We live in a nifty little house that was built in the 20s and has lots of character. We can walk or bike to the store, the kids’ school, the library, and many parks and playgrounds. We could have afforded a more expensive home, but wanted one that was less expensive so that we can still afford to travel and head out on family adventures. I think it’s beneficial for the kids to get out and see our country’s natural wonders–the Black Hills, Arches National Park, Acadia, Mammoth Cave, etc. However, I also believe it’s equally important for kids to get out and explore the local environment on a regular basis. I connect my love of nature to two sources: family camping road trips around the country, and many long summers spent building forts and playing in the woods and stream behind my childhood home.
Thus, the only downside to our home is that we have a tiny yard with only one climbing tree. I’ve recently picked up a few books on natural playscapes and creating kid gardens, which will help us to transform our small yard space into a cool natural place for our kids to play. However, I also want my kids to experience exploring a forest, along with the feeling of being out in the wilderness and away from the stress of everyday life. Therefore, we’ve started taking monthly trips to Scuppernong Springs, a nearby nature trail, which has now become a special place for us.
This past warm November weekend we packed up our water bottles, snacks, and nature journals and headed for an afternoon of hiking, exploring, and playing. Before we started I reminded the kids about the importance of being considerate to other visitors, plants, and animals, as well as being careful to watch where they step, play, and climb so they don’t harm anything (Leave No Trace Principles). It took us two and a half hours to work our way around a 1.5 mile loop. We climbed many trees, found natural forts, floated leaves down a creek, observed the natural springs, observed how the landscape had changed since our last visit, observed birds, and talked to DNR employees who were working on an improvement project. We had a lovely afternoon together, enjoying undistracted time together. When we got back to the car we were all happy and refreshed. I’m looking forward to our December trip and I’m sure the kids are too. I hope you can find someplace equally special to explore on a regular basis with children!
I forgot my camera that day and had to rely on my camera phone (thus the photo quality is not too great).