Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Giving Kids Nature-Inspired Gifts

This is my fifth in a series of posts for Nature Rocks, a wonderful movement that encourages families to spend more time outdoors connecting with nature. It's an idea that my family tries to live out each and every day. This week, I'm their featured ambassador, so Nature Rocks will be posting some of my tips for enjoying time outside with kids, and I'll be posting more detailed posts that correspond with each tip.

Read posts from earlier this week here:

Today's tip is to give nature-inspired gifts to your kids.

If your family is anything like mine, you look around your living room at the end of each day and see a sea of toys. Most of them were brought out, played with for a few minutes, and then abandoned. So we have tried hard to live by a little motto:

Give "used" toys and "new" experiences.

By that I mean we often give the Arrows hand-me-down or resale shop toys and books. We frequent the library to boost our reading material. In the summer months, you'll often find me browsing garage and yard sales for little treasures. Where you won't find me is the toy aisle of stores (except maybe the dollar store or dollar section at Target). I'm looking at the Arrow's toy bins right now, and basically the only new items were those they were given as gifts by family.

Instead, we use that money for trips, admission to local attractions, park passes, etc. Afterall, I'm convinced the Arrows will remember those things well into adulthood, not the matchbox cars and stuffed animals that litter my floors.

So here are a few nature-inspired gifts you might consider for the next holiday/birthday/special occasion:

  • An annual state park pass. We love state parks and we're fortunate to live near a few great ones. I love having a pass because it encourages us to visit more, even if it's just for an hour. I wrote this post for Visit Indiana yesterday about some new packages our state parks are offering.
  • Camping equipment. I'm going to write more about camping later this week. While it's much cheaper than a hotel stay, the experience is greatly enhanced with good supplies, like a quality tent, sleeping bags, a lantern, etc.
  • Baby or toddlier carriers. (Wrote all about those yesterday.)
  • Zoo membership. If you have a membership, you can take your time at each visit and really connect with the animals, instead of rushing through to see everything in one visit. Just return a few weeks later and visit another section. Don't have a zoo nearby? Maybe there's an arboretum, botanical garden or nature preserve you could join.
  • Kid-sized yard tools. Big Arrow loves helping us with yard work. So we have some tools he can use for each season (like kid gardening tools in the spring, a kiddie mower in the summer, a kid-sized rake in the fall, and a small shovel in the winter). It helps us get our work done faster because he's entertained and feels like one of the adults.
  • Bikes or bike seats. Biking can be a great way to get kids outside and see more of the world at the same time. Depending on the age of your kids, either get them their own bike and helmet, or a good bike seat. (We love the iBert for kids 1 year up to 40 lbs.)
Enjoying our iBert and biking as a family.

Next up: Sharing your outdoor hobbies with your kids.