I made a New Year’s resolution when I became a mom to spend at least 15 minutes outdoors every day, finding inspiration in nature. Doing so renews my mind and sets me on a positive track so I can tackle the tasks that come with raising children, working and managing a household. Even when I feel like I don’t have the time, I engage in this simple, uplifting activity. I know that those few minutes outside will pay dividends later when I return recharged.
It hasn’t always been easy to get away, but I know that I am forming lifelong habits that my almost 3-year-old son, Garrett, and my 9-month-old daughter, Dylan, will enjoy with me. We often sneak away to see what we can find. Now our hikes are completed at a toddler’s pace and distance, and I never cease to be amazed at all the adventures that we uncover in every season.
One warm spring afternoon, we set out to explore the mud puddles along our lane. For over an hour, we threw pinecones and sticks into the larger ones and, of course, splashed around in the smaller ones, soaking ourselves in the process.
While I was busy digging up transplants for a new garden bed one summer morning, Garrett came over to me frantic that a snake was on the mat where he and his sister were busy playing with trucks. I asked him to show me, and he pointed at a caterpillar.
Transplants abandoned, we caught the caterpillar and had an impromptu biology lesson about how caterpillars eat leaves, form little chrysalises and then emerge as butterflies. That began a caterpillar craze that lasted for weeks.
Fall is my favorite time of year, and I usually steer our adventures to include listening for elk bugling. After one hike at a nearby trailhead, we weren’t sure that Garrett heard the high-pitched squeal and guttural whoomps from a distant bull elk. On the ride home, his dad and I were discussing how we never tire of that sound. Then we heard an impressive imitation of a bull elk bugle coming from our toddler in the backseat. Since that day, we occasionally hear the wild sound of an elk calling from our living room.
When extreme cold keeps Garrett, Dylan and me indoors, we enjoy nature from our window. We place bird feeders and suet cakes within easy viewing distance and spend time identifying, counting and recording the species that frequent our feeders. We especially love spotting species that come along by chance: rabbits, mice, squirrels, deer, flying squirrels and raptors.
And, if you think the time for exploring the outdoors has passed beneath a blanket of snow, think again. The best time to explore nature is in winter. Tracking in the snow opens up a whole world of seeing.
Sharing these experiences with children can open your eyes to things that you would otherwise take for granted.
May the New Year bring you and your children opportunities to answer the call of the wild!