Tag Archives: things to do with kids outside

Tips for helping kids track animals in the snow

There is an added bonus to walking in the winter that you might not think of at first–the animals that use that same trail as you every day are no longer invisible.  They leave undeniable proof of their presence.

On a winter walk once, my kids and I found a set of dog-like tracks and followed them.  They meandered into a clearing, and there we found a mess of bird tracks, some wing marks in the snow, lots more dog tracks… and a dead magpie torn to pieces  We tried to piece together a couple different theories that could explain what could have happened based on just the tracks.  And we left with a few good stories.

Not only is tracking fun, but it gets you outdoors in the winter, when finding things to do outside with your kids can be a daunting task. Even if you never get around to actually identifying any of the tracks, just knowing that you’ve come across the path of a wild creature is pretty thrilling.

It’s bonafide detective work, and what kids isn’t going to love that? (more…)

Ideas for outdoor ‘dates’ with little kids

It’s been obvious these past two months (since Viv was born) that I need more 1-on-1 time with Isaac (almost 3). He’s quickly coming down with a serious case of the Terrible-twos-meets-middle-child Syndrome.

My other two children get their alone time with me every day. Ari and I get time together while the kids are napping in the afternoons. Viv and I bond at odd hours of the night. Because of middle-child related issues, I just can’t seem to find that time with Isaac anymore, but I think it’s something we both need.

I wanted to take Isaac for a hike today, but due to high winds I took him to the grocery store with me instead… Isaac’s a pretty spazy kid, and loves to be ‘helpful’.  That helpfulness resulted in several produce topplings, a close call with a few cartons of eggs, and a lot of time spent unloading all the stuff he’d put in the shopping cart.  Not exactly the quality time I was looking for.

There’s something about spending time 1-on-1 outside, especially for a kid with Isaac’s energy level that tops any other date I’ve tried. The fresh air, the lack of distractions, and the way it puts me (and therefore my child) at ease.

I’ve started brainstorming future outdoor dates for me and my kids. Things that work best one-on-one anyway that we can do within an hour or two. (more…)

Teach kids to ski: 5 tips for keeping it enjoyable

I sent the following email to my friend Amber the other day:

I’m thinking of doing a blog post about teaching kids to ski. I was wondering if you could help me out since my kids don’t really ski (yet). Will you send me your 5 best tips/advice when it comes to getting kids off on the right track? Please. Pretty please?

This was her original reply…

#1. snacks
#2. snacks
#3. snacks
#4. sun
#5. patience

I can see why our kids are such good friends, they both speak the (probably universal) kid language of ‘snacks’.

Then she sent me a few more ideas. I was thoroughly impressed, and think that a lot of her ideas could actually apply to teaching your kids pretty much any new outdoor sport.

Also, FYI: She has 3 kids. Ages: 0, 4 and 7.


So you want to teach your kid how to ski? Nothing else can provide so much outdoor enjoyment during the cold, and hopefully snowy, winter months. But how to begin? I had to consult the practical, organized one in the family (my husband, Alex) to make sure all of the bases were covered and we came up with the following list… (Listed in order of importance. According to me).


For our children, everything is more enjoyable when there are snacks involved. Actually, everything’s more enjoyable for me when there are snacks involved!

The adults are in charge of stuffing the pockets of their coats with snacks of various kinds. The key to choosing an appropriate snack is taking into consideration the “sticky when damp” factor. Fruit snacks hold up surprisingly well, candy cane pieces, not so well. It’s also best not to take along candy that is individually wrapped (ex. Starburst), It’s no fun explaining to your little skier that you can’t go pick up the litter that is fluttering down to rest on the steep cliff beneath you on the lift.

We’ve found that it is necessary to be strategic with where snacks are administered: Ski lift…yes, ski run…no (it makes the run interminably long). Lodge…maybe (depending on how cold the day is). The lodge can be a black hole, once you venture in, the likelihood of getting back out onto the slope is poor. Our kids are usually good for only 2-4 hours of skiing. We feed them a good breakfast then tide them over with snacks until lunch time. We usually save the lodge for hot chocolate and lunch after the skiing is over. Or, if they let us get away with it, lunch in the car on the way back home.

Timing of snacks is key. Too many snacks and you have no leverage to encourage your tike to take one more run. Our system is to give 2 pieces of candy on the “baby lift”, 3-4 on the “big kid” lift.  It’s amazing what kids will do for 1 or 2 more pieces of candy!


As with any new activity you start with your child, patience is key to success (success in skiing = your child has fun and makes it home in 1 piece, you keep your sanity). (more…)

Enjoying January… Wait. Is that Lake Tahoe?

Last week was wonderful here in the greater Reno area. I know I’ll regret that statement come May and there’s no kayak season; and I feel bad for all the ski resorts around Tahoe, I really do… But we just couldn’t help but take advantage of that spring like sunshine. The kids and I spent a day by the lake. Feet in the sand, toes in the water, my arm sore from skipping rocks over and over and over trying unsuccessfully to prove I was a “better rock skipper than Dad”. We built sand piles (Tahoe sand doesn’t pack well), laid in the sun, ate lots of snacks, dug for treasures and threw a Christmas party for all the plastic sea animals we’d brought.

It was one of those days I just loved being a Mom. I think we all need a warm January day now-and-then.

But judging by this picture of my kids attire while playing trains today, I think it’s safe to say their ready for some snow… (more…)

Bubblology: The Art of Gigantic Bubbles

Looking for something fun and a little different to do with your kids this summer? Something that requires little work on your part, is super-cheap, and will provide hours of fun for them? I’ve got just the thing. Bubbles!

Not just any bubbles either. Really big ones. Tough ones that don’t pop if you blink. Like bubbles should be.

Here’s the recipe (Make the solution the night before and let it ‘set up’ for best results): (more…)

Use #2 for a stick: Call a Woodpecker

That’s right, there’s more than one way to use a stick.

Here’s one you may not know about, but that I learned about from David Attenborough on his The Life of Birds videos (I put a youtube video of Attenborough in action at the bottom).

Note that Attenborough uses a rock, which, obviously, can work too.  I have found that sticks resonate better, but it may depend on the type of stick, the type of ‘drum’, and the type of bird.  I leave you to find what works best in your area.

Especially useful during breeding season, woodpeckers (by the way, did you know that a group of woodpeckers is called a ‘descent’ of woodpeckers?) respond not only to vocal calls, but to the drumming sounds they make when hammering at wood with their sturdy beaks.  Each drumming rhythm is unique to the particular species (though some sound a lot alike to me!) and not only attracts a mate, but also helps to delineate territories.



Here are some examples: (more…)

The All-Weather Kiddie Pool

When we made our move from Utah to Nevada last year we had a few problems fitting all our belongings in the moving truck. Our house just kept exuding STUFF. A lot of that stuff got left behind…

The plastic swimming pool was absolutely not one of those things that got left behind. Heaven forbid. I know, I know, I’m sure we broke all sorts of safety standards with our packing job, but I think any safety inspector would have understood once he heard why we had to keep the kiddie pool.

We moved in the fall and there was no way we were going to find a plastic pool replacement that time of year. Why does this matter? Because around here the kiddie pool is not just used in the hot summer months. It is a year round imagination device disguised as an ankle-wetter. Do you realize how perfect these things are for: (more…)

Play Date @ Tahoe. Sand vs Cement.

I finally got to see Lake Tahoe yesterday on pretty much the coolest play date ever. With only a 1:2.5 child to parent ratio the day really could have gone either way; but we ended up having a blast. In fact the two youngest even took naps in the beach tent! I have a feeling Tahoe will be seeing a lot of us this summer. Although next time we’ll have to bring the crawdad catcher Joe and Ari have been working on, and some paddle boards…

In the course of the past week my kids have also enjoyed two other water play dates. One at a swimming pool, the other at a water park. While fun in their own right, at both of those places my kids lasted about an hour or two. They lasted all day at Tahoe. There’s something about the presence of sand, and the absence of cement (and crazy kids everywhere) that puts us all at ease. Anyone else noticed that?

I Love Dirt!

Comments Off on I Love Dirt!

I Love Dirt! by Jennifer Ward, is described as “52 activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature”.

Does it live up to this claim? Yes. Although I’m not sure I would call them all ‘activities,’ maybe something more along the lines of ‘conversation starters,’ ‘exploration ideas,’ ‘questions’?

What I liked about this book:

  • Even if you know nothing about nature, you’ll still feel confident using these activities.
  • It doesn’t matter where you live – urban or rural, east coast or west coast, near a little patch of green in the city or on 5 acres in the woods – the activities are meant to promote exploration wherever you are.
  • The kid-friendly explanations that accompany each activity are awesome!
  • Each activity has a Q&A box. The first time I read this book I just went through and read all the Q&A’s– they’re mostly just kid friendly factoids, but obviously parents love them too…
  • The activities are open-ended, therefore very little structure. As a result I must warn you that your child will likely have far more questions than you can answer. It’s great!
  • The size of the book and the durability of the thick paperback cover make it a perfect candidate for your backpack.

This book may not be for you if: (more…)


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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