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Guest Blog - Getting the kids outside!

June 11, 2019 8 min read

Guest Blog - Getting the kids outside!

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  -Mary Oliver

Nuu-Muu partnered with Kate Spiller, author of {Wild tales of}, a blog about adventure and travel with little ones, to share some inspiration about getting outside this summer. Read on, especially if you have kids or grandkids who need to blow off some steam!

As the daughter of a school teacher and a former school teacher herself, Kate sees summer as a world of possibility. Her helpful hints make a family's life “a touch easier, a touch wilder, and a touch more adventurous.”

 To me, summer means more flexible schedules, less structure, and greater freedom to explore. Both of my children were movers before they were even born! When I was pregnant with my daughter, she moved so much, I thought she'd crawl right out!  I suppose we can say that they were ready to get out and explore the world from the get go.  Accordingly, as a mom, I have made it my mission to include activity in our everyday lives. We’ve woven movement into the fabric of our family’s life and we’ve learned some lessons along the way.


Instead of figuring out ways to contain my relentless crawler (now an active 7-year old) in the house, we bought him a rain suit (we live in Seattle and sun is not a summer guarantee), and headed outside!”

 

Kate recommends creating a bucket list at the beginning of each season that includes your family’s top priorities. She also finds that keeping a calendar helps her family make sure they make it down their list and hit the majority of their wishes. Regardless of the system, here are some of Kate’s favorite recommendations for summer motion:



Shady Hikes

Grab a hiking reference guide for your region, and start planning some summer hikes.  Take advantage of nature's free air conditioning with a cool, canopy-filled forest walk, hike to a body of water (waterfall, sound, ocean, lake), or walk along a river trail.  If your children are new to hiking, start with small flat nature walks near playgrounds, and work up to longer distances and varied terrain. Tip: Look for story walks or trails with interpretive signs to break up the walk, and add some interest and learning.  My 4 & 7-year olds love a nearby hike that features a “swamp monster”!

Splash Pads and Wading Pools

Research splash pads, fountains, wading pools, and other playgrounds and parks with water features in your area, and make a list so that you have it for quick reference.  These options are great for those kids who are not yet swimming, but need to burn off some energy and cool down at the same time. Don’t make our mistake though: Call ahead or check websites for when water features will be turned on to avoid disappointed water adventurers.  

 

New Playgrounds

We visit playgrounds nearly every day, but there is something about visiting a playground as a destination that gets our kids so excited and engaged.  There are unique play spaces all over the place. Make a list, and start plugging in times to visit! Do your research, and find playgrounds that have special aspects you know your kids will particularly enjoy.  My 7-year-old loves tall climbing structures, while my 4-year old loves playground features that feel like castles!

Our kids love it when we mix up the playground routine.  Just this past weekend, we visited a playground that we often pass when driving into downtown Seattle.  We never seem to have time to stop, but on this day, we built it into our schedule. Laughter, engaged play, cooperation, and fun all made an appearance, while bickering, boredom, and whining stayed far away! Pro tip: Don’t forget about pleasing yourself as a parent too.  Find playgrounds with an amazing view, nearby coffee shop, or other feature that you love.

Water

Swimming is the quintessential summer activity, and it's such a good way to move our bodies.  As the temperatures warm up, the possibilities for a refreshing dip are endless! Indoor and outdoor pools and water parks are excellent choices, but also think outside the box with lakes, creeks, rivers, and beaches.  Just remember, safety first! Know your family’s limits, and utilize life jackets.

Water play date
Besides swimming, take up one of the many other ways to get out on the water, and move your body at the same time, such as kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, and pedal boating. We are seeing more rental opportunities popping up in parks than ever.

Bike Rides

Kids love the freedom they experience riding a bike, even if they are just passengers in the bike seat or trailer! Plan a ride with playground stops and places to take a break for a meal or treat.  Also encourage bike riding as a way of getting to playdates, camp, and other summer activities. In addition to riding around the neighborhood and on trails, check out bike parks with learning features and pump tracks.  

family bike ride 

Especially when I am training for an upcoming running event, I love having the kids bike along the trail while I run.  It’s super motivating for me, and allows us to move our bodies in challenging ways together.  This past summer with my 7-year old riding his bike ahead of me, I was able to slash my run time because I was working so hard to keep up with him!  

Summer Concerts

Dance the evening or afternoon away as you listen to great tunes, and spend time with the family.  Dancing uses different muscles than just walking. It also may appeal to kids who are not keen on traveling the far distances required of walking, hiking, and bike riding, and can just be a delightful change of pace!

Zoos and Aquariums

I love that most often zoos and aquariums offer indoor andoutdoor options for kids and their families to learn about animals and nature.  When it gets too hot in the outdoor exhibits, retreat indoors to the air conditioning for more exploring.  Zoos and aquariums also have wonderfully designed kid play areas where they can act out animal movements that inspired by the visit.  You might not think of it, but a zoo turns out to be an excellent spot to play hide-and-seek.

Berry Picking

Whether along the hiking trail (make sure to do research first) or at a local farm, berry picking is a great exercise in hard work and reward.  I love that like our flowers that spread out their bloom times in spring, there are different berries that can be harvested all throughout the summer.

Scavenger Hunts

My 4-year old and 7-year old recently had a ton of fun doing a scavenger hunt organized by another mom at school.  Kids were given a print out with pictures/icons of simple things to find around the park (squirrel, bench, slide, swing, etc.), and a few things unique to the neighborhood.  Each group was given a Polaroid camera, and had to take a picture of each item once found. The scavenger hunt ended at our local ice cream shop where everyone was treated to cone of their choice.

 

Of course, the camera isn't necessary, but added an extra element of fun and creativity.  The kids also had memories of the afternoon thanks to the quick snaps! You and your children can create your own scavenger hunt or just search for one already made! Visit our site for a summer-themed nature scavenger hunt!

 

One more scavenger hunt idea: Before visiting a new neighborhood, town or city, find out some of the unique landmarks and features.  Jot them down on a list (or get creative, and put together a grid of photos or drawings), and have your kids explore the new area to find them all! For an example, see our Seattle Scavenger Hunt.

Treasure Hunts

Hide a treasure in a local park or your backyard, get creative with clues tailored to the ages of your children, and set off on a special mission! We've completed maze type treasure hunts where the clues are just a series of arrows or markers made of tape, rope, and sticks.  For more of a challenge, use a compass, and practice your navigation skills. Also don't forget there are formal treasure hunt programs. Two examples: Geocaching and Letterboxing.

Create a Family Challenge/Work Toward a Goal

Decide as a family to work toward a goal or create a challenge for yourselves! My son recently completed a bike riding challenge through his school.  It didn’t just benefit him! The challenge helped get the entire family out on our bikes more setting us up for a summer of activity. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Walk, hike, or bike a predetermined number of steps or miles
  • Visit a certain number of playgrounds during the summer months
  • Learn a new skill, hobby, or sport as a family, such as fishing, baseball, small construction or navigation.

Walk instead of Drive

Take advantage of more comfortable temperatures and extra daylight, and decide to walk where you need to go instead of drive.  To work up to the distance, try driving part way, and walking the rest. Add in one of the above activities (treasure hunt, playground, dancing), and the steps will just fly by! Our kids also love riding their scooters and bikes while we walk along side (or behind) them.  

Try Something New

Similar to setting a family goal or challenge, consider this your reminder to try that thing you've always wanted to try.  For me a couple of summers ago, it was canoeing. I kept putting it off, but when we finally got out on the water as a family, it was so much fun! The "something new" could also be...

  • A National Park you've always wanted to visit
  • A creative project such as building a bird house
  • Seeing a certain natural wonder (waterfall, cave, canyon)
  • Trying a new mode of transportation (fast ferry, ferry, surrey or tandem bike)

How to Stay Cool and Comfortable in the Summer

Kate also has some creative tips for beating the heat and staying safe in the sun.

Get out Early and/or Late

Embrace the long days of summer, and plan to get outside either in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler.  Brainstorm activities that are better accomplished during those hours. For example, bird watching or catching the sunrise in the early morning, and star gazing or finding ghost crabs on the beach at night.

Escape to the Water/Coast

A couple of years ago when we just couldn't take the heat of the summer, my husband and started surveying our region's temperatures.  In our search to find cooler weather, we realized that areas right on the coast or sound had significantly cooler temperatures. We planned a mini-road trip, and found some relief on one of our Western Washington islands.  While it may not actually be that much cooler, just having the chance to swim or even dip your toes into water can make all the difference.

Treats

Keep all the cool, fun summer treats on hand for incentives and motivation, or at least have some spare cash on hand for when the ice cream truck magically appears! Also, get the kids involved in creating a special treat (ice cream, popsicles, fruit salad) for after one of your backyard treasure hunts.  That reminds me to dig out those popsicle molds that having been collecting dust all winter!

Indoor Adventures

If it truly is too hot (or smoky) to get outside this summer, retreat to the indoors!  Bowling, roller skating, gyms, children's museums, science museums, and art museums all provide spaces for families to move together.

Plan Ahead

Before heading out on your summer adventures, make sure you have the essentials on hand. Snacks, water bottles, sun protection, shoes, bug spray, towels and comfy clothes should get you started on the right track! 

 

We love the public service announcement at the end – how many of us have taken our kids on some adventure without adequate snacks or forgetting the right shoes or missing a change of clothes? Adventures are so much more fun with comfortable, well-fed and well-rested kids! And if they feel good on one adventure, they’ll be extra excited for the next one. If you have fun pics to share of your summer adventures with the kids in your life, please send them our way!!!

Many thanks to Kate for sharing her ideas!


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