Now that spring has FINALLY come to stay (I'm looking at you, snow...no amount of embracing hygge has made your extended stay acceptable this year), I'm hoping to get out to local and regional spots to enjoy the outdoors with my family on a different level. This can be challenging juggling the energy of a 5 1/2-year-old, the “independence” of a 2 1/2-year-old, and the needs of a 6-month-old. (The trick to do ANYTHING with all three is to babywear our youngest.) So, I'm hoping that the list I've compiled for our family might give you some ideas to get back out and about after being cooped up all winter long...
Find your local trails.
Of course, some trails aren't the safest for families, but if you hunt for nature trails or even parks near you, you might be surprised. For example, in our neck of the woods, we have the Adirondack Mountains within an hour or so, so we can check out the sites that detail short beginner’s paths. However, there are even far simpler, paved trails near the Erie Canal or by many local parks and playgrounds. One of our favorite nature trails is actually located on a local college campus. Several of our colleges have nature trails that are free and open to the public, and the PERFECT opportunity for little ones to discover nature and get some energy out.
Whether science/STEM, history, art, or good old-fashioned children’s museums, a lot of museums actually offer a fun opportunity to take in some scenery and make a day of it. Within an hour’s drive in any direction, we have a science museum, a “farmers’ museum” (which is a mostly-outdoor living history experience with a fun farm tie-in), several art museums that house a broad range of artists and styles (and, often, a drawing opportunity for the kiddos), and even a close-by children’s museum. And if a museum isn’t enough outdoor activity (it varies from place to place), I’d also suggest bringing a picnic lunch along to bring the conversation outside afterwards.
I’ve been itching at the chance to get back to the market. It’s not that we don’t have a winter market (we do), but with the cold weather, the crops are limited to root veg (and, honestly, anything that’s shipped in...which is disappointing). Nope, it’s time to buy pints of berries that the kids down before we even get to the car and plan meals around the fresh ingredients. We know a good number of the farmers so it’s like seeing old friends again. It feels like everyone is coming out of hibernation so grabbing a fresh-squeezed lemonade and sack of produce in the warm sun is beyond refreshing.
This one can be a hot button topic, and I understand why. A general view of zoos as entrapment of wild animals is incredibly valid. I’m lucky to say that while our local zoo is small, it’s dedicated to its impact on the world; namely, their animals are rehabbing creatures. So, make sure that you research the zoo before you go if its stewardship matters to you.
Parks and playgrounds.
This is a simple, obvious one, but for our kids, the first slightly-chilly, super muddy trip to a playground marks the start of the spring/summer season. It’s a must-do. But, for fun, try to check out as many local parks as possible. Keep track of your favorite elements (whether it has a soft landing, if it was for big kids or little ones, the number of activities, if there was a splash pad nearby, etc) so that you can even pick a new favorite for the year. Our family is on the hunt for our new fave!
If you’re lucky enough to have “summer weather in springtime”, this is an obvious one. At our house, since we still aren’t safe to plant our gardens yet, I’m indulging instead by researching our summer vacation. While not everyone is a beach person in our family (I’m usually one of those “can we go to a historical site?” people but feel the need to stick my feet in some sand once a year), it seems that it’s a general consensus this year. Sometimes planning the vacation is just as therapeutic as going!
Just get in the yard!
Ha. This one is a chore veiled in play, but it counts in my book. Have the littles collect sticks and pine cones; the older ones can dig up your garden to prep for planting. You can even turn it a tad more fun by allowing the kids to dig for worms or simply play and discover while you try to get things spring ready! Plus, you could also have a picnic or barbecue, fire pit (if your area’s not too dry!), or a backyard movie night to kick the season off right.
Find what makes your area unique.
Every area is special. Ask your local friends on social media to respond with their favorite kid-friendly outdoor activities and revisit the list often throughout the summer. This provides everyone with a fun resource, as well.
And while we’re at it, why don’t you chime in down in the comments with your favorite outdoor activity to do with your family? We’d love to hear and have you share your family’s ideas!