Itching to get your kids off their screens and into the great outdoors? Outdoorswoman and mother-of-two, Corey Hunt, shares her advice on how to encourage more outdoor fun during quarantine.
We are in the midst of spring here in the south. With cooler mornings giving way to warm sunny afternoons, it’s no wonder so many people move here from the north.
However, for many people, this year has not been a predictable spring.
With kids out of school and parents scrambling for any activity that doesn’t involve a screen, I find myself being drawn to simpler activities to entertain my children. To my surprise, my kids are enjoying the simpler activities more than their screens.
Here are five tips for outdoor fun that have helped us make this lock-down period more enjoyable.
Tip #1: Dig up some worms!
Many southerners plant and enjoy a summer garden. Here in the south, where there is moist dirt, there are usually earthworms.
My first suggestion to entertain kids in quarantine is to dig up these creatures and play with them in a bucket with a little dirt.
If you know a child that isn’t fond of bugs, worms can be a great starting point. Worms don’t have legs that gross some kids out, and kids usually like digging in the dirt anyway.
After a rain shower, earthworms move closer to the surface and sometimes can be found on the ground where kids are able to just pick them up.
If the garden can spare some earthworms, save them in the bucket for my next suggestion.
Tip #2: Cast a Line for this kid-friendly Fish
Spring brings with it warmer weather and longer days. Bugs begin to hatch near the ponds, and no fish species seems to enjoy this more than bluegill.
Bluegill begin to spawn around the middle to the end of May where we live, which means they are in shallow water getting their area ready for a female.
They also have quite the appetite so if any worms were saved from the garden, bluegill always seem ready to eat.
With the fish near the bank, kids of all ages can enjoy successfully casting their rods a foot off the bank (or less) to a willing fish, which is entertaining for adults and kids alike.
Tip #3: Start a bug collection To display
As a kid, I enjoyed all things outdoors. One of the stranger things I started collecting (to my mother’s dismay) were bugs. If a store had fluorescent lights on the outside, I was there at dusk and dawn during the summer, checking to see what bugs had flocked to the light.
This year, my dad told my son about this hobby and he has started his own bug collection. Bug collections, while gross to some, are pretty easy (and entertaining) to start.
We own a butterfly net which helps in the retrieval but isn’t necessary.
Once you’ve caught your bug(s), next dab fingernail polish remover on a cotton ball and put both the bug and the cotton ball in an airtight container (we use a glass jar). In twenty-four hours the bug will be ready for display.
*Note, please encourage your children to leave pollinators, like butterflies, alone as they are in need of human protection these days. However, if they find a deceased butterfly the fingernail polish trick will still work to preserve the body.
There are several ways to display insects, we use a square piece of foam about half an inch thick and straight pins. Ideally, a wooden box with a lid keeps the bugs from decaying quickly and looks a little nicer.
Tip #4: Enjoy stream and riverfront beaches
With travel restricted this year, many vacations have been canceled or at least modified. With school winding down, my kids have been wondering if our family vacation will happen this year and longing to go to the beach.
We live near a river that is impacted on a weekly basis by rain, causing the water levels to rise and fall. When the water levels are low, we grab our buckets and shovels and walk down to what my kids like to call “the sandy beach”.
The river silt and sand has been pushed to the slow moving part of the river, causing a buildup around a bend.
My kids have spent hours digging holes and building sand castles here at our “sandy beach.”
If there is water nearby, look for a shallow part with easy access where kids can catch tadpoles, dig in the sand, or play in the water.
Tip #5: Create a terrarium from scratch
School is almost over, but that doesn’t mean learning has to stop. Many kids love learning about the outdoors, and it's more fascinating when it's up close.
My last suggestion to get kids outdoors is to start a terrarium.
To begin, clean out any translucent, plastic jar.
Next, make several thin layers of dirt, sand, rocks, and a final layer of dirt.
Place any type of seeds in the last layer of dirt, and with some water and sunshine kids can watch their seeds transform into plants.
My kids enjoyed seeing which plants had the longest roots and which plants grew the tallest. We also decorated the jars with glow in the dark stickers so the kids could see them at night.
After a month of quarantine, the days may start to grow monotonous. Try these five suggestions of outdoor activities to change up your routine and see which ones your kids enjoy the most.
If there is a body of water nearby like a lake or river, find a shallow point and let kids’ imaginations take over. Being outdoors can be relaxing for adults as well as entertaining for kids, even during quarantine.
Take this time to start new hobbies, such as a bug collection or growing a terrarium. Just because we are at home, doesn’t mean we have to be inside!