Tuesday

3 Totally Crazy Ways to Spend Earth Day

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of celebrating Earth Day?

Probably something along the lines of exchanging ideas for "green" living, crafting using recycling materials, gardening or simply spending time outdoors away from technology.
3 Totally Crazy Ways to Spend Earth Day

All of these are good ideas but I was recently reading an article that totally blew my mind and changed how I am celebrating Earth Day this year.

The article reported on a study that was done about 15 years ago in which the researchers surveyed a group of 6th grade students to understand what activities helped them develop positive environmental attitudes. The students had just participated in a week-long environmental camp and the researchers expected that the camp would increase the students positive attitudes toward the environment. Surprisingly, this environmental education program did not increase the positive environmental attitudes in the students (this has actually been found in multiple studies). Want to know what did increase positive environmental attitudes?

It turned out to be three simple activities we can do every day in our homes. They are:
  • talking about the environment at home, 
  • watching nature-related media,
  • and reading about nature. 
Kind of crazy. Right?

I think we as parents underestimate the impact we can have on our kids. Yet this research shows that if we want our kids to care about the environment all we need to do is talk about it with them.

So here are the "totally crazy" things we can do to celebrate Earth Day that will actually help our kids develop into environmentally responsible adults. 

Take some time for your favorite outdoor activity and involve your kids. It's that simple. For me, we will be hiking. Take time to talk to them about why you love the outdoors and why you choose to make "green" choices. It doesn't have to be extravagant. Even a simple talk while working in the garden or walking around the neighborhood will do.
3 Totally Crazy Ways to Spend Earth Day

Don't have time for an outdoor activity today? Read a nature-related book and talk about what you read. Need some ideas for nature-related books? Check out my Pinterest board Kids - Reading. 

Follow Mae @ Mommy Loves Trees's board Kids - Reading on Pinterest.

Or the very least let your kids watch a nature related movie or TV show. My daughter's favorite right now is The Lorax. But Wild Kratts and Dinosaur Train on PBS are great options as well. Kids pay attention to media and are going to spend time on it. Help it influence them in a positive way. I still remember Reading Rainbow episodes about the environment from when I was a kid.

Need more ideas for Earth Day activities? Check out these from the Earth Month Blog Hop.

General Earth Day Resources
Crafts
Activities

Don't forget to enter the giveaway.

Filling Your Family's Bucket!

Every family goes through times of stress. It is an unavoidable part of life. A couple years ago my husband changed jobs and it was one of those unavoidable times for my family. Don’t get me wrong, we were ecstatic to have a job but we had to move half way across the country and the entire process was very overwhelming. As the move date got closer we decided to have our things shipped to our new home instead of driving them out ourselves. This freed up time for us to sight see on our way to our new home.
Filling Your Family's Bucket! The benefits of SIMPLE family vacations.

We were moving from an area of the country that we didn't think we would ever live in again, so we were eager to see some sites. And we did; a full weeks’ worth in fact. We camped half of the time to help cut costs and because it is one of my all-time favorite activities. I love the outdoors, my husband loves sports and we both love to eat so most of our activities revolved around those interests. We visited museums, savored the views, took dirt and back country roads and a ferry just for the experience.
Filling Your Family's Bucket! The benefits of SIMPLE family vacations.

As fun as it was to see destinations I had always dreamed of, what I enjoyed most during our trip was how our family dynamics changed. All of a sudden all the stress of changing jobs, packing, moving, transferring schools, finding new doctors, etc. melted away and it was just the four of us living in the moment. Even though there were still many stressors, once we got to our new home we were amazed how much better we felt and how we were able to handle the many transitions that come after moving. Our buckets were full again after being depleted and we felt the difference!
Filling Your Family's Bucket! The benefits of SIMPLE family vacations.

Just to be clear, I am not advocating for extravagant vacations. On the contrary, I think simple is best. Just do what you and your family love. Our last couple of vacations have been much less extravagant but no less effective. Last year our vacation was a simple over-nighter with some friends in a cabin.
Filling Your Family's Bucket! The benefits of SIMPLE family vacations.

I believe family vacations should be more than just taking your kids to see cool things, it’s about giving your family time to decompress and remember how much you love and enjoy each other. It is a time to fill your family’s bucket. My advice to you is that the next time you are planning your family vacation, plan to NOT run yourself ragged by trying to do and see everything. 

Our family has a goal to consistently have family vacations, no matter how busy life gets or our budget, which allow us to reconnect and fill our family bucket. Hope you will too. 
Filling Your Family's Bucket! The benefits of SIMPLE family vacations.


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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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