Urban Kids Get Outside Too! + An Introduction

    I want to start this post off today with some exciting news.  My long-time friend and fellow outdoor mom will be joining me on the blog as a regular contributor.  I am excited to have her viewpoints and expertise from a completely different angle than we usually come from.  Her kids are outside every day….in a much more urban environment.  Please welcome Ann on the blog and check out her contribution this week to our mission to get outside EVERYday!!

    From Ann:

    Ann and her family

    Ann and her family

    “I grew up exploring the outdoors of the beautiful Pacific Northwest (the best playground around!) while my husband, John, enjoyed an upbringing on a small island in tropical south Florida.  It has been a fun journey sharing with one another, and our children, our different experiences of the outdoors from opposite corners of the country.  I miss my days of riding horses in the mountains, snowboarding, and backpacking, but I am enjoying the new playground of the south.  We currently live near St. Augustine, FL with our three children:  Ava, 4, Avila, 3, and Maxson, 22 months.  When I am not busy running after/with my three little cherubs I enjoy attending spin classes, tackling an art project, and sipping on a nice glass of wine with my husband.  I look forward to sharing our experiences with you and learning from yours!”


    We see it as a mission to offer our children an authentic encounter with nature; we want them to experience the sense of wonder, curiosity, peace and adventure that reveals itself in the classroom of nature. Those of us who live in a more urban setting need to think outside the box when it comes to our outdoors experience. Hands-on exploring can happen, and everyday (I promise!), with a little creativity. Today I offer 5 tips for getting outside in an urban area.


    Set up a race course in your cul de sac, a friend’s yard, the park down the street, or another safe location in your neighborhood  big enough for a small loop.  Use chalk, cones, or send the kids to find rocks for marking the coarse.  Now this last instruction is optional and requires a hole puncher, but I assure you that it makes the “race” a lot of fun!  Pin a notecard on each child’s back, and each time they complete a lap punch a hole. Encourage them to reach a certain number and beat their “score” next time!

    Avila rides the course (notice her race card pinned to her back)


    I know this is a pretty basic concept, but one that can be forgotten!  Chalk is one of those classic never-gets-old, fun for all ages, items that has become a necessary tool in my garage.  For the toddler, it’s his first pencil!  For the preschooler and beyond, chalk holds endless possibilities of learning and imaginative fun.  Play hopscotch, tic tac toe, draw a welcome home picture for family or friends, make connect the dot flowers or your child’s favorite animal, trace their bodies and add hair, clothes, etc.  On a rainy day, use chalk in your garage!  What are some of your favorite outside chalk activities?

    Maxson & Avila drawing "babies"

    Maxson & Avila drawing “babies”



    Make a list (and perhaps draw pictures for the littler scavengers) of items you may find during a walk through your neighborhood, backyard, or park.  Discuss the season!  In many parts of the country right now you may find colorful fallen leaves, acorns, pinecones, pine needles, etc.  While, those of us down south may encounter seashells, lizards, and coconuts.  These adventures can easily become a lesson on the seasons and even geography!  (To Parents with napping babies and another child, or children, at home – you could turn this idea into I Spy-ish Scavenger Hunt. Make a list of what you may see from your window/porch/lanai.)


    It never hurts to lure them outside with the promise of a reward!  Create a fun map leading to hidden treasure.  Pretend you’re  pirates!  The booty could be a snack, or if you have extra helpers around the map could lead to a picnic.  Be sure to take note of ant piles, squirrels, slugs, etc on your way to treasure!


    Modify your approach to your surroundings. Make a conscious effort to examine the possibilities of the simple things nearby.  Is there dirt in your yard, or at the park? Encourage the kids to dig for worms and watch for the other critters who scurry away! Keep a worm to use for fishing.  Talk about how worms nourish the soil, and the birds that eat them.  If you live down south, point out to the kids the seasonal birds in the area; we are enjoying a lovely pair of cardinals that have parked themselves in our yard for the winter.  Examine a water source:  a puddle, pond, river, etc.  Find tadpoles, catch one!  Collect leaves and guess from which tree it fell.  Appreciate those little brains at work!  Don’t know the answers to all of their questions, me neither!  Make a plan to find the answers together at the library or online.

    Ava taking a closer look at her worm

    Ava taking a closer look at her worm


    © 2013, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.

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      1. Welcome Ann! Loved the post and can’t wait to read more! Great ideas– I think Jack is going to love the race track next summer:)

      2. Welcome! I belong to an urban nature group in my area can’t wait to see your ideas!

      3. Welcome Ann – can’t wait to “get to know you”!

      4. Ann! Loved this post and your friends blog! Really, I can’t tell you how happy I was to read it. All your ideas are awesome and I love the idea of race course with a notecard pinned to their back. You know my boys and they will totally love that and super simple for me. I only wish we lived closer and could do all these things together :). Can’t wait for all of your posts!

      5. I have to say, as an urban mom, I totally agree it is easy to get the kids outside to play even when you live in the city. Welcome Ann. Thanks for linking to the Outdoor Play Party.

        • Thank you, Jen, for hopping over and for your hosting the “party!” I look forward to learning more from your chronicles! Happy Friday!

      6. Some lovely ideas here. Thanks so much for sharing on my blog. I have just pinned this onto my Outdoor Play Board 🙂

      7. Great post! I was just having a conversation with friends about how getting outside in urban areas is a bit different–but still as rewarding. While leaving the zoo recently my kids spent almost an hour playing in a group of three trees, pretending it was a rain forest. It was a great reminder that we don’t have to physically be in a forest to “visit” one!

        • Thanks for your comment, Shaunna! It’s a great example of how a little creative effort goes a long way to offer a genuine experience of nature, love it! 🙂

      8. I’ve got four kids and they all would like to play with these. I think my 3 year old boy will find these particularly cool though.


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