibly close before I moved, and though our relationship has changed over the course of four years, we are still close, even if we don’t talk every day.
Whether your kids are in the next room, the next town over, or in a different part of the world, take these thoughts to heart to stay close to their hearts and keep them in yours.
Our gifts gradually moved from things, to experiences when I moved to Portland. That’s because for me, I wanted to make our times together memorable for everyone.
From my childhood, I remember a lot of memories from the activities my mom and I did together.
I remember when she sat down at the kitchen table to draw pictures with me when I was 10. I remember coloring with her in my Mickey Mouse coloring book when I was six, and thinking she did the best job of coloring that I had ever seen. She outlined her sections of each color in dark outline, then colored in with light. I wanted to grow up to color just like her.
I remember cooking pancakes with her, and chocolate chip cookies.
But most of all, I remember costumes at Halloween. She spent weeks ahead of time painstakingly sewing and crafting my costumes. I can remember at least three times where they won me school costume contests and awards, she was that good. Her sewing, makeup and costume design was creative genius. And flawless.
So, while I may not be around for the every day, I want my son to have memories from his childhood of our activities, fun times, and special moments together. I am going for quality, because quantity is just not something we have right now.
So, when it comes to gifts, we opt for trips, outings, and special activities, and if a “thing” is involved, it’s usually a “thing” we can share together, be it an activity, or special item for a hobby we can do together, or new skill we can learn.
Sharing stories are important to us, as an experience. Both in reading together and in sharing worlds in the same stories we read separately.
When my son was younger, every night I put him to bed, no matter how late it was, we always had time for a story. Even just a quick one. That was our special time.
The day could have been horrible, but before going to sleep, we could tell a story to laugh a little, quiet down for the evening, and connect.
Sometimes before the story, we would hash over the hard stuff. Then we could relax and read a funny tale to giggle and chase away the shadows that creep in at night.
These days, we can read the same stories even when we are apart. He is starting to develop his own love for certain kinds of stories, and he shares his favorite titles he’s reading with me, so I can read them too. We may not be in the same space but sharing worlds in books is a special kind of connection I love having with him.
Unfailingly, when we spend time outside, we become closer. Whether my son is leading the way down the trail, or we are going along together side by side, talking as we walk, nature has a way of bringing out the big stuff.
I can’t say how this happens. Maybe it’s because when we are in nature, the distractions are gone. When we are outside, deep in the trees, we don’t have screens, games, or noisy, blinky things to drown out the big important things lurking on the surface. That time spent in nature allows us to breathe deep, and connect.
After we’ve taken some time outside, we come back centered. Refreshed, grounded, and happier.
Remember, the best kinds of connections are genuine. When you’re struggling for connection, step outside.
That time spent in nature, surrounded by calm and beauty never lets us down.
Photo Credit: StockSnap
It’s easy to forget. Rushing to work, and pushing your limits of how many hours you actually have in a day.
It’s easy to forget how important it is to connect with the people I share a house with, share a life with.
This past Friday, we set out on our first camping trip of the summer. We stuffed it all in the car. I was out of practice on pulling my stuff together. I couldn’t find the camera batteries. I couldn’t find my knife with the fire starter in it. Did we have enough ice? Where is my hat?
We really just threw it all together. We didn’t even know where we would camp. Usually we have a more mapped out plan, but we didn’t. We just needed to get away.
We live only 30 minutes from Mt. Hood, on the Mt. Hood National Forest in Oregon. Admittedly, it’s really easy for us to find somewhere to camp so planning didn’t really need to happen.
We ended up driving around for awhile, but it was starting to come up on sunset, so we really needed to find a spot, and soon.
Just before the sun was about to set, we drove up into an unmarked area, and found an amazing place, remarkably empty! It had an amazing view of Mt. Hood with nothing to distract from its own beauty, on the east side.
Across the clearing, we saw a deer look up, and dart off into the woods. Maybe that was a good sign. My husband has been into photography his whole life so finding this “room with a view” as he calls it, for sunrise, locked us in.
The sunset was amazing. The sound of the wind in the trees helped cancel out the typical chatter that goes on in my head in normal daily life. We felt like we were a million miles away, and only an hour from home. I took a deep breath and started to relax.
Then we started a fire…
In the morning, we had a lot of time to wait until the tent would dry and we saw a high hill of steep rock nearby, so we set out for a hike.
We hiked up this towering, steep hill of rock to get a different view of Mt. Hood. A great way to get in our exercise and start of our morning.
This was my first hike since my double knee replacement, so I was pretty proud of the accomplishment, and fitting that it was on National Trails Day. I told my doctor, and my physical therapist that the one thing I really missed was hiking…
It was no Pacific Crest Trail hike but I am pretty proud. It was just one of what I hope will be many more…
After spending some time on the hill, we descended the other side, and ran into a short trail that wraps around it, and leads back to the road, near our site.
This was a brand new place for us to camp, and being near so many other great campsites, we decided to spend the day exploring campsites, views, and trails all over the east side of the mountain in areas we hadn’t yet explored in depth.
We found so many great spots we never knew about just tucked away down roads we hadn’t yet traveled. We also checked out some marked places we hadn’t camped yet, like Badger Creek and Fifteen Mile.
We finished the day at Rock Creek Reservoir, and drove home tired, a little sunburnt, but mentally well-rested.
I’ve been working a lot. Cranky. Trying to get so many things off the ground for work. My husband’s been doing the same, and about to break into his busy time of the year, when wildfires happen on the mountain.
Camping, hiking, and just getting away from the noise of daily life for a little forest therapy helps me re-gather the focus on the things most important to me.
When I am in nature, the people I love come into focus more clearly. I remember how to laugh. I see the amazingness in the beauty of our natural world. I breathe again.
When I am in nature, I remember what I’ve lost, and know I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and that being in nature, for me, is what it’s all about.
It’s 5:15 am in my world. I was never really a late sleeper to begin with, but when I get excited about a day off, I really can’t sleep. If you’ve got kids, and have ones that wake you up well before dawn, take advantage of the quietest time of the day to get outside.
Stepping outside at sunrise to watch the world wake up can energize you unlike anything else. If you’ve been camping you know what I mean. The feeling of the world around you outside is very different at dawn. If you head outside before sunrise, you can watch the world slowly wake up, which is not only fun, but exhilarating, and a really calming way to start your day.
At first, it’s quiet and dark, and the only sound is the rustling wind in the trees. But then, the very first bird begins to chirp. Then another, and another, but you can still hear the trees. In the northwest, if you head outside before dawn, the slugs are still hanging around, out in the open.
You can watch the sky slowly become brighter outside. The sky goes from dark black, to gray, to blue. The colors begin to come out in the leaves on the trees, and in the grass. The pinks and reds come out in the flowers. The crows fly overhead, and starting making their own noise.
If all you have is 15 minutes – and most especially if all you have is 15 minutes before the alarm is supposed to go off, before your day begins to move at a frenetic pace, before you lose sight of each other as you jet off to school, or work, or whatever you have to do that day, connect in nature. Even if just for a few minutes.
It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by woods, or in the center of the city surrounded by skyscrapers. You can go outside on your porch. Take a walk to a local park. Sit in the backyard, or the driveway, or the center of the apartment complex.
Going outside at sunrise is as much about starting your day with nature, as it is about starting your day connecting with each other.
That brief time together can carry them through their day and yours.
It’s pretty bright now. I can hear the neighbors, car doors, lots more birds. By now, sitting outside, it probably will only have been 15 minutes or so – maybe 20. In my case 25.
The world is up for the day. Now the dog’s barking at the sprinkler, and I am about to get soaked, and I don’t know about you but I can really go for something to eat.
Wanna go to breakfast?!
Sometimes kids need a little encouragement and confidence when it comes to enjoying the outdoors. If you’re looking to get your kids outside, this may be the very thing to give your little ones that extra help when it comes to spending time in nature.
In this newly released children’s book, “Jack’s Extraordinary Pack of Adventure,” Jack’s getting tired of his hikes being so short and so full of problems.
But when he changes how he views his approach to the outdoors and adds in a little extra forethought and preparation, he turns his boring hikes into exciting adventures!
This book, thoughtfully illustrated, is charming and sweet, a little bit funny, and lot insightful.
Jack’s Extraordinary Pack of Adventure is the first book in what will be a series of outdoor education books that will teach kids about safety, protection and emergencies outdoors while they also will teach them a thing or two about navigating life in a healthy, responsible and socially connected way.
Our kids need nature. We all do. This book helps them walk the path that leads to health, wellness, and lots of fun!
It’s no secret our kids learn from us by what we do.
With the allure of new game apps every day, and the hectic pace of our daily lives, getting outside may not seem like the easiest thing in the world to do.
However, it’s for this reason that we need to be ever more diligent about making an effort to put nature in priority, to raise healthy, well-developed, environmentally responsible kids – and we only have a small window of time to do it.
Maybe 13 years, tops.
From their first year to about age 5, those kids are all ours, and they learn best through play. In their worlds at this time, we are their number one. We can start by spending as much time outdoors as we can: going on walks, having picnics, playing in the rain, visiting our parks and playgrounds.
From ages 5 to 10, when friends, extended family, school mates and teachers begin to increase in importance, we can enjoy camping outside, we can talk more about nature, the environment, and how our actions impact our environment.
During this phase, we can make more of an effort to express our beliefs about spending time and developing a relationship with nature for our health, and the health of our planet.
As a family, we can do things like gardening, or taking part in community clean-ups. We can begin to set traditions in nature, like annual camping trips, hiking, or taking time to visit one national park each year.
From 10 to roughly 13, we begin to see that window of opportunity closing where we can help instill a strong dedication to and relationship with nature. As children get to this phase, their need for establishing their own identity becomes stronger. They have less time for family bonding as they immerse themselves in extra-curriculars, time with friends, and school obligations.
It begins with you. Right now.
Do one thing today to spark that passion for nature and the outdoors. Every little bit of time spent, every effort made, and every memory built together outside matters.
What is your favorite activity you take part in with your kids outside? Your post can help another reader!
Photo Credit: joshua-rodriguez-583392-unsplash.jpg
We are overscheduled.
We are also over-worked, over-budget, over-stimulated, wired up, and stressed out. We couldn’t be more in need of some time spent in nature.
Then we see that our kids are in the same boat when we see that zombie-face stare on their faces, mouth agape, thumbs flying, “Just one more minute. Then I can save the game.”
We know our kids all have nature-deficit disorder.
If your kid is like mine, you know damned well that 9 out of 10 times if you were to give them a option to sit on the couch with their screen of choice, or head outside to kick the ball around, what they’ll most often do.
If your kid is different, I congratulate you, and your kid. You are among the few.
So given our present situation, what if you’d love to get outside, but feel you just don’t have the time? Or what if you are one of the many who lives in a city where you may not HAVE a backyard?
So many obstacles, but at the end of the day, we all still need nature – especially our kids.
Nature helps develop their executive functioning in ways that sitting around the house cannot. Nature calms racing minds. It boosts the immune system, lowers heart rate and lowers cortisol levels. It soothes angry outbursts. It helps us sleep better. Nature does so much, but that’s another post for another day.
Let’s just tackle the getting outside part.
Like dieting – and I hate to compare nature to that because I hate diets but…Just like dieting, there is no quick fix for this. You cannot bring nature indoors. You cannot take a shot for it, and you can’t just get a big dose of it once a year.
However, there are things you can do though to make it easier on yourself:
Sometimes, people say they “don’t like nature” because they perceive that it requires such time and effort to get outside, that they get this feeling of dread thinking about the huge commitment they think spending time in nature will take.
In reality, you don’t need all that much time. Even if you just spend 15 minutes in nature, you and your kids can reap the benefits, without making a whole day of it. You just need to plan ahead. Pack the shoes or jackets in the car and head to the park on the way home from work or school. Fit it in, just like you would other daily tasks like emptying the dishwasher or folding laundry.
Tasks are easiest when they become part of your routine. Maybe you’ve got a half hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays to hit the park and throw the ball around a bit, or even just take a walk in your neighborhood as a family after dinner.
Decide on just getting out a little bit at first. Then when you start to love it, add on a little more time. If you don’t have a backyard, look up the nearest green space in your neighborhood and make a visit.
If you want your kids to love nature and connect with it, you need to do the same. You know from looking at yourself and your parents, that you do a lot of the things the way they do. It’s all learned.
Your kids may not grow up to be nature buffs, but by introducing them to the outdoors, and helping them get excited about it any way you can, they will have a deep understanding and appreciation for it in the long run.
If you don’t like taking time out for nature, explore why.
As you step outside with your kids, think about what it brings up for you, and make the effort to build awareness around it, to see if it’s something you can look at differently, or overcome.
It’s likely that the more time you spend outside, the more you will learn to enjoy that time, and appreciate the good nature and gratitude gives back to you.
Don’t forget to acknowledge your gratitude, and help your kids learn to be grateful too. Have casual talks about what they like most about being outside.
Doing so will help you find activities that you both can enjoy. Doing activities together will help you connect with one another when you’re out there, to make it more enjoyable and meaningful for you both.
What’s one thing you can do this week to bring a little more nature into your and your kids’ lives? Now share it below! Your contribution could help another reader, and we are all here to learn, inspire, and be inspired! Thanks for connecting!
It’s almost summer, which means it’s time to plan your summer vacation, before it’s too late. If you have a 4th Grader, this summer will be the perfect time to introduce them to one of many amazing national parks across the US.
Before you decide where you want to go, snuggle up with your 4th grader, and your laptop, and visit Every Kid in a Park to get their free pass. The pass admits all kids under 16 and up to 3 adults free!
Each April, our family sits down and talks about the summer ahead. Where will we go next? What do we want to see? What kind of wildlife do we hope to get a glimpse of on our trip?
We make a point each summer to visit one national park for that summer’s big camping trip. Everywhere we go, we see and learn something new, and take back with us amazing memories spent together of things we just can’t see and do at home.
Last year, we visited Glacier National Park. We took the Goint-to-the-Sun Road every day, and in our travels saw black bears and mountain goats, swam in an ice cold river, and a few of the many vast, blue lakes, like Lake Two Medicine and Lake McDonald. We visited the historic Glacier Park Lodge, and had a great tent camping experience all around.
This year, we have our sights on Crater Lake, and we’ve got our pass!
Where will you go this summer? Inspire our other readers and drop us a line in the comments! Our readers gain as much by comments as by the post itself! And if you have a fourth grader, brag about your family’s free pass below!
In light of the recent “free-range parenting” bill passed in Utah, signed on March 15, 2017 to take effect in May, it got me thinking about children and how we can help develop their independence.
Looking for ways to build your child’s independence? Here are 3 things you can do, while also exercising their leadership skills, as you get them outside for some Vitamin N.
Kids need nature. These days, in our over-scheduled world, our kids also need to learn how to self-propel. If you can, go outside with your kids to explore in an unstructured way, at least once a week, to get fresh air, decompress, and de-stress. Walks in nature, hanging out in the backyard, heading to the park for some downtime all help to strengthen your bonds, and get some therapeutic time in nature.
If they are given the chance to explore on their own, they are strengthening their independence as well.
Before you head out for a hike, talk with your kids about what you pack in your backpack, and why. Then, as you get closer to your day trip, let them do the packing themselves. Remember, you can always pack the necessary stuff for everyone.
The sooner your kids get in the habit of packing their own things, the more independent they become.
We are so used to telling our kids where to go and what to do and when. Next time, when you take your kids outdoors for some time in nature, let them lead.
When my son was younger, we would practice our map-reading skills and before long, he could lead us into and out of the park, by way of the different trails.
Letting your kids lead not only helps them build self-confidence, but it hones their leadership skills.
It can also be a lot of fun for your kids to sit in the driver’s seat for a while, and if you have more than one child, giving each one their turn in leading can be a lot of fun both for the pack leader and the followers.
Remember, it’s important for your kids’ health and development to spend time outside. Make it a priority, and they will grow up valuing time spent in nature too.
Need 5 more reasons?
Here’s a helpful visual put together by Kenny Ballentine of Nature Kids Institute:
Remember the good ole’ days???
The ones where you would stay out all day long, only coming in for lunch, if at all…Wanting to stay out past dark so badly because you were having so much fun. The sun would set. The sky would begin to turn purple and the crickets would start to rile up for their time to play too. You would be lost in your games of keep-away, riding bikes, exploring, catching fireflies, or hours of imaginative unstructured play. You would stay out so late that it was hard for you to even see, and you’d hear your mom or dad shout your name. Just one more minute. Just one more round through the sprinkler. Just one more dash across the lawn, the playground, the parking lot…
Those days are few and far between now. Kindles. Apps. Phones. Cartoons. Cable. Organized time.
Summer is on the wind-down. Let’s tip our hats to summer with a big muddy, outdoor HOORAY!
How muddy, grubby, sun-soaked and day-worn can you get?! Take the challenge with me! Post pics with friends or your kids, or all by yourself! Share the nature love! Best pic gets a Dirty Boots Project Ten Days of Dirt Challenge TShirt!!
Let’s Show Summer the love she deserves!!