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Get Out, Kids

Posted Oct 15 2008 1:07pm

This fall brought two books about connecting kids with nature. Rick Van Noy's A Natural Sense of Wonder (University of Georgia Press) chronicles his children's surprising encounters with the natural world in a Virginia suburb. "Vigorous outdoor play," he asks, "where have you gone?" The Van Noys bring it back--and with tips from author Jennifer Ward, you can too. Her book I Love Dirt! (Random House) offers 52 ways for parents and kids to discover the near outdoors. Here's a sampling of ideas from the two authors to help your family experience nature's best--whatever winter throws at you.

TAKE IT OUTSIDE Make a point of moving ordinary indoor activities outside when the weather permits. Ward suggests snuggling up with a blanket for story time or wearing layers for a soul-warming meal.

WALK TO SCHOOL  A daily walk of just six blocks is, for Van Noy's kids, an opportunity to learn the fun, loud, snow-crunching way. If your children's school is too far away to get to by foot or bike, walk with them to the next bus stop or the last few blocks to the school's entrance. 

BUILD A NEST Birds' nests are easiest to find in the cooler months, after leaves have fallen away. Challenge your kids to find and scrutinize a few nests (leaving any residents undisturbed, of course), and then try to imitate their design with twigs, mud, and leaves--appreciating the feathered architects' mastery in the process.

LOOK CLOSER  Encourage your kids to explore less-than-obvious aspects of nature. Ward recommends using a magnifying glass to investigate an area about the size of a child's foot--on a tree trunk or cracked sidewalk, for example. Talk about your discoveries together.

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