(Post updated on Sept. 24, 2019 with current links and events)
September 24th -30th is Take a Child Outside Week, our annual reminder to take time to help kids appreciate nature. There are lots of good reasons to get kids outside. In fact, spending time outdoors is proven to support creativity and problem solving, help children focus in school, increase physical activity, and reduce stress. But most importantly it’s just a lot of fun.
Here are some ideas to get you outside enjoying nature this week.
Hiking with kids is all about planning. Pick trails that are manageable for small legs and bring lots of water and snacks. You can help kids enjoy the walk by teaching them some tips for spotting animals like rolling logs (carefully watch your fingers and roll the log towards you), listening for birds in the trees, or going out right after a rain to find frogs. Also try hiking games like a nature scavenger hunt or I Spy. TLC’s interactive That Makes Sense trail is a great place to start hiking with kids. To find more tips for hiking with kids try REI’s guide: Kids and Hiking.
Did you know that kids who grow their own food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables? They’re also more knowledgeable about nutrition. You can make your garden a hot spot for local wildlife by planting flowers favored by butterflies, leaving brush piles or logs, or installing some of your own kid-created habitat additions, like these awesome toad abodes.
- Look at the Stars
You don’t need a telescope to get your kids interested in astronomy. Start by looking for visible constellations, shooting stars (actually meteors), or the changing phases of the moon. Just pick a location that’s far enough from bright city lights.
- Create Art Outdoors
Use nature as your inspiration for painting, drawing, or journaling. Or use natural materials as your canvas, painting rocks, bark, or tree cookies (wooden discs). Or tie some branches together to create your own natural paintbrush. For pre-school and toddler age kids, take your Play-Doh outside and make imprints of acorns or bark.
- Enjoy the first fall leaves
The first leaves are starting to change and the next few months will be colorful. Take kids out to enjoy the show and engage their interest in leaves with a leaf color scavenger hunt or a quick art project making leaf rubbings.
- Just Play
Sometimes kids just need some time to play. Take your kids out to the park, the woods, a nature preserve, or just your own backyard and let them get creative.
- Have a Picnic
Pack a blanket, lunch, and a few special treats for a fun day outside. For picnicking on TLC preserves, Horton Grove might be your best bet, offering an observation platform overlooking the native grassland.
- Get Wet
There are lots of ways for kids to get out on the water. Take a family canoe trip or find a cool place to go swimming. You can even beat the heat in your own backyard with a water balloon toss, a wet sponge relay race, or a game of water balloon hot potato (to get extra wet, poke a pinhole in the water balloon before you start).
Help your kids learn to give back by volunteering at a local park or nature preserve. Even young kids can often help water plants, put in flowers, or decorate gardens and stepping stones. Older kids and teens can help install bird houses, pick up litter, clear or mulch trails, and remove invasive plants. Keep an eye on TLC’s website for upcoming volunteer events and also check out local city and state parks.
- Take a Child Outside Week Events
There are a lot of events planned across the Triangle for Take a Child Outside Week. Join us this Friday for a Final Friday Walk at the Bailey and Sarah Williamson Farm and Nature Preserve at Walnut Hill for a sneak peek of the future preserve and a chance to see what wildlife is living in the ponds there. Beyond TACO week, check in with TLC for one of our regular Get Wild! family programs and check out the botanical gardens and arboretums, science museums, and other parks for more Take a Child Outside Week events.