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

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Nature Journaling: Connecting with nature, your kids, and you

What is nature journaling? 

Journalism has played an important part in understanding our past, present, and future. Where would we be without Darwin and his scientific recordings, Louis and Clark's recordings of their journey, even a horticulturalists observations of her plants throughout the year aids in the following years planting.  

“With just paper and pen, people who are passionate about a place may be as well equipped as anyone to protect it.”
—Carolyn Duckworth, naturalist-writer-teacher
F.W.'s Nature Journal spread


Journals are an excellent tool for linking different subjects together. They foster communication skills, data collecting, creativity, and children have a record of their experiences for years to come. There are no rules or boundaries to creating and keeping a journal, but it may help to have some ideas how to get started.

“You must walk sometimes perfectly free, not prying or inquisitive, not bent on seeing things. Throw away a whole day for a single expansion, a single inspiration of air. …You must walk so gently as to hear the finest sounds, the faculties being in repose. …Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”
—Henry David Thoreau

How to get started

1. Purchase or Make a Journal

I prefer to use a small water proof journal. Rite in the Rain makes the one of the best journals out there, easy to carry around, and of course you can write in the rain with them! You can also check out the craft and art stores for blank journals, but be aware these are not water proof, just imagine all those memories ruined if the journal gets wet.

But if you would rather create your own all you need is blank paper, a hole puncher, string, and a stick....and imagination!

Check on the Handbook of Nature Study for detailed instructions!

2. Tools for Journaling
You only really need a pencil, but the following items can help!
  • Magnify Glass
  • Binoculars- Start with simple ones purchased at your local sporting good store.
  • Bug Box- Any tupperwear contairer with small holes will do, also empty pill viles work great for hiking! 
  • Net-
  • Field Guides-
  • Water Color Paints

  • Colored Pencils: I tend to carry the smaller versions as they are easier to transport.
  • Ruler: to measure leaves, ect. Note: Rite in the Rain journals have a ruler on the backside of the covers.
  • Tape: I recently had a student find a fruit fly and tape in her nature journal, along with blades of grass and a leaf.
    •  Keep in mind the following when taping nature to your journal.
      • It will not rot and smell! 
      • You are not in a preserve, many places will ask that you not pick items.
      • Try not to pick items that seem in short supply, you never know that purple plant you just picked may be a rarity. 
      • Do not pick items your cat will eat! My friend once tapped cat nip in her journal, the result was disastrous. 
      • Taking photos is always another alternative. 
3. Find a Sit Spot! 

A sit spot is one place in your natural world that you like to visit often, a place you get to know and love, a place that becomes your best friend. A sit spot can be in the backyard, in a tree, on a rock, along a river, anywhere! Two basic guidelines to follow for a sit spot:
  1. The sit spot must be near home, that way your child can easily observe changes throughout the seasons. 
  2. The sit spot must be in a safe environment. 
4. Go past your sit spot!

Of course a sit spot is a great place to call your own, but don't just stop there. Encourage your child to journal everywhere there is nature they observe.

  • On a hike
  • Camping
  • Siting and looking out the window
  • Traveling in the car...(great alternative to the dvd player!)
  • even watching your pets in the house. 
5. Get in touch with your all senses.

Remind your child to use all their senses when observing nature, this includes emotions  Have them describe the taste of the air, the feel of the grass, the shape of the clouds, the sounds of the birds, how they feel in this spot.

Great Guides to Nature Journaling 

Keeping A Nature Journal thumbnail

Journals can be anything your child wants it to be, it can contain anything the imagine. They can fill it up with poetry, weather observations, sketches of squirrels, leaf rubbings, fruit flies taped in the pages, anything! So do not discourage them with criticism. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

10 Activities to Welcome Spring

 10 Great activities to get you and your little one looking for adventures in the Springtime.

1. Vernal Pool Exploration AKA "Wicked Big Pools!": Vernal pools are temporary pools of water,usually found during the rising waters of fall, and meltwater of spring. They provide essential habitat for animals both big and small, it provides a nursery setting for many animals to start life. Exploring these pools can offer hours of fun with slimy critters, and a glimpse into a microworld. Expect to find fairy shrimp, wood frogs, salamanders, tadpoles, and more. Before setting out please read the top ten rules for visiting a vernal pool Vern's tips for vernal pool visits. 

2. Signs of Spring Scavenger Hunt:  
Have your kids research what are some signs of spring, then create a scavenger hunt for your next hiking adventure! 

3. Birding: I bet a lot of you keep your eyes to what is in front of you while walking. Well you are missing a WHOLE lot, keep your eyes to the sky! Birding can become a great family activity, you can even start a "Life List" with your child and keep that list going well into their adulthood. A life list is basically a record of all the bird species you have identified. Some sites I recommend to get you and your family started

4. Cycles of Life (Life and Death): Yes spring is a time of renewal, when nature shows us that we can survive the rigors of hardship (in this case winter) and give us hope and life. But it is also important to touch upon death. A rotting log can provide a great example of the cycles of life through studying decomposition. TLC Family has a great "rotting log" lesson plan for the family TLC Family "rotting log

5. Planting with newspaper: For a fun Spring craft activity head to "How to make organic planting pots"

6. Create a Children's Play Garden: Not only do I feel it is important that kids play in all weather, but also they play and get dirty doing it! Check out the FANTASTIC blog The Imagination Tree How to make a play garden

7. Amphibian night hike. Typically you will find a salamander hiding under a rotting log, or a pile of leaves. But on one of the first warm and moist spring nights hundreds upon thousands of salamanders will make their way to the ponds for mating. Check out this great book Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein, also The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer. Your local nature center can assist you in a salamander night hike. 

8.Rainy Day Fun: I strongly believe in getting your child outdoors in ALL weather! A little rain isn't going to hurt them, and nor will a little mud! It seems every department store now has rain boots for children, so grab some for some rainy day fun. Encourage your child to jump in puddles, play in the mud, dance and sing, look for worms, watch what animals do in the rain,even PAINT! Painting in the rain 

9. Earth Day Celebration: Earth Day Network can help you organize your own event, or even find local events.  Another great site to find local events is  

10. Visit Your Local Nature Center: Your local Nature Center not only can offer hiking trails, but yearly family based programs, summer camp, vacation camp, volunteer opportunities, and more! Consider becoming a member to save $$ on all the fantastic possibilities! Some of my favorite centers by me are:

Free eBook: Guide to Lifelong Learners

Free eBook: Guide to Lifelong Learners

Just thought I would share this great offer from Playful Learning. 

The Playful Learning Guide to Raising Lifelong Learners is the first in a series of Playful Learning guides for parents and teachers. The goal is to provide creative, effective, and practical tips that will inspire joyful learning and meaningful memories for children and grown-ups alike.
This eBook helps parents:
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We hope you enjoy it and share it with your friends…
To download this e-book, simply complete the form on the right.

Click the link below to receive your free eBook.

Free eBook from Playful Learning

Also Check out her blog and website for courses on helping your child grow and learn.


Introducing Naturally Playful: 

Handmade kid-friendly items, for indoor and outdoor "unplugged" play! 

Books take a back seat to television. Zero- to 8-year-olds spend an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes per day watching television and DVDs, compared to 29 minutes reading or being read to. Babies and toddlers under age 2 spend more than twice as much time watching television and DVDs (53 minutes) as they do reading or being read to (23 minutes.)

Greetings, and thank you for stopping by my blog. I am so excited to start this blog, and start my business Naturally Playful. It is my hope that I can inspire "unplugged" natural play to many families.

Why is it so important to get your child "unpugged"? Simply put children are spending less time outdoors, less time with unstructured playtime, and more time plugged into technology. The effects of this are harming children's creativity, emotions, and their naturally ability to just play. Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for apps on my phone when sitting in long lines at the craft store, and glad we had our kindle for our recent plane ride, but there needs to be a balance. 

To find out more about current items available please check out my facebook page Naturally Playful

Links to getting kids outdoors