Family Outdoor Education Activities for All Four Seasons

Family Outdoor Education

Family Day was celebrated all over Canada in February. The national event recognizes the importance of families and family life to people and their communities. While it will have passed your province by the time you find this article, it’s important for households all over the country to maintain the spirit throughout the year. 

One way to do so in a manner that positively impacts your extended family, the community, is to choose an activity that benefits both your household and the world that surrounds it. It all begins with your children and the concept of outdoor education. Outdoor learning has a tremendous impact on their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development, with direct benefits being well documented over the years. Therefore, it makes sense that your family activity timeline incorporates outdoor experiences, ones that help serve the community. Given that the concept should be employed all year long, we have provided an activity idea for each season so that you can get started right away.

Four Fun Yet Educational Outdoor Activities for Families

1. Harvesting Winter Rain, Sleet, or Snow (Winter)

We’ve touched on outdoor learning ideas for kids in the cold season (here and here), but what about one that requires a full family effort while serving sustainable practices in the community? Take advantage of the heavy rain, sleet, and snowfall at this time of the season, by starting a water harvesting campaign. The project teaches kids about the importance of tapping into sustainable water resources for use on the lawn/garden and for family chores, such as washing the car, mopping the floor, and even flushing the toilet. It also allows them to use their creativity at the same time. 

First, you need a rain barrel. These can be found anywhere, from your home and garden retailer to the secondary market. Your local municipality will also offer rain barrels at a discount with proof of residence in an effort to support local sustainability initiatives. However, if you really want to turn this into a ground-up family affair, you and your kids can make your own using a large plastic garbage can. Once you have one, encourage your kids to decorate it with painted garden/wildlife scenes that will accent your home exterior or even the local community garden (as permitted).

2. Get Involved in a Garden (Spring)

Starting or getting involved in an existing garden project tops the list of family outdoor learning experiences in the spring. While a backyard (or patio) garden is a great place to get started, you and your kids will learn more about sustainable community practices and the effort to combat food insecurity by volunteering at a neighborhood garden or urban farm.

Spring is when you’re needed the most, as there are a wide variety of family-friendly responsibilities that need to be filled during the season. Beyond planting, there are many initiatives that support a thriving garden/farm, including efforts to attract beneficial bugs and other pollinators, constructing accessible spaces, and even drawing up informative signs to help create a learning garden for all. The possibilities are endless. Locate an initiative near you and find out how you can your kids can get involved.

3. Weekly Beach Clean-up (Summer)

Playing outside is easy in the summer, but it’s an important time of the year to incorporate an educational element because you want to prevent learning loss. Thankfully, this is easy enough to accomplish while keeping things fun. Start a weekly beach cleanup from the first day of summer vacation. Arm each member of the family with gloves, a pick-up stick, and either a garbage bag, compost bag, or recycle bag. Teach them what type of item (soda can, straw, cigarette butt, plastic bag, apple core, etc.) corresponds to each so that everyone knows what goes where, and why.

Not only will your kids see the direct benefit of a cleaner beach, they will gain a new sense of pride as local beachgoers come up to thank them for their efforts, which happens almost each and every time (you’ll see). If you don’t live near a public waterfront, you can do the same at a local park, or when you visit a beach on your summer family vacation.

4. Get More Out of a Pumpkin Patch (Autumn)

You probably already plan a visit to a local pumpkin patch in the autumn, but you can turn the trip into so much more when armed with the right information. Instead of putting on your collective galoshes and grabbing one of the cultivars to take home for decorative purposes, dedicate an hour or more to the affair. Start by educating your kids about the nutritional value of this superfood as you navigate the patch. Along the way, identify the runts of the litter or those that have been damaged or trampled upon, and let your kids know that these are not garbage, but valuable compositing resources, and follow up with a conversation about pumpkin seed preservation. View more on how to turn an autumn pumpkin patch visit a fun and educational affair for the whole family.

Do you have any “all season” activity ideas for families that you would like to share? We’d love to hear about them! Follow our Foundation on FacebookTwitter, and/or Google+, find this article on our recently published posts and leave a comment.

Please visit this link to learn more about our work in Canada and find out how you can become a Friend of the Foundation.