The birds are singing a little louder, the light is hanging on a little longer, and there are glimpses of warmer temperatures ahead. Even with these encouraging signs of spring, getting outside can be a challenge.
Some days, the lingering chill of winter still requires us to put on our cold-weather gear. The snow melt and rain showers has created wet, mucky terrain. The sun doesn’t yet have that warmth we are all craving. In truth, that’s when staying inside can seem like the better, easier choice.
When this happens, getting creative helps push me outside. Deep down I know that even a little bit of time outside with my daughter will make our day together better. Taking a break from being inside helps separate me from my to-do list and be more present with her.
Time outside together not only allows me to be more engaged, it gives her unstructured time to be a kid. Undeniably, being outside has many benefits, for both adults and kids. But it doesn’t always have to require a lot of resources and planning to create wonderful experiences. Here are some tips to help you and your family get outside together (and stay outside longer) this spring.
Bring Your Indoor Activities Outside
Sometimes it is as easy as bringing a stack of books, toys, games, or art supplies outside. Doing these activities outdoors can add a fun twist and encourage a new way of play.
- Incorporate observation by reading nature-inspired books. Don’t forget to visit your local library to check out books about spring.
- Search your surroundings for nature finds to paint or draw. You can even make easy DIY nature paint brushes to allow for more creativity.
- Keep the dress-up costumes on for outdoor exploration. Being in a new environment can allow kids to stretch their imagination. My daughter loves to keep her butterfly wings on and “flutter” in the yard!
- Easy-to-clean toys can have new play adventures in the garden. Collected natural elements such as sticks, stones, and nuts may become tables, food, and bridges in the world they create.
- Print off some Easter eggs from our previous Detroit Mom neighborhood egg hunts! Pass out some copies to your neighbors. You can color them, hang them in your window, and then walk through your neighborhood on an egg hunt, looking for them in everyone’s windows!
Make It Fun
Keeping everyone engaged while outside can be tricky. Little legs can tire easily and nerves can fray once the complaining starts. I learned early on that being prepared with easy activities and kid-friendly gear makes our time in nature more enjoyable.
- Emerging from winter, the woods are not yet overgrown with brush. This creates a fun opportunity for a Spring Scavenger Hunt to keep kids focused and occupied. Similarly, it can also be enjoyed at your favorite playground or on a walk around your neighborhood.
- Hunt for rocks to paint and hide the next time you hit the trails.
- Print out a map of the spot you plan to explore and let your child lead the way. It’s an added bonus to visit trails that have maps incorporated along the path. This has allowed my daughter to practice her map reading skills, as well as encourage a steady pace to find the next map on the trail.
- Grab a bucket or jar to collect nature treasures. This is also a great opportunity to talk to kids about respecting the environment and ways to avoid harm to living plants.
- Packing items such as a compass, magnifying glass, binoculars, bird calls, and field guides can add to the fun and exploration.
Embrace the Weather
Spring weather in Michigan is about as predictable as a toddler out in public. This season of transition can complicate getting outside, but don’t let it stop you!
- Seek out the puddles. With the right clothing, this simple activity can yield so much fun!
- Rain doesn’t have to curb your plans. A few years ago I bought a kids clear umbrella. My daughter doesn’t have to be convinced to go outside in the rain as long as she can bring her umbrella. She loves being able to see out while still staying dry.
Snacks Are Key
We all know these mini meals are important in keeping energy levels and moods boosted. They can also provide opportunities for creativity and exploration.
- Snack necklaces can be a great motivator to get kids excited about getting outside. We love stringing pretzels and a variety of dried fruits on ours!
- Plan for a fun treat after your time outdoors. Seek out a local stop for a muffin or smoothie.
Don’t Say the Word Hike
When I want to take my daughter out to explore a local trail, I have to remind myself that the way I present it to her matters. It’s a chance for her to explore, have an adventure, and spend quality time together. That’s what I choose to highlight when we talk about our outdoor plans for the day. Rebranding your hikes with silly names can add to the adventure as well! Our favorite walk-a-roos are:
- Kensington Metropark Nature Trails: Our favorite loop is the Deer Run Trail. We pack sunflower seeds to attract and feed the birds.
- Detroit Riverfront: There are many features along the path to be enjoyed. The fountain at Cullen Plaza and jumping off the over-sized frog at Milliken State Park & Harbor are our favorite spots.
- Mural hunts in Detroit’s Eastern Market: This is great for little legs as there is a high concentration of art in an easily walkable area.
- Storybook Trails: Reading plus physical activity equals a win-win. Many of Metro Detroit’s storywalks are also paired with a park or library.
Spring can bring many challenges when it comes to getting outside. These drab days of cloudy skies, cold winds, and squishy mud underfoot may tell you to hunker down inside. But regardless of the weather, there are fun and creative ways to incorporate outside play into your day. Whether it’s five minutes or several hours, just getting outside is a success! Warmer days will come, but embracing the season can give you and your family a chance to see nature waking up and sprout new life.