Tips for Parents

Unstructured outdoor play – from a game of hide-and-seek to watching the clouds – helps kids find nature on their own terms. It also helps them appreciate that the “outdoors” isn’t a far-away place – it’s in their backyards, a neighborhood park, or a little creek down the road. Even more important, it shows kids that nature can be FUN!

Structured activities, in which you are leading the way, can have benefits too. Just be sure to build a sense of accomplishment into the experience. For example, teaching a child how to identify a flower or tree based on shapes or number of leaves can make the outdoors feel more familiar and a little intimidating. Not sure how to ID plants yourself? There’s an app for that! (As well as plenty of great guidebooks.) Check out:

  • Leafpoint (free for iPhone and iPad): Identifies trees based on a photograph of the leaves.
  • LikeThat Garden (free for iPhone): Identifies flowers based on a photograph.
youth invovled in planting trees for Earth Day 2015

Activity Ideas

Want a few ideas to get your outdoor adventures started? How about one of these?

  • Walk in the woods
  • Visit a farm
  • Pick berries (spring) or apples (fall) – depending on where you live
  • Watch birds
  • Explore a creek and see what you find in the water
  • Plant a garden
  • Look for bats at dusk
  • Roast marshmallows
  • Build a person-sized nest or den with sticks, rocks, or whatever you have nearby
  • Youth Activity: Can You See Water Pollution?

    Some pollution is easy to identify. Other times, “pollution” can mean something different for people and for fish and wildlife. That’s why the Izaak Walton League developed the Save Our Streams program and Creek Freaks project for kids – to test water quality using science.

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  • Youth Activity: Tracking Wildlife

    Finding animal tracks is exciting for kids, especially trying to figure out which animal made the tracks and what the animal was doing. In this activity, you will look for signs of wildlife and make casts of any tracks you find.

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  • Youth Activity: Leaf Matching

    With a few leaves and branches, you can help kids learn to observe nature closely and introduce them to the idea that you can distinguish different kinds of trees by their leaves.

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  • Youth Activity: Search for Soil Dwellers

    Healthy soil provides habitat (food, water, and shelter) for an astonishing array of creatures. Scientists estimate that more than half the mass of soil is made up of living things.

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  • Youth Activity: Catching Air Pollution

    When we talk about air pollution, we mean small particles in the air that can affect our ability to breathe and cause other health problems. This project is an easy way to show kids the particulate matter that floats in the air around them, largely unseen.

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  • Youth Activity: Stream Creature Construction

    Learn how stream-bottom macroinvertebrates are adapted to their swift-water habitat.

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