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It’s that time of year again! Time for the Holiday Gift Guide, especially for your adventurous, curious natural learners! Instead of scrambling at the last minute, fighting the crowds, or worrying about picking out that “perfect gift” for the natural learner in your life, check out this carefully curated list of my favorite gifts that you’ll find under my tree this year! This is also a great link to pass along to grandparents or family members who are asking for ideas for the kids, especially when you don’t want to fill your home with more plastic junk.
This list is broken down into some “must-haves” for all of your natural learners, other fun gift ideas, and even gifts for the parents (the holidays aren’t just for kids, after all!). Even better… most of the gifts that you’ll find on the list this year are from small, family-run businesses, who literally do a happy dance with each order and item that are purchased. As a small, family business myself, I know how special it feels to be supported in the work that I do. So… get your scroll on, shop these amazing natural learning gifts, and make sure to share the gift guide with your friends and family!
Ok, let’s begin with the HOLIDAY MUST-HAVE GIFTS!
- Polarn O. Pyret – The official sponsor of our Holiday Gift Guide this year is here to provide you with all of the stylish, yet functional and cozy outerwear that your children will need for a year of outdoor exploration. From the warmest parkas and wool layers for the coldest days to the light jackets and fleece-lined shirts for the random temperate days of Winter, P.O.P. is sure to have everything you could need to delight your littles with a gift that’s useful too! They don’t JUST provide outerwear either… just wait til you see the amazing designs of their various clothing selections. Check out their newest selection of outerwear today.Polarn O. Pyret is offering my readers 30% OFF with coupon code FFPOP through December 15th!
- Stick-lets – Yep… these amazing fort-builders are back on our list once again, because they are JUST THAT COOL! The older my children get, the more Stick-lets seems to be more of our favorite outdoor (and indoor) playthings. Stick-lets are strong and flexible silicone joints used to create anything you can imagine using sticks (or anything sturdy enough, really – my kids love using PVC pipes!) while strengthening STEM skills.You can currently save 20% off the following awesome sets: 6-pc Hexa Set, 18-pc Mega Set, 10-pc Camo Set, and the 90-pc Classroom Set (ideal for those of you who lead nature groups, forest meetups, homeschool groups, etc.).
Stick-lets is kindly offering Your Natural Learner readers an additional holiday discount for 20% off all kits! Use code: NATURAL20 at checkout through December 17th. One use per customer, no minimum required.
- Water and Lightning Toy Company – You might remember these lovely natural wooden toys from a feature we did on them a few years back. Though my boys are older now, they still thoroughly enjoy using their Water and Lightning toys in various playscapes and imaginary scenarios (and I just have to say – for the amount of heavy play toys get in this house, I am baffled at how well these toys have held up! They still look brand new over 2.5 years later!)Water and Lightning’s Sticks & Stones were inspired by the amazing things that you find on the ground while exploring the outdoors. Each set comes with two sticks and six stone-shaped blocks in different shapes and sizes. The blocks were designed and handcrafted to be one of a kind.
- Kids Moon Club – This incredible yearly subscription package from Wilder Child is an amazing gift idea for all natural learning families! At the start of the 2020 lunar cycle (which actually begins on December 19th this year!), and every new moon throughout the year, Club members will gain access to a new Full Moon Collection delivered digitally, for a total of 13 delivered collections! All Collections contain art activities, stories, recipes, and more! The Club includes everything you need to inspire your moon children, throw thirteen magical full moon celebrations, and connect throughout the month in a private Facebook community with other Kids Moon Club families.To learn more about Nicolette and her amazing work with the Kids Moon Club and more, follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and in her inspiring Wildschooling Facebook Group.
- Sunshine Buddies – These adorable little creatures by Beloved Family Traditions are here to teach your little one all about character qualities, while adding a delightful element of play and joy to the learning experience. Cinzia Chipmunk is the first of the series, and will certainly delight your child as they learn about orderliness!You may remember Lisa, the creator behind the Sunshine Buddies, for her work in creating the Pocket Bears for our 150 Hours Outside Project this year! After hand-stitching over 100 Pocket Bears for us, I know she’s super excited to be branching out into the Sunshine Buddies Project, and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the chipmunk I already ordered!
Some other favs this year….
- Whizz Pop Bang Magazine – We have started and stopped a lot of subscriptions for my children over the years, because the excitement and engagement always wanes. Not with Whizz Pop Bang! My oldest son (8) still does a happy dance back from the mailbox every month when his new magazine arrives. The balance of easy-to-read and understand scientific articles, exciting and fun activities, and the careful consideration of kid-friendly science topics makes this, in my opinion, the best kid’s magazine out there. Add to this the fact that they send parents an email every month before the magazine arrives with a list of all the things they’ll need to conduct the activities in the magazine, and baby you have a real WINNER.
- Right Brained Mom – Love loose parts play and want to bring more fun and excitement to your little one’s daily exploration? My mind is constantly blown by the creativity that flows out of Brandon’s shop! Seriously, I want to just run away to her workshop and forest and play like a kid for hours. Transform your child’s play and learning environment with these beautiful hand-made creations. With gorgeous colors, lots of differently shaped pieces, and tons of imagination at hand, these will be some of the most loved gifts under your tree.
- Big Life Journal – This might be one of the gifts under our tree this year that I’m most excited about. If you’re a parent of an upper elementary aged kid or pre-teen, it’s no secret to you that there are a WHOLE lot of emotions that come along with that stage of life. The Big Life Journal is a fantastic way to help your child learn about these feelings, give names and reasons to their big emotions, process through them in healthy ways, and communicate effectively with others. I especially love all of the additional printables and helpful resources for both parents and kids that come from this company. For parents with teens/older kids, they have a version of the BLJ just for them too!
- Magnetic Tiles – I keep waiting for the day when these beloved toys will no longer be the favorite in our home…. but I just don’t see an end in sight. There are many brands of these available, but we prefer Picasso Tiles (linked) for the lower cost and variety in colors. Every day it feels like my children are creating new and imaginative things with these magnetic tiles, and you just can’t ever have enough packs of them. The more you add, the more elaborate the creations! These are sure to be a favorite under your tree this year, even if you already have a set (or two or three).
- Gnomes at Night Cooperative Board Game – I truly agonized over which game to put on this list this year, as I take board games very seriously! In the end though, Gnomes at Night has created more joy, collaboration, and laughter than any other game in our home this year, so it had to get my final vote! My oldest son (8) absolutely loves it, and my youngest (5 and a half) is just about able to play completely independently. Highly recommend this game for any family with kids around my boys’ ages and up! For the record, the runner up games this year were GalactiQuest, Chickapig, and Trekking the National Parks.
Don’t forget the parents!
- Grow Your Natural Learner Course – Still need to add something to your wish list this Christmas? Make it this! Hosted by yours truly, this once-a-year 12-week transformational course will help you design a natural learning experience for your family that is exactly what you dream about. We work together in a community setting to learn, explore, discover, and create a natural learning experience for your family that works exactly for your unique learners, offering support and inspiration along the way. If you’ve been feeling like things aren’t going exactly like you’ve been hoping this natural learning/homeschooling thing would go, you need Grow Your Natural Learner! Doors close December 23rd.
- Sage Parenting’s Bucket System Workshop – You’ve probably seen Rachel and I collaborate numerous times over the years, and that’s because her work for gentle parenting is my absolute fav. This is one of her best creations yet, and a workshop that you should definitely gift yourself, ask a partner or grandparent for as a gift, or gift to one of your mama friends. Rachel’s Bucket System is a revolutionary way to encourage your children to participate in household tasks without the dreaded chore charts, nagging to-do lists, or those awful sticker charts. You get access to a super helpful guide to setting up the system and access to Sage Parenting’s private Facebook group for ongoing support!
- 2020 150 Hours Outside Project Calendar – I couldn’t be more excited to announce the arrival of the 150 Hours Outside Project 2020 Calendar! If you were a part of this revolutionary project in 2019, then you may have seen that we logged over 1.5 million hours outside with tens of thousands of families in over 40 countries around the world. AMAZING! To celebrate those milestones and gear up for an even more amazing 2020, there is a printed calendar available for you to hang in your home and celebrate the beauty of the outdoors all year long.
And there you have it! Simple, enjoyable, natural gifts for all of the natural learners in your life. I’d love to hear what other small businesses you’ll be supporting this year! Share in the comments below!
Oh… and don’t forget to grab a copy of the Christmas theme from A Child’s World Pre-K/Kindergarten Curriculum to explore holiday-focused natural learning all month long!
The sun is finally peeking out from behind the rain clouds here in Oregon, and that means that Spring is slowly making it’s way here. Not only is Spring a time for rejuvenation, finally spending some more time outside, longer days, and enjoying the blossoms everywhere, it is a wonderful time to get your home and your family prepared for all of the warm weather to come.
If you spend a little bit of time now in early Spring thinking and planning ahead, you will breeze easily into late Spring, Summer, and even early Fall with wonderful learning spaces, a beautiful plan for outdoor exploration, and tons of fun to be had by all!
Here are five ways to use your Spring to prep for awesome outdoor time for the months ahead:
1. Explore how the world is changing.
Spring brings some of the most dramatic changes to the natural landscape than any other season. Things suddenly bloom to life, the smell in the air changes, animals emerge from hiding, the sun stays out longer, etc. Suddenly everything is fresh and new!
The absolute best way for your child to see these changes is to get out there and LOOK! Explore in a big way – how are the trees starting to look different? And explore in small, micro ways – are there more birds and butterflies outside? Where are they going and what are they doing?
Get your copy of this amazing new Springtime Nature Scavenger Hunt to make this exploration super fun and engaging!
2. Plan your outdoor learning space.
When everything is packed away from winter and the yard is still looking rather bland and boring, it’s hard to envision what everything is going to be like in a few weeks when the kids are outside all of the time. Use this “in-between” time to plan everything you want to bring into your outdoor learning space this year!
Need to revamp your rock pit or mud kitchen? Want to add a music wall? Time to build that fort you promised your kid last season? Is it time to replace some outdoor toys and materials? Want to add some lighting to your outdoor space so playtime can last beyond sunset? Make the warm weather really come to life by planning ahead and filling your mind with inspiration!
Browse our Natural Outdoor Learning Spaces board on Pinterest, check out this blog post for the three things you must have in your outdoor space, and peruse Instagram hashtags like #outdoorplayspace for awesome inspiration!
3. Get your hands dirty.
Nothing says Spring like gardening and planting, so get out there with your kids and get your hands in the dirt! If you garden every year already, invite your children to participate more in the planning process. Be open to trying something new or growing things in a different location.
If you’ve never gardened before, it’s a great time to start! Visit your local nursery together and grab some starts. Plant in pots, build a raised bed, grow some herbs in the windowsill… there are ways to get everyone involved in growing food. When children have a hand in growing their own food, they are more likely to try new things and develop healthy eating habits that last the rest of their lives!
If you want to explore gardening with some fun, hands-on, child-led activities, check out the Garden Theme from my A Child’s World Pre-K/K Curriculum!
4. Prep your indoor learning space.
When the outside changes, the inside should change along with it! Take a look at your learning space to determine what changes you can make to encourage different types of exploration and play now that your children will be spending more of their time outdoors than inside. One example: during the warmer months, we move most of our art supplies outdoors to encourage different levels of creativity and exploration (and bonus: the mess stays outside!). Maybe it’s time for some Spring cleaning? This is a great time to declutter, move things around, and prepare for a new season of learning!
Need some help? Check out this blog post about setting up your learning space and keep your eyes peeled on our FB page for an upcoming Nature Hack Challenge, which will help you bring more natural learning experiences into your home.
5. Refresh or rotate your book collection.
Still have Christmas books on the shelf? The start of a new season is a perfect time to refresh the books that you have available for your littles. Sort through and pull out all of the books that have to do with flowers, gardens, animals, bees, butterflies, springtime, colors, sunshine, etc. and display those around your home. Place them on activity shelves, change out your reading nook books, display them on a coffee table or next to their bed to encourage your child to reach out and grab a book anywhere, anytime! Choose a few to read aloud together as you eat dinner, at bedtime, or outside. Use a book with beautiful photos to inspire some art creations. Incorporating meaningful, quality literature throughout your home is the best way to encourage natural reading development!
How will you be spending your Springtime preparing for the months of beautiful, warm weather ahead?
Don’t forget to grab your free Spring Nature Scavenger Hunt printables by clicking the image!
Winter is a season that, when we’re not in it, makes us think of beautiful snowy landscapes, happy kids playing in the cold with red noses, Christmas lights, cookies, and love….. Buuuut when it actually rolls around, we often find ourselves struggling with the desire to bundle up and go outside, determine what to say yes/no to doing to have the “Best Christmas EVER,” and deal with the dreaded cabin fever.
I reached out to my Facebook Group audience to find out what they find themselves struggling with the most in the winter months, and I’m answering with some tips to the top 3 responses….
WHEN IT’S SO COLD THAT NO ONE WANTS TO GO OUTSIDE:
Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s the kids, maybe it’s your partner or teaching assistant…. but when the time to go outside during the day rolls around, there’s a groan from somewhere in the room. How do you balance the daily need that kids have to get outside with colder temperatures, biting wind, and someone’s lack of desire (or straight-up refusal) to get bundled up and get out the door?
My first tip here is to make the “getting outside” process as seamless of a transition as possible. I know that it can be a struggle if you have multiple people to help get geared up with all of the accoutrements that come with winter bundling – gloves, hats, scarves, socks, boots, snowsuits, etc. but if you have feelings of frustration before you even start, the kids will pick up on that. Instead, make it a fun process! Have a “getting dressed for outside” song that you play while everyone works to get ready – “Let it Snow” for example – and challenge yourselves to be all dressed and ready before the song ends!
Second, have enticing ideas ready to encourage outdoor play – get everyone excited about wanting to be out there!! Make treats for birds and hang them outside. Blow frozen bubbles. Search for animal tracks. There’s no shortage of ideas that make being outside when it’s cold so fun that you forget about the cold! Need ideas? Here are some free ones, and this Christmas theme will give you weeks of great ideas!
It’s also great to take normal, everyday activities and do them outside. Read a book, have a snow picnic for lunch, exercise to get blood pumping, take some art supplies out, etc.
Finally, lower your expectations!! If you only spend five minutes outside and everyone is ready to come in, it was still a success. Don’t let shorter play times discourage you from going out the next day. Talk about the fun moments that you had together to focus on the positives.
WHEN IT’S ACTUALLY TOO MISERABLE TO BE OUTSIDE/CABIN FEVER:
There are definitely going to be days where going outside just isn’t an option – either the wind chill makes it too dangerously cold, someone isn’t feeling well, or some other reason. This doesn’t mean that you have to sit and stare at a screen all day!
Plan fun indoor activities and make sure you have an engaging learning space indoors so that even if you can’t go outside, there is still plenty of discovery and creating to be had indoors. Need help setting up your learning space? This will help.
Also, anytime you can (and you can ANYTIME), bring nature indoors! So many of the benefits of exploring in nature are still there when nature comes inside. Scoop a bucket of snow and dump it on a tarp in the kitchen with all kinds of exploration tools! Create ornaments with pinecones and art supplies. Break off some icicles and experiment with melting them with various kitchen supplies. Do some baking with the kids (Great kid-friendly recipes here).
Basically…. ENJOY your time inside together!
HOLIDAY BUDGETING…. NOT JUST YOUR MOOLAH
The holiday season is one that’s chock full of fun opportunities to explore with your family….. that can quickly drain your wallet and energy! Budgeting your money AND time is a super helpful way to make sure that no one is over-extending themselves. Sure, there are so many things that you could say yes to, but if you say yes to everything, they all suddenly become less enjoyable.
So how do you decide what to do and what to save for next year? Have a family meeting and let everyone decide on one thing they really want to do for the season. Or everyone puts three ideas on papers in a hat and choose a few of them. Which activities might be more fun when the kids are a bit older, so they’re worth waiting for? Have an honest conversation with yourself and the family to decide what is most worthy of your time… allowing yourself the opportunity to just BE together and allow for those flexible, off-the-cuff fun moments.
What about presents? Choose ones that are meaningful, stay within your allotted budget, and communicate in advance with family members that tend to go a bit overboard. Ask for experiences and memories like yearlong museum passes or monthly dates with the kids over toys. Remember that the desire to “spoil the grandkids” comes only from a place of love – so reach out with love in return when you discuss ideas for different, non-traditional gifts. Need some good ideas to share with others for meaningful gifts for kids? This Natural Learner Holiday Gift Guide should help.
I’m curious…. What is your biggest struggle when it comes to the Winter season?
I’m super excited to share that Stick-lets is sponsoring a giveaway for two of their amazing fort-building kits! Enter below to win one of their Sunset Collection Fort-Building Kits! Don’t let the dreary fall/winter weather drive you inside. Get outside and build a fort with Stick-lets!
For years now I’ve seen posts and photos of gorgeous wax-dipped Fall leaves; and I have always wanted to give it a try. Finally this year, with my sons’ obsessive leaf-collecting habits in full swing, it was time!
This is a great activity for kids starting around the preschool/kindergarten age. The wax is hot, but solidifies as soon as it touches skin, so it’s not dangerous. My 5-year old handled the project with ease. The 2-year old helped with leaf gathering on our nature walk and laying them out to dry.
Seriously this activity could not be any easier, but I know that it’s always helpful to have a tutorial, so here you go!
– an assortment of leaves
– double boiler (you’ll need to work over the stove for this so that the wax stays melted while you’re working)
– twine, for hanging
– mini clothespins, for hanging (I used THESE, cuz glitter!)
– optional, essential oil for additional aroma
(Note on leaf collection: Make sure they’re intact and that they have a decent-length stem attached to make it easy to handle and dip in the wax without getting little fingers too close. Also you’ll want to gather more than you think you’ll need so you have variety to choose from and just incase some break or crumble. For reference, we used 20 leaves for a 6-foot garland)
1. Obviously, first you need to gather your leaves and lay them out to dry completely. We gathered ours after a rainstorm and laid them out on a towel in the house to dry. It only took a few hours until they were ready to dip!
2. Melt your wax in the double boiler over low heat. I didn’t want to ruin my cooking pot so I used an old cookie tin on top of the bottom boiler. *Do NOT try to microwave your wax. Please.* This will melt quickly, even as one solid piece. No need to grate or struggle with a knife to cut it into smaller pieces first. Leave the burner on low the entire time you’re dipping or the wax will start to solidify.
3. (Optional) Once your wax is completely melted, add a drop or two of a fall-scented essential oil – I used clove – to brighten the aroma of your entire home!
4. Dip the leaves into the wax one at a time and slowly move around until the full leaf is completely coated. Set aside on some waxed paper or an old dishtowel to dry completely.
5. Once the leaves are dry, simply clip them to the twine to make a beautiful Autumn garland! As long as you store them properly after the season is over (between sheets of waxed paper), they should last forever!
6. To cleanup, you can pour the remaining wax into an empty yogurt container to reshape and save for later use. Wipe the wax residue off of anything with a paper towel while it is warm, otherwise it’s difficult to clean. Do NOT pour leftover wax down any drains!
And that’s it! A super fun Fall activity that everyone can enjoy for years to come!
Have you ever made wax-dipped leaves before? Tell me in the comments below!
Want to get even more awesome nature-inspired Autumn activities that you can do with your child? Download my FREE Autumn Activity Guide today!
How many times in a day do you tell your child to “hurry up?”
Rushing out the door. Get your shoes on. Eat your dinner faster. Walk quicker. Chin up, eyes forward, let’s go! We’ve got to HURRY…..
To where? To what?
Do you stop and ask yourself what you’re rushing for? What is so important that you are pushing your child so quickly through their childhood?
And do you ever wonder why?
Why they are moving so slowly. Why they are staring off into space.
Well…. Did you ever ask? Did you ever just STOP and try to get inside their head?
I stopped hurrying. And I asked. And these are just a few of the answers I got:
“I’m counting my peas.” (not eating dinner)
“I’m trying to decide which shoes are the best shoes.” (taking forever to get shoes on)
“I’m singing to the birds.” (lagging behind on a walk)
“I want to see if the vultures come down to see if I’m a dead animal.” (laying on the ground on a trail)
“I’m watching this worm to see how fast it can dig.” (not coming in for a bath)
Do you see what’s happening here?
Our adult brains are conditioned to move so rapidly… to hurry as quickly as possible from one activity to the next, always rushing, always thinking about the next thing and never, NEVER paying attention to the current, present, beautiful moment.
But our children? They haven’t been changed yet. They’re still curious and full of wonder. They still see the beauty in weeds and will take the time to hop over every crack in the sidewalk for miles.
And why on earth would we want to do anything but encourage them to keep that passion, that attention to detail, and the ability to SLOW DOWN and just enjoy the world around them?
In fact, we can learn a lot from watching our children. From asking ourselves why we are rushing constantly. Why we are so concerned about the next moment instead of focusing on enjoying the present one.
Ask yourself. Why?
And ask your child. What are we doing in THIS moment? And can I join you?
Watch your world change before your eyes.
To slowing down….
We visit the Pacific Coast often. It’s just barely an hour’s drive from our house so it’s something we do frequently, every chance we get a spare sunny day. After a few hours of playing in the sand and surf, my oldest son Charlie, 4 years old at the time, brought over a barnacled, long ago abandoned hermit crab shell and asked me if we could please take it home.
There was nothing seemingly special about this shell… it wasn’t shiny or colorful, there was no living creature inside, and it even had a few cracks and holes, worn away by who knows how long it spent being tossed around by the waves. To the average adult eye, it was worthless, but of course I told him he could bring it along.
For the entire drive home, he clutched the shell tightly in his grasp; every time I glanced in the rearview mirror I caught him turning it over and inspecting it, barnacle by barnacle. As soon as we got home the shell was granted an honorary space in Charlie’s treasure box, hidden away in his closet where his younger brother couldn’t find it. For the next couple of days, Charlie brought his shell out – inspecting it with his magnifying glass, showing his friends, showing his grandparents on Skype, and repeatedly reminding me of the details on the shell and regaling me with his knowledge of hermit crab life.
After a few days, however, the shell came out less and less and eventually fell to the bottom of the treasure box, buried by newfound tokens and treasures from Charlie’s many adventures.
About a month later, Charlie and I were reading a book about undersea habitats and sea creature life. When we got to a page about hermit crabs, in mid-sentence Charlie jumped off the couch and ran to his closet. I heard him rustling through his treasure box. Soon, he came skipping back out with the dirty, old shell held high in the air and a big grin on his face.
“Mommy, Mommy,” he exclaimed, “do you remember when I found this shell on our trip to the beach!? This was a hermit crab shell just like in the book. The crab that lived in here must have gotten too big for its shell and found a new home. That’s why the shell was empty when I found it!” Grinning from ear-to-ear with the connection that he had just made and the memories floating past his mind’s eye, he sat on the couch daydreaming while we continued reading the story.
Two amazing things happened in that moment.
First of all, from an academic standpoint, Charlie had what we in the education world would call a “text-to-self connection.” After reading something in a story, Charlie was reminded of something in his own life that helped him make a connection. In this case, the finding of a hermit crab shell.
Now you may think that this is something that is obvious and you might be confused as to why this is even a named skill. But let me tell you — as a former fifth-grade public school teacher, I can tell you that an extensive amount of time was spent each year teaching 10 and 11-year-olds exactly what it means to have a text-to-self or text-to-world connection and helping them come up with examples of these connections. Simply having this old shell on hand helped Charlie make this connection in a meaningful way, early on in life.
The other incredible thing that happened in this moment is that Charlie had a tangible reminder of a memory. You see, young children have incredibly short attention spans and are very quickly moving from one moment to the next and one emotion to the another. Because of this fluid movement of our thoughts as young children, we have few memories that we carry from our early childhood for the rest of our lives. However, what this seemingly worthless crab shell did in this moment was give Charlie a tangible object that he could feel and see and hold, to bring the memory of that adventure back to life in a very vivid way.
So when your child sticks a pebble in their pocket, or picks up a flower petal, or asks to bring home an oddly-shaped pine cone, remember that your child is creating and holding on to these precious childhood memories.
As adults, we can learn a lot from our children’s attention to detail and ability to slow down and see the beauty in the small things.
And maybe, just maybe, by encouraging and appreciating the simple childhood moments and collections, we won’t have to later teach our 10-year-olds that they are indeed connected to stories, to others, to the world, and most importantly, to themselves.
PS – if you need something special for your child to carry their treasures home in, I HIGHLY recommend these hand-crafted nature totes with mesh bottoms! I’m not an affiliate – just totally love the craftmanship and creativity. My boys each have one and we’ve gone on amazing adventures with them.
Do You Have A Morning Routine?
Oh, you mean stumbling out of bed when you hear the kids rummaging through the fridge and praying your husband already started coffee doesn’t count?
No, no it does not. 😉
One of the most proven ways to have a positive outlook for your day is to start off your day with a good and consistent routine.
If it is at all possible, it is great for you to have some early morning time to yourself. I fully recognize that with the demands of life with little ones, this isn’t always possible, but if you can manage crawling out of bed even 20-30 minutes before you know your kids will be awake, you can really do a lot to set your mindset straight for the day ahead.
What should you do while you’re awake in those 20 minutes before the kids?
Not laundry. Not dishes. Not chores.
Do something early in the morning to give your mind and soul some much needed positive energy!
Watch the sunrise. Enjoy a hot cup of coffee (all the way to the bottom of the cup hot!). Practice gratitude journaling. Spend time focusing on YOU. It’s so important that you give yourself time each day.
Plus, having that time to wake up before your children can make all the difference in the way you connect with them!
First thing in the morning is one of the best times to connect with your child. They are rested from a long night of sleep, they are full of wonder and excitement and question, and a new day is such an exciting thing!
And even if you’re not a “morning person,” having a morning routine with your child and/or your family, is a fantastic way to start each day off on a happy and connected note.
But regardless of when YOU wake up, here are some ideas to help you connect with your children right away every morning:
* CUDDLE! Get those love endorphins flowing for both of you right away by starting your day off with some cuddle time. Since I’m awake before my boys most mornings, once I hear them start to stir, I join them in bed and we snuggle and wake up slowly.
* Talk about your dreams. Ask them what they dreamed about the night before, and share what you dreamed. [Make up a story if it wasn’t kid-friendly ;)] Starting the day off with some fun and imagination is a great start to an adventurous day!
* Make and eat a healthy breakfast. Incorporate your kids in the breakfast routine to get them excited about eating a healthy meal to start off the day. My boys love to help make their morning smoothies while I cook up whatever food we are having, and Daddy makes coffee. We all work together to enjoy a family meal.
* Read together. Read a book, read the paper, read a magazine, read an ebook. Read SOMETHING. Get those brains working and the imagination flowing! We usually fit this in right after breakfast. We either read together or read individually – whatever is floating our boats that morning.
* Get outside. Find a way to get outside and get some fresh air as early as possible. Go for a walk, take care of the garden, eat breakfast outside. It’s important that you (and especially your kids) get outdoors every day, and the earlier you do that, the more benefits you’re going to reap!
These are just a few of our family’s favorite ways to connect and start our mornings off on a happy and adventurous foot! It helps to calm the chaos and to set the tone for the rest of the day.
What does your family’s morning routine look like? Share some of your favorite ideas in the comments!
Want to read more about setting up a family routine and schedule that allows for connection and flexibility instead of stress and rigidity? Read this article I wrote about getting UNbusy!
You know that it’s important to get your kids outside. You love to plan awesome family adventures. You have a beautiful vision in your head of being that awesome hippie mama living out of a decked out camper van with your family traveling around the country visiting national parks, foraging for mushrooms, and drinking from freshwater streams.
Except for one problem…. you actually hate nature.
Listen to me read this article to you…
You weren’t the kid that liked playing outside and getting dirty. You would much rather cozy up with a good book or some ice cream and Netflix than go hiking or kayaking. And camping? Please… maybe glamping.
It can be really tough when you genuinely WANT to be that mom that goes on nature walks and investigates bugs and bird watches and so forth, but it just hasn’t been a part of your life in the past or you have a general fear or dislike of nature.
Don’t despair though. You can absolutely change your perspectives, explore some new opportunities, and learn to love the outdoors for and with your children!
The first step is to begin to reshape your ideas of what being outdoors is like. When you envision going outside, you don’t have to immediately think about dirt, bugs, heat, rain, or whatever comes to mind at first! Think about the way you want to feel outside, when you’re alone or with your family. Then, slowly, begin to take some simple steps to loving the outdoors. Here are some ideas…
Take typical indoor activities outside – This is one of the easiest things that you can do to start getting outside more often and acclimating to the feeling. Think of the things you normally do inside and ask yourself if you could do this outside. Things like eating, reading, making a phone call, writing, drinking your morning coffee, working, playing a game…. pretty much anything can be moved to a patio table, hammock, or blanket on the grass, and it gets you spending time outside.
Start small – If you have grand visions of going on big family adventures, start small! Walk around your neighborhood, look for easy local nature trails, try some short, easy hikes, go on little microadventures to places you can drive to and back in a day, etc. You wouldn’t start with a full marathon as soon as you decided to become a runner – you’d start with some light jogging and slowly build up to where you want to be. The same is true here.
Learn more about your area – Knowledge is power, so if fear is one of the big things that holds you back from getting outside, learning more about the wildlife and flora in your area is a great way to combat those fears, but also give you a reason to get out and explore more! And this skill will come in super handy when you do start planning those bigger family adventures, as you’ll be doing lots of research and planning before heading on your way.
Invest in the proper gear – No hike is going to be enjoyable if you’re wearing old sneakers, or if you don’t have the rain gear when you get caught in a shower. Even if you’re just getting started with little steps, make the investment in good outerwear for you and your kids.
Stop thinking so much – Seriously. Often we think far too much about the things we don’t want to do instead of focusing on the things we DO want to do and feel. If you are committed to loving your time in nature with your kids, stop thinking and start doing!
Everyone can love the outdoors if they make a conscious effort to do so! The benefits of time spent in nature are so immense for children and adults, so really… you can’t afford NOT to learn to love spending time outside.
Are you someone who doesn’t or didn’t enjoy the outdoors and committed to making a change? What helped you make that change? Which of these are you going to try? Leave a comment below and let us know!