Summer is when both working and stay-at-home parents look for ways to keep their kids occupied, entertained, safe and healthy with camps and activities. But let’s reframe summers as the time when parents allow their kids to explore nature and the natural resources around them, to create art and entertainment for themselves, lessening their screen time or overscheduled agenda.
Although this alternative may require more of the parent’s involvement and guidance at times, it’s a wholesome and worthwhile option, giving them the gift of time to explore nature and opportunities to be creative in their artistic and problem-solving abilities while learning about the natural environment around them.
1. REDEFINE ART. I recently spent time at the beach with my teenage girl. I encouraged her to think of unconventional art media and environment such as drawing with chalky sandstone on outdoors surfaces that would wash off by daily weather.
She took this opportunity to play and found campfire charcoal nearby to draw as they would with pastel technique, smearing with their fingers to fill in a daisy’s petals.
Similarly, ask your kids to search their environment and have fun with different natural materials as their art media.
2. CREATE WITH NATURAL RESOURCES. At the mere suggestion of making art using what we found on the beach and tidepool, the kids would surprise you with what they can do such as:
Building forts or sculptures with driftwood, seashell, rocks, and seaweed.
Make seaweed or shells bracelets or braids for decorations, or making a jump rope with the thick and sinewy kelp root and trunk.
Kids will scrutinize the world around them with a new lens, seeing it as their new-found maker’s space and become more resourceful in their creative and problem-solving processes.
3. IDENTIFY FLORA, FAUNA & BIRDS. When at the State Park or beach, pick up a free guide to that the family can identify and discuss together.
Bring a binocular to observe wildlife while respecting their territory. If the kids are old enough to learn how to use a compass, bring a map and work on it together. Some outdoors adventure shops will provide these classes for free or a small fee.
These are family’s precious bonding time, making memories, as well as building observational, communication and verbal skills that the kids will need to develop into confident and well-rounded adults.
4. FAMILY HIKING TRIPS have many benefits, not only will they introduce the kids to the outdoors, it will also prepare them in other areas and to be self-sufficient in having and maintaining their own hydration systems, proper walking shoes, clothes, and hats.
While hiking, be sure to talk to them about outdoors etiquettes including not doing switchbacks and staying on the trail to prevent erosions and to stay off vegetation rehabilitation or nesting areas.
These activities will raise the kid’s awareness of the fragility of nature and our responsibilities to protect and preserve it.
5. JULY NO PLASTIC MONTH. Encourage and challenge them to pick up at least two pieces of plastic garbage and pack them out when visiting the beaches, lakes, and rivers to prevent additional plastic pollution in our environment. Here are some of my blogs and tips to start a zero waste-zero plastic journey:
How to Start a Zero Plastic Lifestyle This Year
What’s Up with Latex and Helium Balloon Gifts & Why They Blow!
Happy summer! I wish you and your family the most memorable hours and days together. Spend time with the kids outdoors and have fun with these DIY zero-waste, and eco-friendly activities and I believe that you’ll be quite pleased with the delayed gratification and handsome dividend soon. Take it from me, a baby boomer parent with two grounded, happy and healthy millennials whose ideas of fun are reading, spending time outdoors hiking, biking, surfing, gardening, raising their own meats, and cooking from scratch for themselves.