The Green Hour for Little Ones

photo by gemsling used with Creative Commons license via Flickr

Leaves, feathers, rocks, and birds.  These themes keep popping up these days in class.  That means, it’s time to get outside.

In the last few years, parenting experts and health experts alike have been championing “the green hour” with the recommendation that children get outdoors for an hour each day in order to experience a happier and healthier life.  Truly, time outside often provides exercise as well as necessary Vitamin D and helps children and adults sleep better.  You can’t beat it.  Well, here this week are a 10 fast and fun things to do with your sweet ones out of doors.

1.  Go on a nature walk. Kids of all ages adore nature walks.  Whether you have a small or large yard, take a walk around the block, or head to a park, there is always something new to discover:  blades of grass, sticks and stones, tiny bugs, mud puddles, dewdrops, spider webs, sirens, airplanes, and on and on.  Follow your child’s lead as you explore.  This week you might especially enjoy exploring leaves – touching them, talking about the colors, and of course crunching them with hands or even more fun, with stomping feet!

2.  Start a collection. Find a place in your home to share natural treasures.  Toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids especially love bringing bits of the outside in to enjoy, and they never seem to care whether they’ve found flowers or weeds.  Pull out a vase, a jar, or a bowl to fill with some of the prizes from your explorations.  This time of year you might even go to a pumpkin patch together to gather gourds or pumpkins to decorate your home, but even rocks, twigs, and colorful leaves can make great displays to which your children will be delighted to contribute.

3.  Pull out the sidewalk chalk. Use sturdy cardstock or old file folders to make stencils or draw free form.  Use the opportunity to talk about shapes, colors, and even letters.

4.  Start a leaf fight. As the leaves slowly begin to pile up in your yard, take the opportunity to get outside for plenty of jumping in leaf piles and having good ole leaf throwing fests.

5.  Visit a garden. We often forget about gardens this time of year, but Kansas City is full of beautiful gardens with great activities for kids.  Two of our favorites include Powell Gardens and the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Garden.  Powell Gardens has fun scarecrows on display through the end of October.  Both gardens also have nature trails if you’d prefer a traditional hike.

6.  Plant flowers or herbs. As the seasons change it can be a great time to plant bulbs for spring, mums for fall, or even transplant herbs to bring indoors for cooking.  Let your kids help.  They love having permission to get dirty and get a chance to learn a little science along the way.

7.  Take a trip to an orchard or pumpkin patch. The metro area here is ripe for harvest.  Some favorite pumpkin patches with games, rides, food, and even trains include:  Carolyn’s Country Cousins, Faulkner’s Pumpkin Farm, or for a more traditional pumpkin patch without all the frills check out Pumpkins Etc..  If you prefer apple cider and apple doughnuts alongside or instead of your pumpkin picking check out Weston Red Barn Farm, Louisburg Cider Mill, or Schweizer Orchards.

8.  Put out birdseed. Whether you simply sprinkle a bit of seed on your deck or build your own bird feeder, sharing some seed guarantees you’ll have birds (and perhaps a few squirrels) come to visit your yard.  Be sure to set food near a window where you can see and enjoy the show!  When the birds stop by for a visit, talk about their colors, different bird songs, and what they might do or eat.  You could even draw some pictures or sing some of your favorite bird (and even squirrel) songs from Kindermusik.

9.  Go see the animals. Perhaps you caught a glimpse of some of your favorite farm animals when you were at the orchards or pumpkin patches, but if not, you might think about taking a trip to Deanna Rose Farmstead or even the Zoo.  And if you’re taking a baby along, be sure to look up some of your favorite animal signs with this handy online video dictionary before you head out.  Animals are always great motivators for teaching babies to sign!

10.  Watch the clouds. We all need to stop and rest and just soak it in for a bit.  What better way than to look for cloud shapes with your cuties.  While preschoolers and big kids are more likely to help you pick out shapes and pictures, even babies and toddlers might sit for a minute and rest with you and talk about the sun and the sky and the clouds.

So, get out and enjoy this amazing weather.  Whether you use one or ten of these ideas, you’re sure to make memories that last a lifetime!

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