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Paula Olson, The Northwest Connection

Watson Creek, Photo credit: Gary Randall

The signs are everywhere at this time of year in the Pacific Northwest. The weather grows a little milder, the days’ lengthening is gradual but reliable, hardware stores and plant nurseries roll out their carts full of vegetable and flower starts, and buds and leaves emerge on winter–worn bare branches. It is spring and we are seeing green! Shades of green, that is.

I am a proponent of getting outside all year long, but isn’t it more enticing when you have spring’s “spring” in your step? This is an opportunity to take your children outside and invent activities simply not possible in the wind and rain of dismal winter. Following are some ideas that I have gleaned from various sources and friends over the past few years:

Jill Frankel Hauser has a great book out called Science Play that offers low–cost “discoveries” for the younger set. One idea from her book is to hand a box of crayons to your child and go on a walk. Ask your child to find as many things in nature as he can that match the colors of his crayons. The sky is truly the limit here—hopefully it offers you a chance to match to that blue to your Crayola.

Giving your little one a piece of masking tape is a way to easily collect specimens to study. She might stick leaf bits, tiny bugs, broken twigs, or pebbles to her tape. The fun of this experience is magnified with, what else, a magnifying glass. There are quite a few kid–friendly magnifiers on the market right now and using one to enlarge the images enhances the experience.

Older children might benefit from a walk in the woods with different apparatus. Kids whose interests extend beyond the realm of Dora and Diego could have fun with their own adventures using field journals and digital cameras. Show them books, magazines, and field guides first, then hand them a camera as you accompany them on their own National Geographic shoot. Encourage them to emulate nature photographers, artists, research scientists—whatever best fits their passion—and stand back to be impressed by the results.

Never underestimate the power of a camera in a kid’s hand! When you return from your walk, take some time to look up in field guides what they have captured in pixels, or simply describe some things that you saw together. If anything, you have succeeded in stepping outside and breathing in the scent of spring.

Greenhour.org had a good suggestion for a spring activity. Step outside and observe how many colors of green exist in nature at this time of year. This is a no–cost adventure—just go out in the yard or to a park and ask your children to label all the different greens they see. It pushes their descriptive vocabulary and gives the verbal side of the brain some exercise. Take it a step further and write poems together about the greens of spring.

Enjoy the season and have fun getting a little moss under your fingernails and leaves in your hair.

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