Saturday, May 11, 2013

Paint Chip Scavenger Hunt

Have a handful of paint chip samples around the house, or heading to the local hardware store? Here is a great way to reuse those samples next time you go for a hike with your tyke. 


  • Handout paint chip samples to your child, I like the ones with multiple colors on one card. Tell them to look high and low for colors in nature to match their cards. 
  • Remind your child the items MUST be from nature, no colors from shoes, jackets, signs. 
  • No picking items, leave flowers and other items for the next person to enjoy. 
  • Look on and off the trails


  • Punch holes into the cards and place on a ring for easy carrying.
  • Laminate the cards for future use.
  • Store cards in ziplock bag and keep in the car for road trips.
  • Keep record of all the colors you find, and what items matched. Try writing the matched items on the back of the sample, and store in nature journal. 
  • Bring your child to store to pick out colors, the y will probably pick the more exotic colors and you will be surprised what colors you will find on your hike. 


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Nature Journal Prompt: Finding a sit spot

What is a sit spot? 

According to the Wilderness Awareness School, “There are 2 basic requirements that every sit spot should have 1) It needs to be close to your house and 2) you need to feel safe while there. It is ideal for it to be wild, have a water source, be abundant with wildlife, have a view, and a whole slew of other things. While those are nice to have, they are not essential. The best sit spot is one that you go to!
Find one place in your natural world that you will visit all the time and get to know it as your best friend. Let this be a place where you learn to sit still – alone, often, and quietly — as well as playfully explore beyond. This will become your place of intimate connection with nature.”

Coyote’s Guide to Connecting With Nature  explains a sit spot:

The idea is simple: guide people to find a special place in nature where they become comfortable with just being there, still and quiet. In this place the lessons of nature will seep in. [The] Sit Spot will become personal because it feels private and intimate; the place where they meet their curiosity; the place where they feel wonder; the place where they get eye-to-eye with a diversity of life-forms and weather patterns; the place where they face their fears – of bugs, of being alone, of the dark – and grow past them; and the place where they meet nature as their home.
Examples of sit spots
  • A tree branch
  • A large rock to sit on by the beach, river, or any other water way.
  • In the middle of a field
  • vacant lot
  • a window looking out a bird feeder, tree, or garden.

Methods to finding a sit spot
To get your child comfortable with their surroundings or just to help encourage the discovery of their own sit spot try the following.
  • A game of hide and go seek
  • Ask them where they have seen animals, and plants in the backyard

Next Post: Sit Spot Found

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dirt + Play =

DIRT: Is soil with a bad reputation. 

5 reasons why you should let your kids get dirty

1. "Hygenie Hypthosis" The hygiene hypothesis proposes that childhood exposure to germs and certain infections helps the immune system develop. This teaches the body to differentiate harmless substances from the harmful substances that trigger asthma. In theory, exposure to certain germs teaches the immune system not to overreact.  Thus kids that Play in Dirt are healthier: Being exposed to high amounts of bacteria, and other microbes in the soil help build immune system. An increase in technology may have a relation to an increase in auto-immune diseases, versus the past. 

"Why Dirt Is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends," by immunologist Mary Ruebush, Ph.D.

2. Dirt is outdoors -  Based on Richard Louv's hypotheis,"nature deficient disorder" states that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors.. Recent studies show that on average children spend 7 hours a day inside and infront of technology. This trend has been linked to an increase in obsiety, mental illnesses, and vitamin D diffecencies. By "unplugging" your kids from technology and getting them outside they are less likely to develop mental illnesses like ADHD, depression, and anxiety. 

3. Dirt + Play = (: - Do you remember making mud pies as a kid, wasn't it one of the highlights of your childhood? It is pretty easy to see the effects of being outside on your children. Kids are different when they are outside; free of schedules, pressures of school and sports, dirt offers a stress free environment. Research also indicates that there are microscopic bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae that increase levels of serotonin.  

4. Creative play - Playing in dirt can help with development. Through freely chosen outdoor play activities children learn some of the skills necessary for adult life, including social competence, problem solving, creative thinking, and safety skills (Miller, 1989; Rivkin, 1995, 2000; Moore & Wong, 1997). When playing outdoors, children grow emotionally and academically by developing an appreciation for the environment, participating in imaginative play, developing initiative, and acquiring an understanding of basic academic concepts such as investigating the property of objects and of how to use simple tools to accomplish a task (Kosanke & Warner, 1990; Guddemi & Eriksen, 1992; Singer & Singer, 2000).
Outdoor play also offers children opportunities to explore their community; enjoy sensory experiences with dirt, water, sand, and mud; find or create their own places for play; collect objects and develop hobbies; and increase their liking for physical activity.

5.Encourages a passion for preservation- By playing in dirt kids build an understanding and love for the earth, this love will stay with them for years.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

NATURE ROCKS - for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids and Families

NATURE ROCKS - for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids and Families

Nature as a Healer

   In a world full of electronics, busy schedules, and organized play our children are experiencing more disconnect from nature then ever before. It has been a little over 4 months since tragedy fell upon my neighbors of Newtown, Conn. Now we are facing more recent tragic events in Boston and Texas. My life changed forever that December day, everything I thought was safe in the world crumbled away, my backyard was no longer a safe haven. But in the wake of tragedy I learned to love a little more, to take a little more time, to value every moment with my child, and I knew that nature would and will heal us all. It seems more than ever now our children need to reconnect with nature, to help heal them and connect back with life as it should be. 

Last week my family and I hiked at Sticks and Stones Farm in Newtown. It was one of the first most glorious days of Spring, and renewal was in the air. Signs of spring where all over, the chorus of chirping of the wood frogs, emergence of trout lilies  turtles sunning themselves on rocks. What seemed to stand out the most was the abundance of Mourning Cloak Butterflies, Nymphalis antiopa. We could not walk more than 100 feet and a Mourning Cloak would flutter by. The butterfly has many symbolism  but I like the symbol of vernal renaissance. It seemed fitting to experience the presence of this silent beauty that is a harbinger of spring in a town that has experience such a sad and dark winter
Mourning Cloak Butterflies, Nymphalis antiopa. 
How Nature Heals

  • Here Comes the Sun and Vitamin D- Sunshine in moderation is essential to our health.  Sunshine actually enables to body to create vitamin D, which is aids in warding of diseases like osteoporosis  heart disease, certain cancers, MS, and Alzheimer  There is also much proven research on the healing powers of sunlight with depression, and other mental disorders. 
  • Revving Our Senses- 
    • There are also many pollutants inside, off-gassing of the carpet, dander, lead, and air cleaners to name a few. So stepping outside and taking in a breath of "fresh" air really has meaning to it. 
    • When you look around the office what image to you mostly see on peoples computer background? On their calendar? Photos pinned to the cube? I am hoping the answer is a scene from nature. Many studies show that humans have an affinity for looking at nature. The mind and body will relax when looking at mountains, fields of green grass, a vast ocean. It has been well documented that patients in the hospital heal quicker with views of trees and grass out their window than those with views of a brick wall. 
    • How about that feeling of digging in your garden? What feelings do you have when your hands touch the soil for the first time that spring? Touch is another important aspect in becoming one with nature. 
    • Make it Simple! It doesn't have to be over-complicated to get outside something simple for a few minutes on a lunch break, or before the school bus comes will even do. 
    • Make it a ritual  I recently started a mommy and me hiking group, we have scheduled hikes at least once a month. Sticking to a schedule can help you get out of bed, or the kids away from the technology. Perhaps every Sunday after going out to breakfast you have a family hike, or go to the playground. 
    • Teach your child to listen Teaching your child to find his or her sit spot and just listen to nature, you will be surprised how much you can hear when you try. 
    • Take the path less taken Try finding new outdoor areas to explore, a new trail, a new nature center, and new playground. 
    • And if anything take your child's shoes off and encourage them to run barefoot in the grass, tell them to roll down a hill, lay on the grass and look up to the clouds. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Adventures at a Nature Center: Why you should connect with your local NC


Sunday was a wonderful day for exploring, signs of spring were finally showing up! I headed over to one of our favorite places to "unplug" and explore, Stamford Museum and Nature Center. We joined Miss. Lisa on a short hike to see some vernal pools, and then assisted in moving wood frog eggs to deeper water before they dried up in the sun

The center is situated in the woods of North Stamford, Ct the 118 acre property is home to 10 acres of working farm, 80 acres of trails, a planetarium, an amazing natural wood playground, and an interactive nature center. The center offers numerous weekly activities, a great summer camp, and seasonal festivals. I highly recommend getting a family membership if you plan on going more then twice a year.

Connecting with you local nature center

As a naturalist I have been involved with nature centers for about 10 years now, my day could consist of leading scout programs to traveling to school with menagerie of animals. One statement that I probably hear on a daily basis is, "WOW! I never knew this place was here!" It is always a shame that nature centers go overlooked by so many families, because it has so much to offer. 

What is a nature center? 
- Generally a nature center is a place where young people and adults can share a firsthand experience with nature.

- The term may indicate a preserve, wildlife refuge, park, interpretive center, zoo, botanic garden, museum, aquarium, environmental education center, or nature trail to name a few examples.

- Nature centers are found all over the world and allow visitors to experience every type of ecosystem on Earth.

Why should I go to a nature center? 
1. Nature centers can provide an awareness of your local ecosystem, that you may not already have. 
2. Nature centers can provide information about local and global environmental issues, and help you get involved with these solving these issues. 
3. Nature centers can foster stewardship of the environment. 

Find a nature center This link should help you easily find your local nature center by entering your zip code, and a mile raidus you are willing to travel. 

and for more info about the Stamford Museum and Nature Center