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Family Nature Club good way to connect outdoors
It is important for parents to remember to turn off the television from time to time and get outside to play with their children.
One way to do that is to start a family nature club, which can include other families that also have an interest in connecting their children with nature.
According to the Children and Nature Network, each club is unique. Some meet weekly at a local park to play together and build friendships, while others take the form of boisterous family trail hikes that combine kid-driven play with spontaneous nature observation.
But no matter where they meet, or who is involved, clubs should get outside on a regular basis.
“Life is so busy these days, it can be easy to forget to spend time as a family,” said Stephanie S. Smith, a licensed clinical psychologist.
“Spending time when we are unplugged, not watching TV, and not doing household chores can be rare. However, this time can be a stress reliever and a fun way to gain strength as a family. Spending time as a family can be a great way to build strong families, and create relationships that will last a lifetime.”
There are a few steps recommended by the Children and Nature Network to start a family nature club.
First, a family should create a plan about where, when, what, how often and how long each adventure should be.
Second, parents should visit each location themselves before inviting other families, noting any special features for each destination including details on where best to meet and what to do once there.
Third, a family should invite as many people as they want. They can start small by just inviting a couple of friends to join them for a family hike, or they can start big by reaching out to neighborhood families, classmates, and community groups like the Scouts, 4-H and Boys and Girls Clubs.
Fourth, families should always remember to keep it easy by minimizing preparation time and maximizing fun by giving parents a check list for hassle-free outings.
Finally, give latecomers an extra 15 minutes before starting out, record the number of participants at each event, and collect contact information for new participants.
Some families may want to go solo when adventuring outside. For them, going on an outdoor adventure is as simple as walking out the front door, Smith said.
“Sometimes we as parents think that we need to spend lots of money or drive long distances to find things our kids will think are fun. This is rarely the case. Most kids just like to spend time with their parents doing something together. This can be a simple walk around the block, or an exploration trip at the nearest park.”
According to Karen Bowen, an expert desert gardener and a contributing columnist to the Yuma Sun, there are many fun activities a family can take part in together.
“Bird watching together would be lots of fun,” she said. “The family could keep a diary of when, where, and time of day various birds are spotted and perhaps take photos to go in the diary. Visiting local parks, such as the West Wetlands, would give the family an opportunity to bird watch and take time to play frisbee golf or explore the fantastic castle playground.”
A family could also take pictures of various trees, shrubs and other vegetation and make a plant identification book that lists the name of the plant and perhaps the Latin name as well, Bowen added.
“Any of the above mentioned activities could be continued on family trips so that the variety of plants or animals being logged would extend beyond the local Yuma wildlife,” Bowen said.