We have a fantastic nature center near our home (yay free activities!) that’s always a huge hit with the kids. We never get tired of looking at the turtles and snakes that they have there (we’ve now named them all), we quite frequently enjoy having picnics outside around the campfire pit, and most recently we’ve begun taking nature walks around the center. And by around I mean there is literally a path that goes in a small circle around the center and, for now, that works for us. Here we go on the prowl for butterflies.
Once inside the kids love checking out the turtles every time we visit. ”M” goes from tank to tank telling me all about them by name (mind you not their scientific name, I mean names like “Bob and Mabel”) and about their families and basically their whole life story. ”J” runs from tank to tank waving and yelling “HI!” at them convinced they are waving back when they swim towards (or away) from him.
The center has a please-touch table full of various seeds that animals eat as well as animal pelts. Speaking of, I have a cousin that wore a coonskin cap for at least a year when we were kids. Rarely did you see him without it. Well apparently I have my own little Davey Crocket on my hands and, sorry David, THIS is what I call a coonskin cap!
I think “J” just likes the feel of the animal fur and coincidentally hats. ”M” meanwhile goes around pretending to be the various animals.
As a former scientist I love that my daughter finds the microscope so fascinating. Granted she’s usually squinting with both eyes (or has them both closed) but just one look at her and I am happily reminded of all the years I’ve spent looking through those lenses starting decades ago with a microscope just like this one (this is normally when my daughter catches me staring at her with starry proud eyes and she asks what I am doing).
One thing I learned during this trip was about horseshoe crabs (it’s my goal when visiting museums, or even nature centers, is to learn one thing which really, with two kids going in opposite directions at all times, is a noble goal.). I was born and raised on the East Coast. I’ve known what a horseshoe crab is since I was 2. And yet somehow I completely forgot that their mouth is located in the middle of their body. Crazy huh?
We all love being outdoors and are anxiously awaiting the Fall for three main reasons 1) My children are essentially mosquito bait and best I can tell we apparently live in a swamp. 2) My son melts at the mere mention of the sun. 3) The leaves will soon be falling which to “M” means that soon she can make a leaf pile. Then again I am once again reminded that you can make leaf rubbings any time of year!
Post indoor exploration, we had a quick picnic lunch outside (wherein “J” managed to eat both his lunch and mine…..mental note: pack more food from now on) and then we went on another nature walk/butterfly hunt. And by hunt I mean that the kids constantly were swiping the net unless there was a butterfly then we would all freeze and watch it until it flew away (we’re less “hunters” and more admirers around here). ”M” is also an amateur bird watcher:
And “J” is her shadow. Aiming a little low there bud.
Of course the binoculars became a pretty hot ticket item while we were there. And while the sharing was basically successful I decided we could use a second pair when we got home. So we took two toilet paper rolls and taped them together, punched holes on the side and added some string. Believe it or not these were even more popular than the originals. Which brings me to my latest “game”. Have you ever noticed that kids are much more enthusiastic about doing things when requests are made with exciting buzz words including, but not limited to: race, adventure, secret (especially secret missions), and explorers. Well now since we have two sets of binoculars we can see which explorer can spot the toy on the floor first and pick it up the fastest!!!! Yup, I’ll do anything to get them to clean up their toys.
**Keep in mind that a lot of these activities can be done on your own, without the benefit of a nature center, in your own backyard or local park. Everyone loves a good outside adventure!