Today's guest blogger is Heather Manning who lives in Bethlehem, Pa. with her partner and their sons, Lucas and Miles. Together they hike, paddle, run, swim, visit farms, and attend festivals throughout the Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley area. A version blog originally appeared on Kids Outdoors Philadelphia, a free online community from the Appalachian Mountain Club.
One of our favorite family activities is going on nature walks. Whether we're hiking all day or just taking a short walk in the woods, it is one way we stay grounded, balanced, and connected to nature. And after this very snowy and cold winter, we are eager to spend time outdoors, looking for signs of spring. It's an exciting time for my 2-year-old, Miles, since these spring experiences are somewhat new to him. For Lucas, my 8-year old, it is just a thrill to be out and about again enjoying the outdoors without lugging winter gear around.
Below are some ways to start getting your kids excited for warmer weather and looking for signs of spring:
1. Go on nature walks pointing out spring plants like daffodils and crocuses poking up through the ground. We get excited each year when we see the first few lavender crocuses and yellow daffodils popping up around our yard.
2. Start making plans for Earth Day celebrations in your area. Earth Day is April 22 and most towns and cities have fun activities to celebrate Earth Day, as well as community clean-up events.
3. While on your nature walks, be on the lookout for animals. Talk to your kids about squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and birds and what they are doing in preparation for spring. Notice how their behaviors are different in the spring time, versus over the winter. Don't they seem to be excited, too? Birds are busy building nests and getting ready to lay eggs, mammals are getting ready to have babies; squirrels are everywhere running about collecting food and items for nests; and spring peepers will soon be heard in the evenings, croaking back and forth to each other.
4. Start a nature journal with your kids and encourage them to write about what they see and observe. Little ones can draw pictures of their outdoor spring experiences.
5. Watch the spring migration of raptors. An excellent place to view the migration of raptors and other birds is Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. They conduct daily counts of migrating raptors every day from April 1 until May 15. Staff and volunteers are available to answer questions and help visitors identify birds. (Look at this post for hikes at the sanctuary!)
6. Plan a garden with your family. You can start planning your garden as early as March and planting seeds indoors. Kids love to help with this project and it's a wonderful family activity.