Friday

Our Favorite Ways To Play Outdoors In The Spring!

To me the most enjoyable time to be outdoors is in the spring. The temperatures are milder, not too hot and not too cold. We no longer have to put on 20 layers when we want go outside. And everything is changing. Plants, trees, birds and animals are coming back; making it an especially fun time to explore nature.

I am a firm believer that getting outdoors doesn't need to be complicated. Sometimes the simplest activities are the best. My favorites are usually to ones that don't require extra equipment.

I guess I have spent enough time outdoors encouraging my kids to explore that I don't even have to prompt my them anymore, they just start on their own. They get so excited when they spot a bird or bug, climb rocks on their own or create nature art. It has been one of the most rewarding things about spending so much time outdoors with my kids.

On that note, here are my favorite activities for the spring that don't require extra equipment.
Our Favorite Ways To Play Outdoors In The Spring!

Play in the rain. The rain itself is a lot of fun but it also means streams and rivers are running high. Something as simple as throwing leaves and sticks into a stream to watch them float down can be so much fun. Besides rain jackets, we don't have any other special clothing. I just have my kids wear their sandals and I bring an extra pair of pants in case they need them after we play.
Play in the mud! We have a tradition that every spring we stop hiking and start going on mud hunts. Seriously, it is how I got my son excited about hiking again a couple years ago. You can read more about that here. Once again, I just make sure and bring extra shoes and pants for the ride home.
Our Favorite Ways To Play Outdoors In The Spring!
Bird watch or hunt for bugs. It doesn't really take much to see either in the spring. I was running with my kids at the park last week and my son was so excited to see all the cardinals (red is his favorite color). If you want to attract more birds, make a bird feeder. There are so many ideas out there for make bird feeders using recycled materials. We made this one using a cereal box, stick and old string.
Hunt for flowers. Gather a few, or a bunch, and make an arrangement for your table. My son did this all on his own; picked out the cup and everything.
Our Favorite Ways To Play Outdoors In The Spring!
Explore trees. Tree are going through a lot of changes in the spring and it is a fun time to look a little closer. Click here for a free scavenger hunt.
Gardening. We live in a apartment but that doesn't keep us from enjoying a few fresh herbs and such. Here is my newest idea for gardening with small spaces.

What about you guys, what are your favorite outdoor activities in the spring?
Our Favorite Ways To Play Outdoors In The Spring!

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Wednesday

DIY Seed Paper - A Unique Way To Sprout Seeds

It is spring and I have been thinking a lot about gardening. I love gardening and my kids love getting their hands dirty. It is a win-win activity for all. But I have one little problem, I live in an apartment and we have very little room for such activities. That just means I have to get creative and this year I decided to trying sprouting seeds using seed paper.

The thing I have loved most about using the seed paper is how clean it is. We generally do seed sprouts using potting soil in egg cartons but they always get knocked over and I am vacuuming up soil. The process of making the paper pulp is a little messy, but tons of fun, and once the paper is made there isn't much mess.

Another great benefit for the seed paper is you are reusing junk, in my case cereal boxes. But you could just as easily use any old scrap paper. I love turning old junk into something new and fun.

My kids had so much fun watering and watching these grow. Once again, because there is no dirt the kids couldn't drown them and wash all the dirt away. If there was too much water, just poor off the excess.

These would make cute gifts as well. You could use fun-shaped molds or cookie cutters instead of the muffin tins. You could even write something on the flat side. Also, if you use white scrap paper instead of cereal boxes they would turn out whiter than the grey/brown of mine. I am always looking for nature-inspired gifts or gifts that encourage kids and families to get outdoors.

Materials

  • cereal boxes or any scrap paper
  • water
  • large bowl or bin
  • blender - I only have an immersion blender but a counter-top blender would word better
  • muffin tin
  • seeds - All of the seed type sprouted but some did sprout better than others. 
  • towel

Directions

  1. Tear cereal boxes up into small pieces and place them in the large bowl. 
  2. Cover the box pieces with water and allow to soak overnight. 
  3. Blend up the wet boxes in your blender to make a pulp and return to the large bowl if using a counter-top blender. 
  4. Pull out a small handful of pulp and squeeze out most of the water. If you squeeze out too much of the water you won't be able to easily spread the pulp in the muffin tins. 
  5. Place a handful of pulp into bottom into each of the spaces in the muffin tin. 
  6. Sprinkle seeds over the pulp. 
  7. Place a little more pulp over the seeds. 
  8. Use a towel soak up and press out as much of the water as you can. 
  9. This next step is very important is you are planning on giving these as gifts. You have to dry out the paper before the seed start to sprout. I just placed the muffin tin under a ceiling fan on high. If you aren't giving them as gifts, just dry them out enough to remove the paper from the tins.
  10. To sprout, place paper on a plate or other water-proof surface and water. 
  11. To plant, carefully pull separate sprouts, keeping them on the paper and plant them according to the directions on the seed packages. 
This is a fun and easy way to get your kids involved in gardening. 

How are you getting your kids involved in gardening this spring?

For other creative ideas on playing with junk, check out Best Toys 4 Toddlers and her 60 Day Junk Play Challenge.

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Monday

Hike It Baby!

It is no secret that hiking is one of my favorite activities. That are so many benefits. Beyond the obvious health benefit, hiking and being outdoors implies a relatively technology-free time. Children today spend an average of 6 hours a day in front of a screen and but less than 4 minutes playing outdoors (source). While there are some benefits to technology, children need more time outdoors. Children need challenges that develop their imaginations, creativity and motor skills. According to some research, relying on technology for play can limit children's development (source). But I think one thing we can all agree on is that it isn't always easy to get kids outdoors. It can take a lot of time and energy from us and, especially as kids get older, they may not always want to get outdoors. This is where Hike It Baby comes in.

Hike It Baby's mission is to encourage and support families getting outdoors for a walk in nature EVERY WEEK. They provide support in two ways. The biggest is through organizing Hike It Baby Branch hikes at least once a week. The second is through their Challenges.

There are over 20 Hike It Baby Branches, with more being added all the time. Each branch leads at least one hike a week and there are anywhere from 3 to 50 parents with children participating. It is a fun way to meet new people in your community, get some exercise, get into nature and have support in the process. Most of the hikes are easy and no one is ever left behind. If there isn't a branch in your city, consider starting one.

Hike It Baby Challenges are just that, a way to challenge yourself to spend more time outdoors with your kids. The goal is to hike three times a week for thirty minutes or 30 miles in 30 days. Sounds fun, huh. Hike It Baby has a online system that allows you to track your time and a private Facebook group for support. There is a small cost to participate.

So, get outdoors and hike it baby!

Here are a few of my favorite posts from fellow bloggers on hiking with kids.



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Wednesday

5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida

My family moved to Florida the summer before my senior year of high school and I thought I had moved to hell. The humidity was awful. The only time I enjoyed being outdoors was at the beach, and even that took some getting use to. The bugs were huge and there were more pine trees than palm trees, at least in north Florida. But I had a huge change of heart during my time there and made many wonderful outdoor adventures happen. You can read a little more about my change of heart in my post Making Adventure Happen No Matter Your Location.
5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida

I am at the point now where I miss Florida terribly, so I thought I would share some of my favorite outdoor adventures from that unique state. Most people associate Florida with Disney and the beach. There isn't any wrong with that but you are missing out on some wonderful experiences if that is all you see when you visit. But before I send you off, here are a few things I have learned that make outdoor adventures in Florida more enjoyable.

Tips for Enjoying the Outdoors in Florida

  1. It is extremely hot and humid in Florida in the summer. I recommend sticking to activities that involve water. Or better yet, vacation in Florida in the fall, winter or spring
  2. Where there is water in Florida, there CAN (doesn't mean there is) be alligators and water moccasins. But please don't let them keep you indoors. I have never been chased by either and I worked and recreated outdoors in Florida since 1997. The biggest concern is for children and small dogs. Please read How To Be Safe Around Alligators and this site on venomous snakes in Florida for more information.
  3. If you choose to camp in the summer bring a battery powered fan to sleep by at night and take showers in the evening. Personally, I wouldn't camp during the summer. I am a seasoned outdoors person and I don't enjoy it.
  4. Use a screened in table canopy. There are a lot of bugs and this will make all the difference. 
  5. Place tent in the shade. It isn't a lot cooler in the shade but it will keep the tent cooler than if it was in the direct sunlight. 
  6. Avoid the hottest parts of the day. Early morning is the best time the enjoy the outdoors. 
Here are a few of my favorite outdoor destinations by region in the beautiful state of Florida.

Northeast Florida

  • Washington Oaks Gardens State Park - The gardens are beautiful but what sets this park apart is actually the beach. The shoreline is covered in coquina rock. It is one of the only places to see it in Florida. 
    5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida
Northwest Florida
  • Suwanee River Wilderness Trail - If you a looking for a canoeing destination, this is an excellent choice. There are camp site set up along the trail and the water is calm and relaxing. 
    5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida
    There are no shortages of rope swings along this trail either. 
  • Florida Caverns State Park - There are the only a few caves in Florida that are dry, not filled with water, and this is the only one open to the public on a state park. I wouldn't go just to see the caves but if you are driving along I-10 and need a break, these are perfect. There is also camping, water activities and such in the area. 
    5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida

Central Florida

  • Santa Fe River Full Moon Canoe Trips - This is a beautiful trip during a unique time of day. The fireflies were the most memorable part of the trip for me. Most of the time I see fireflies in town with lots of artificial light around but in the wild with just the stars, they are amazing. The outpost even has a camp fire waiting when you return. If you can't make it to a moon light trip, the day trips are beautiful as well. There are at least three springs that feed into the river that you can explore. 
    5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida

South Florida

  • Everglades/Ten Thousand Islands - The possibilities are endless here and it isn't really unexpected, I know, but I couldn't resist. I have hiked and camped on the eastern side of the park and in Big Cypress, enjoyed boardwalks a short drive from Miami and canoe camped in Ten Thousand Islands. This article has a pretty comprehensive list of activities.
5 Unexpected Outdoor Adventures in Florida
Source
    Have you explored the outdoors in Florida? What are your favorite spots?

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    10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.

    I love January; it is so refreshing after to rush of the holidays. Even though it is cold, we love being outside and enjoy the colder weather. But by the time February and especially March arrive I am a little tired of the cold. I live in Oklahoma so I don't have to deal with much snow but it is windy and I get a little tired of bundling up the kids. Can you relate? As a result I am always looking for creative outdoor play ideas to get the kids and myself motivated to get outdoors. Here are a few of my favorites.
    10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
    Hope you enjoy them as well!
    • Create an Outdoor Play Kitchen. I love this idea. Very simple and adaptable. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source

    • Make A Journey Stick. Such a fun way to spice up your next park visit or hike. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Make Animal Tracks. These are perfect for almost any weather; even if you have snow. Just tie them onto the bottom of your shoes, since it is a little too cold to wear flip flops, and let the kids run. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Take Art Outside and Make Bark Rubbings. There are not many natural materials available in the winter for art, but there isn't a shortage of bark. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Or Make a Recycled Bird Feeder Mobile. This is beautiful.
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Collect Rocks and Make Rock Dominoes. These would even be fun indoors. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Make Colored Ice Blocks. Just put a drop or two of food coloring into the water in a ice cube tray and freeze. My son had fun make-believing with these. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
    • Get Crafty and Make a Fancy Stick Crown. My kids would have so much fun pretending with these. Plus it is one of the few natural materials available in the winter. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    • Explore the Forest. Trees look dead in the winter but they aren't. It is fun time to help your kids understand another aspect of nature. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
    • Make Stick Boats. Another use for all the sticks my kids collect. 
      10 Creative Ideas for Outdoor Play in the Winter.
      Source
    Bonus: Don't forget to include friends. I find the best way to get out of the house is to make plans with other people. No backing out them. Plus everyone has much more fun. The kids are more entertained and mom can talk to someone other than the kids.

    What about you guys, what are your favorite outdoor activities when it is cold and you don't have snow? 

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    Tips For Creating Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget

    My passion is finding simple, fun and inexpensive ways to GET OUTDOORS. As I now have a family nowadays, they are generally included in my adventures. Since it usually more complicated getting outdoors with a family, I love passing on what I have learned through this blog. I have been doing so for a little over a year and a half and for this post I thought it would be helpful to pull together some of my top posts into one cohesive framework, or at least in one place. I hope this will help families realize they can get outdoors and have amazing family outdoor adventures.
    Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget

    A couple of my most memorable family outdoor adventures using these ideas are the 2000 mile road trip we took summer 2013, camping in the Garden of the Gods, the day trips we have taken from Oklahoma City, and our most recent 2014 holiday travels. Spending time outdoors as a family and having amazing adventures is possible, no matter where you live or your budget. I hope you find these tips useful as well.
    • Camp instead of staying in hotels. It is an easy way to save a bunch of money on lodging. I even devoted an entire post on why I believe camping is better than staying in hotels when traveling with kids. New to camping? Check out my post Tips for a First-Time Camper from a First-Time Camper where my brother-in-law shared the best advise he received before his first camping trip last year. Trying something new is the best kind of adventure! Here are some more tips for frugal campers
      Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      Our kids love camping! They ask when we are going again. 
    • Beg, borrow, but don't steal equipment, if you don't own it and want to camp. Gear can be a big barrier to people camping. Another option for cutting costs when getting outfitted for camping is buying used gear. My post Tips for Buying Used Outdoor Gear has some easy recommendations for getting the best quality used gear. Don't like either of those options, buy gear from Walmart. My first tent was from Walmart and lasted for five years with fairly heavy use. 
      Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      Using our second-hand carrier at the Petrified Forest National Park. 
    • Take advantage of government attractions and campsites, they are generally cheaper than privately owned venues. You can also save money by camping at National or state forests instead of national or state parks. Forests are generally cheaper. The biggest downside is that they don't always have showers or the other amenities that parks offer. But those amenities don't matter to us as much on shorter trips. You can read about some of our experiences in my Garden of the Gods trip report. The same is true for government attractions (historic sites, parks, etc.) verses private venues. Government is cheaper. If you need help finding recreation areas to visit, check out my post Finding New-To-You Recreation Areas; plenty of helpful tips.
      Tips For Creating Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      Fort Ticonderoga was cool but pretty expensive. 
    • Visit FREE attractions. Duh. But I think we sometimes assume the best things require us to spend a lot of money. In reality, the most important part of family outdoor adventures is building memories. That can be done almost anywhere. Local/regional magazines can be a great recourse for finding special events and pricing. 
      Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      Many state parks near us have no entrance fees AND have plenty of fun activities for the whole family.
    • Avoid eating out AT ALL COST. Eating out is just plain expensive and there are a lot of options for meals that don't require you to eat out. Here are my ideas for camping that could easily apply to hotels. We often eat sandwiches, frozen dinners or buy a rotisserie chicken and such from a grocery store deli for dinner in our hotel room. This also gives the kids more time to run around and swim after so much time in the car. On our summer 2013 road trip we ate out less than once a day. We followed the same pattern on our Christmas 2014 road trip. 
      Tips For Creating Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      One of the many picnics we have had over the years.
    • Turn traveling to visit family into an adventure. Most of our major traveling is done to visit family. We just take longer traveling out to and home from family because we see the sights. Once we are with family we involve them in our outings. Plus you have a free place to stay, which helps contain costs tremendously. 
      Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      We took a day trip to Montezumas Castle National Monument during our holiday travels. 
    • Stay close to home. Gas is usually expensive (although it is cheap right now, take advantage) and no matter where you live there are interesting things to see. I am a firm believer that you can make adventure happen no matter your location
      Tips For Family Outdoor Adventures Anywhere & On A Budget
      The Chickasaw Cultural Center is only about an hour and a half from us but the whole area offers an array of outdoor activities. 
    • Buy what you can from the dollar store. The dollar store can be especially useful for toys and non-electronic entertainment for the kids. Twin Dragonfly Designs has some great ideas for dollar store camping supplies.
    • Use gift cards or ask for gift cards for birthday's and holidays. Easy way to "save" towards trips with out having cash on hand or in the bank. 
    • Use points from your credit card to purchase a gift card or for deals on hotels and such
    • Use public transportation when possible. If you are flying to an area, public transportation is generally much less expensive than renting a car. Wild Tales Of has some great tips for using public transportation with babies
    Here are some other awesome tips for traveling and adventuring as a family. 

    Your turn, what are you money-saving tips for family outdoor adventures?

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    Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)

    I really love holidays. But I sometimes get tired of all the commercialism and focus on CANDY. We still have candy from Christmas and Halloween. I am always very appreciative when we get non-candy gifts. The only thing that makes a gift better for me when it encourages us to get outdoors. So, in an effort to take the focus off candy and put it onto spending time outdoors I created these Valentines. After all, spring is the perfect time for getting outdoors and gardening.
    Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)

    The "glue" attaching the seeds to the paper is just flour and water. So the seeds do not need to be detached from the paper before they are planted. Plus my kids had a fun time gluing the seeds onto the Valentines. I liked that my kids were able to take an active role in creating these for their friends. Hope you all enjoy.

    Materials

    • Forget-Me-Not Valentine PDF (available at bottom of post)
    • Forget-Me-Not seeds
    • 2 tbsp Flour
    • 2 tbsp Water
    • Paint Brush

    Instructions

    • Print Forget-Me-Not Valentines and cut out. 
    • Mix flour and water until smooth to make the "glue".
    • Use the paint brush to dab a small dot of paste onto the inside of the hearts on the Valentines.
      Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)
       
    • Place a couple seeds on each dot of past. Make sure to press seeds into glue. It will get a little messy but if you don't the seeds will just pop off when dried. Trust me. 
      Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)
    • Allow to dry. 
    • Have your child sign their name on the bottom. 

    Alternative Gift Options

    • Place card and whole packet of Forget-Me-Not seeds in decorative bag and tie with ribbon. You could even throw in a few Peat Soil Pellets for starting seeds. 
      Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)
    • Instead of gluing seeds into the center of the heart, cut out a heart-shaped piece of seed paper and glue or tie it to the center of the heart. You can buy or make your own seed paper. I love this tutorial from aboutHome. How cute are they!
    Hope you have a beautiful Valentine's Day!
    Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)
    Click on image for a printable PDF. 
    PIN IT FOR LATER!
    Nature-Inspired Valentines (free-printable)


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