U – Understanding of Science

16 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside - Understanding of Science

Photo adapted from pixabay.com

Why should you take your family outside today?

In short, because there’s so much to learn and understand about our natural world. Kids today spend the bulk of their day in classrooms surrounded by books. Science, however, is a subject best learned in the outdoor laboratory where they can touch, smell, and even break things. The UK grasped this already in 2004, as they noted in a report titled “A review of Research on Outdoor Learning”:

There is growing concern that opportunities for outdoor learning by school students in England have decreased substantially in recent years. In response to this, and recent Government calls for ‘schools to make better use of the outdoor classroom as a context for teaching and learning,’the Field Studies Council (FSC) and several partner organisations commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to undertake a review of research on outdoor learning.

The English Outdoor Council goes even further to support the need for outdoor science education in a literature review on the topic: What Does Research Say?

If that’s not convincing enough, listen to foremost astrophysicist, Neil Degrasse Tyson emphasize that investing in science is critical to our society, and letting kids experiment is an important part of that process:

So, it’s clear the experts understand the need for outdoor science education, but what does that mean for our families? It means that we have plenty of opportunities to explore, learn, and understand science right in our own backyards.

Here are some of those opportunities:

Most importantly, take time to reflect on your outdoor learning. Take a page out of the experiential education playbook by asking three reflection questions: What? Now what? So what? Reflection will lead to understanding–and perhaps to more exploring!

Q – Quality Time

poking campfire

Photo adapted from Unsplash @ pixabay.com

The kids had homework to do.

I needed to vacuum and wash windows.

My husband planned to clean out our cars after work.

We had all sorts of things we should have been doing yesterday evening, but when my boys got off the bus after school, I knew we needed some quality time as a family.

Do you ever have those weeks where you get focused on what needs to get done? On to-do lists and schedules? On obligations and necessities? Sometimes those things become the priorities instead of facilitating the priorities. These are the moments when I need to remind myself of a popular saying:

Work to live not live to work.

So, yesterday evening, we lived.

We set aside the work for a couple of hours and spent some quality time together. We tromped through the woods, found six geocaches, visited two lakes, discovered an abandoned boyscout camp and an old road, and walked something like three miles. Best of all, we spent time together as a family talking about our day and about the week to come. This wasn’t the kind of talking we do at home when we’re all busy doing our own things. This was quality conversation where we were listening to one another. I’d like to think that was much more important than vacuuming or homework (which did get done eventually, for the record).

I hope you’ll get to spend some quality time with your family this week—outside, inside, or wherever!

P – Pausing for Play


Photo Adapted from Night Owl @ pixabay.com

I’m supposed to be writing about problem-solving skills today. That was what I told myself when I made my list for the A-Z Blogging Challenge. However, when I sat down to write this morning, all I could think of was watching my sons play outside this past weekend. So, today, I’m pushing the pause button and thinking instead about the value of unstructured play (which has a lot to do with improving problem-solving skills, too).

See, here in Michigan, spring *finally* arrived. After a winter and early spring of temps not getting above 40 degrees (F), the sun came out this weekend and the red in the thermometer shot above 70. We were like people who have been trapped in a dark, wet cave as we walked outside, shielding our eyes from the intense sun we haven’t seen in months. It was glorious!

My husband and I spent the weekend doing yard work—you know, the spring clean-up tasks that seem never-ending this time of year. My sons helped for a short time, but they they got bored (see my earlier post on Imagination for why I find this such a great moment). They went out to their play area, a wooden structure my dad built them surrounded by sand and woods. In a few minutes, they were digging holes (We’re making a mine, Mom!”) and leaning tree branches against a big oak (”Our fort!”). My oldest grabbed a rake to make the front yard of his fort tidy and then called excitedly to show me. Before the weekend was over, they’d played just about every backyard sport they could come up with (anyone for a game of badminton-softball-into a soccer goal?) and replanted some lovely flowers (weeds) into pots to decorate their fort.

At the end of both Saturday and Sunday nights, my sons were filthy, hungry, exhausted—and HAPPY. What more could a parent ask for? I didn’t entertain them or set up fancy games they could play. And neither one once asked to go inside to play with their electronics. They were having too much fun outside playing. They were solving problems with creative solutions.

The benefits of outdoor play have been well documented. This list comes from Head Start Body Start:

  • Become fitter and leaner
  • Develop stronger immune systems
  • Have more active imaginations
  • Have lower stress levels
  • Play more creatively
  • Have greater respect for themselves and others

If you’re into lengthy academic articles (sorry, my kind of thing!), I highly encourage these two articles on the value of outdoor play:

How will you get outside to play today? (And yes, adults need to get outside and play sometimes, too!)

C – CHEAP Outside Activities

boy playing in fountain

Adapted from fountain-389423_1920_memyselfaneye @ Pixabay.com

I took my family to see a movie this past weekend. Here’s the damage:
2 Children’s Tickets x $7.50 each = $15
2 Adult Tickets x $8.50 each = $17
Popcorn & Soda = $15
Almost $50 for an hour and a half’s entertainment

Last month, we took the kids to see a Disney on Ice show—their first ever. I thought I got a great deal when I paid only $75 for four tickets. Of course, parking cost another $8. Once we got in the arena, we discovered that to get snacks, we’d have to buy a souvenir, too. You see, if you bought cotton candy, it came with a plastic crown. Drinks came in special collector’s cups. In short, we got just two snacks and spent $24. In case you’re not keeping track, that brings the total to just shy of $110.

My point isn’t to complain about costs here. Each of these experiences was worthwhile, and we budget well for such outings. However, entertainment is expensive!

On the contrary, outside activities are inexpensive—and often free. If you find yourself in need of inspiration to get your family outside today, check out the list below.

Cheap outside activities

Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside


Making a Scene – FFfAW#59

Below is a piece inspired by the prompt at Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers. The key elements were the photo below and a word range of 100-15o (+-25).

Painted cows

This week’s photo prompt is provided by S. Writings. Thank you S. Writings!

Making a Scene – 169 words

Lila watched the familiar blue car pull into the parking lot. She mimicked Mama’s sigh from the front seat.

“Get your backpack on, Lila. I need to talk to your dad for a sec.”

Lila knew what that meant. She’d overheard Mama telling Aunt Suzy “that son of a bitch didn’t send his support check again this month.” Mama only called one person a son of a bitch.

She pulled the collar of her fleece up around her ears to try to keep out the sound of the adults arguing. It didn’t work.

She stared at a pair of painted cows in a display across the street, hoping if she didn’t look at her parents, they’d stop yelling. They didn’t.

When Mama opened the car door, Lila wasn’t sure she should get out. It was Daddy’s weekend, but Mama’s face was blotchier than the painted cows’. Lila clung to the door. “I don’t wanna go.”

Mama pushed her toward where Daddy waited. “Get movin’, Lila. Don’t make a scene.”


The Fine Art of Negotiation – FFftPP#9

What follows is a piece inspired by the prompt over at Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. The key elements were the photo below, the opening sentence/phrase and no more than 200 words. 

The Fine Art of Negotiation – 145 words

Nothing is ever as easy as it looks, I thought, watching my son Sam’s face turn red and then a shiny plum almost the color of an eggplant.

“You…can’t…throw…away…my…barn!” he cried between heaving sobs.

I started by commiserating: “Sweetheart, I understand how hard it is to say goodbye to an old toy.”

I appealed to his mature almost-six-year-old self: “Honey, you’re too grown up to play with that barn.”

I attempted reason: “Little one, just think of the room you’ll have for other toys you play with more.”

Eventually, I resorted to bargaining: “Baby, if we throw away the barn, I’ll buy you a new toy.”

Sam hugged the barn. He sniffled. He looked up at me with betrayal in his eyes.

“Okay, fine. Keep the barn,” I said, sneaking a broken firetruck into the trash bag.

Why #OutdoorFamilies Matter

I haven’t been able to get this tweet out of my head since I read it this morning:


This is why I get off the couch when it’s cold and snowy.

This is why I’m outside in the yard even though the house is a mess.

This is why I pack up the camper over and over all summer long–even though I have a perfectly nice home (that probably needs cleaning).

It’s all about the memories. 

In an article titled “Sharing Memories as Gifts: Treasures to Last a Lifetime” published by Outdoor Families Magazine, Suzanne Solsona gets at this issue of memories when she asks,

Without thinking too much about it: What is your most vivid, cherished memory of childhood? Your teenage years? As an adult?

She argues that those memories are related to what we did–not what we had. I’d go one step further and say that many of my own most vivid memories were about what I did outside. Like the tweet above suggests, when I think of my favorite memories, they aren’t of television or movies (even though I’m a major fan of both). They aren’t about things I did inside at all. Instead, I remember…

  • Reading a book by the campfire with my parents on Foote Pond.
  • Sleeping on the Lake Huron beach as a teenager (admittedly not all that comfortable).
  • Hiking with my son to the top of his namesake mountain–only to realize he’d fallen asleep on the way.
  • Seeing amazement on my sons’ faces when they first saw Mt. Rushmore.
  • Getting swept up in my kids’ glee as they flew down snow-covered hill on their sleds.

These are the things I remember–and the things I hope my sons remember, too. These memories are the reason my family is an #OutdoorFamily.


What are your reasons for getting outdoors? Are you an #outdoorfamily–or aspiring to be?