Fresh air, beautiful scenery, and maybe even some wild animal sightings — the great outdoors offers the most exciting playground ever. Getting back to nature is rejuvenating for adults and a wonderful learning experience for kids that benefits their overall well-being.
Kids today may not get enough outside time as they should. A three-year study out of the UK showed that only 21% of children ages 8-12 were “connected to nature,” with girls more likely than boys to have outdoor experiences. A study from 2009 even suggested that spending time in nature makes people “more caring.”
Numerous groups including The Conservation Fund, Children & Nature Network, and the World Wildlife Fund actively encourage families to experience nature with their kids and enjoy what it has to offer. And it offers a lot of fun!
Check out these three unforgettable trips that will bring your family together and reconnect you with the world outside.
Want to experience something you’ll never forget with your family? The eco-friendly Hotel Belmar in Costa Rica sits on nine acres, next to the nearly 26,000 acre Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Spend the day hiking the property, enjoying the spring water pond, waterfall, and private trails. Or take a tour of the nearby forest led by the hotel’s on-staff naturalist. Just in the area, your family can also visit the bat jungle, the butterfly garden, and local coffee and chocolate farms. The outdoor activities in this area are endless—zip lining, horseback riding, biking, and all sorts of guided tours (one at night).
One quintessential American family vacation is visiting Yellowstone National Park. Spread throughout three states, the park contains the largest collection of geysers, plus stunning views, wildlife, and sulfur pools. Bring your gear and camp, or stay at the one of the lodges in the park.
Sleep among the trees at Out’n’About Treesort in Oregon. Choose from more than a dozen tree-top cabins or closer-to-the-ground wooden structures. The Swiss Family Robinson Complex is the stuff of kid vacation dreams — two on-the-ground treehouses connect by a swinging bridge. You can rent this for $180 for up to four people. Activities at the tree house camp include zip lining in the treetops, horseback riding, river rafting, and arts and crafts.
If a vacation’s not possible right now, hold a family camping night in your own backyard! Sleep under the stars and institute a no-gadgets policy for one evening. Play games, tell stories, roast marshmallows, and enjoy the fresh air!
Even backyard camping can teach your kids about the great outdoors. Incorporate nature in a fun craft project, making things from leaves, sticks, pinecones, and other foliage you find outside (just make sure the plants aren’t poisonous if you have young children).
What is your favorite family vacation? Tell us how you enjoy the great outdoors.
Images via Hotel Belmar, Yellowstone, and Out’n'About Treesort.
I’ve tried really hard to stick to the family goals I created last month and was met with mixed success. One of my goals was to create a family game night to bring my family together and create memories. Surprisingly, game night has been one of the toughest goals to implement in the way I had imagined. Most board games have a clear-cut winner, and my kids are still working on learning how to lose gracefully. And after the school day, it’s difficult for my kids to sit still and wait their turn. I’ve found a mixed play approach, in which we combine physical activity with games, has yielded more family fun and less “are we done?” comments. So we’re renaming Family Game Night in our house to Family Play Night. Here’s what’s worked well for us so far:
1. Lights Out
We’ve had tremendous success turning the lights out and letting the kids get creative with glow sticks. They have great deals on glow sticks in the dollar sections of discount stores and my kids have loved making hats, faces, having sword battles, etc. We also bought a game that projects “ghosts” on the wall and they fire at them using a red laser dot. Great for redirecting their energy when they start to fight with each other!
Mastering right from left? Check. Making silly poses? Check. Burning off before-bed energy? Check. My kids would play this every night if they could. We try to save this one for weekends as it tends to wind them up instead of calming them down.
Puzzles are the equivalent of mental yoga for my kids. Something about concentrating on the pieces seems to calm and center them. We usually have two puzzles going at once so each kid has one appropriate for their skill level.
4. Building Creations
My boys love to build with imagination. Legos, blocks, Magna-Tiles —if you can stack it they’ll come up with an idea. Currently, my four year old’s favorite evening game with daddy is building a “garage” together out of Lincoln Logs and filling it with vehicles from the train set.
For some reason, Sorry! has been a big hit with my kids. We make it silly by making funny noises when we land on each other’s spaces or some one gets sent back to the start. Although someone always wins first, the silliness factor seems to lessen the usual “I wanted to win!” whine.
6. Dance Party
On nights when the energy level is high but the hour is getting late my husband and I YouTube some videos on our phones and let the dance party begin! Usually after dancing their way through two or three songs they start to peter out and we can move on to bedtime books.
What games to do play with your kids? Tell us in the comments.
With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, here’s one more fun and ultra kid-friendly way to share the love this year!
Co-founder Jessica Alba and daughter Honor crafted these handmade DIY Valentines for Honor to give to her teachers and classmates. Honor is in her first year of Kindergarten and absolutely adores school! She loves to share her day-to-day stories with anyone that will listen, but especially with Jessica. To celebrate her first Valentine’s Day in big girl school, Jessica wanted to find a fun project that they could do together and that her classmates would also enjoy.
This DIY paper heart is simple for both moms and kids, while also being personal and totally customizable. Honor’s school advises against passing out candy to the children, so Jessica and Honor opted to fill the hearts with some of Honor’s favorite Honest staples as a fun alternative. Check out the adorable results below!
1. Cut out two heart-shaped pieces of construction paper. To make sure they are both the same size, it may be easiest to cut one then use it to trace out the second prior to cutting.
2. Hold the two heart pieces back-to-back and use your hole punch to punch around the perimeter. Leave about half an inch of space between the edge of the paper and the hole so that it won’t rip when you sew the heart shut.
3. Cut approximately 30-inches of yarn and thread your plastic needle. Tie a knot at the end of the yarn and start sewing the two pieces together, with a looping overcast stitch.
4. Continue sewing around the perimeter, leaving the last 2-3 inches unsewn.
5. Stuff your heart with the contents of your choice (we went with an Honest Hand Sanitizer Spray and a Lip Balm Trio), then sew the remaining section closed. Depending on the look you are going for, you can seal it up with a small knot or by tying a decorative bow.
6. Decorate, decorate, decorate! Let the kids go wild and add their own creative flair to the Valentines. We finished this one by adding a picture of the little artist and having her sign her name. Too cute!
Another fun way to personalize this craft idea is by having the little ones finger paint the construction paper prior to cutting. That way you can make the heart with really unique, customized paper.
What kinds of Valentines are your kids giving this year? Share your ideas in the comments below!
We have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t get excited about the Olympics. The feelings of anticipation, hope, and pride that we share when cheering on the athletes really inspire camaraderie and bonding. So with the games in Sochi beginning, it’s the perfect time to invite the gang over to watch the events and engage in some healthy competition.
But don’t sweat the details! Whether you host an international-themed dinner party or an impromptu game night, there are many easy-to-do ideas for throwing a family friendly Olympics party. We hope you find inspiration below!
Bring your friends together by sending them a festive e-vite featuring iconic symbols, a gold medal, or a downhill skier — it’s fast, free, and eco-friendly. Encourage them to dress in their favorite country’s colors; wear red, yellow, green, blue, or black like the Olympic rings; or bundle up in cozy sweaters and scarves because it’s the winter games. Then have prizes for the three people wearing the most spirited garb!
Host an around-the-world potluck. Ask guests to bring a dish inspired by the country of the top competitors expected at Sochi. Here’s a little Olympics trivia: Canada brought home the most medals in the 2010 winter games, followed by Germany, USA, Norway, South Korea, and Switzerland. Pair these dishes with beers and wines from similar regions. And set up a hot chocolate bar to keep the little ones warm and happy.
To give you a head start, try out these recipes guaranteed to get a gold medal from your guests:
This Russian classic is super healthy and delicious—even people who don’t like beets will enjoy this soup! Adapted from The Fig Tree Blog.
Peel and slice beets. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes until you can pierce them with a fork. Cool. Once beets are cool enough to touch, finely chop them. Finely chop one yellow onion, too. Heat oil in saucepan, add onions, cook for about 10 minutes until light brown and slightly caramelized. Add beets, washed dill (leaving some for garnish), and stock. Bring to boil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add vinegar, sea salt, and pepper. Remove dill stems. Serve with Greek yogurt or sour cream and dill for garnish.
We took some healthy staples of Chinese cuisine, such as soybeans (edamame), sesame seeds, ginger, and green onions and created a delicious and healthy dip. This nutritious snack is something an Olympic athlete could definitely eat to fuel-up before the games!
Once edamame is cooked, add soybeans and all ingredients to a high-powered blender or food processor. Puree the mixture until it is well blended, like a creamy dip.
Wash and trim organic bok choy leaves. Pat dry if needed. Stuff leaves with a generous spoonful of edamame mixture. Arrange on a serving tray. Enjoy!
When it comes to food, Canada is known for many things including maple syrup and blueberries. This decadent mousse combines both flavors for a winning appeal! Adapted from A Girl Worth Saving.
This one’s simple: Wash blueberries. Melt coconut oil. Add all ingredients to high-powered blender. Immediately pour into dessert cups and top with blueberries to garnish. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Enjoy!
When throwing a sporty party, encourage team spirit and collaboration by breaking guests into teams. Make sure to have different activities for varying skill levels to truly capture the Olympic spirit of your amateur games. Here’s how to create your own Olympics:
1. Host a track-and-field event where teams compete in three-legged, potato sack, and wheelbarrow races.
2. Play croquet or up the fun-factor by doing it blindfolded where teammates must guide each other through the course to score points.
3. Don’t forget nostalgic games like tug-o-war and basketball’s H.O.R.S.E. (just play using an Olympic-themed word).
4. Stage an obstacle course that can be completed relay-style by the entire team.
5. Take advantage of your locale. Snowy outside? Have a snowman building contest.
If the weather’s not warm enough for long-term outdoor play, move the games inside. Bust out the board games. Go for the gold in Twister. Or play your hand at:
The possibilities are endless!
What do you love most about the Olympics? Tell us about it in the comments.