About five years ago, my husband and I decided it was time to move out of our beloved subdivision with paved roads, sprinkler systems and neighbors close by in search of more wide-open spaces for our four boys to roam.
I jokingly told my husband that all I wanted in our next home was 1) a river, and 2) a mountain (we live in SE Michigan…there aren’t a lot of rivers and mountains to go around). I knew finding such a land unicorn wasn’t possible, but nonetheless in my heart I held each house we looked at to that emotional standard. It took six months to find the perfect home for us: A sweet little ranch set on 2 ½ acres with a perfect view of the sunset.
But an abundance of soil, trees and green space.
As we learned how to work our newfound land, we grew to love the space more and more. We borrowed a tractor to tame the wild goldenrod and raspberry bushes that had overtaken the backyard. We turned overgrown flowerbeds into magical gnome and fairy gardens. We dug holes in the damp dirt to make new homes for an autumn blaze maple and a butterflies magnolia tree. We planted blueberry bushes and learned how to garden. We made dandelion jelly and tart grape juice. Violets plucked from the ground adorned our sourdough Dutch babies for breakfast and leafy green salads at lunchtime. We harvested maple syrup as a family.
Not long after moving in, we asked the boys what we should name our new place, and without hesitation our then 7-year-old closed his eyes, lifted his chin and wistfully declared: “Shiloh: The Land of Eternal Beauty.” I silently laughed to myself, thinking that any land deserving of such a name would surely include a river and a mountain…but to my adventurous, big hearted son, this was the best place on earth.
In her book, Adventuring Together, author Greta Eskridge says, ‘If we want to teach our kids to bloom where they are planted, and to make the most with what they’ve been given, we need to model that behavior for them. A big part of that is not waiting for the “real” adventures to happen but making whatever you are able to do right now the Real Adventure.’
Here is what that looks like for my family:
- Hang bird feeders and birdhouses near your windows and get to know the birds who visit. Consider purchasing a local bird book and use post-it notes to mark the feathered friends you’ve seen, and the dates upon which you’ve seen them. When our boys were small, we called this little activity “Bird Club.”
- Take a Nature Walk in your backyard. For young kids, it’s fun to name things with a “Nature” prefix. A puddle? It’s a Nature Bowl! Dry Land? It’s a Nature Plate! Gravel? Those are Nature Stones and Crystals!
- Raise Monarch Butterflies using a habitat kit. Watch them grow from tiny worm-like caterpillars to beautiful striped caterpillars, to green chrysalis’ and finally emerge as lovely orange and black Monarch Butterflies. The kit is kept indoors and when they are ready you and your children release them into the wild.
- Research the dates of the upcoming full moons (and their specific names and legends), meteor showers and eclipses and mark them on your calendar. Our kids all look forward to the Perseids Meteor shower each year because we make warm tea and wake them up in the early morning hours - we sit out in the yard and watch the luminous shots in the dark sky.
- Check out 1000HoursOutside.com. One of the most inspiring and adventurous groups I can recommend is found at 1000HoursOutside.com. This community encourages one another to count at least 1000 hours of outside time in one year (this number is meant to counteract the average amount of screen time most kids experience each year). *Any* time spent outside counts – from hiking at a National Park to napping in a hammock on your deck, if it’s outside. It counts! You can print a tracker sheet to help count hours, if you wish. Our family has participated in this challenge for two years, and truth be told we lost count both years. But that’s ok! The challenge and the community brought such inspiration and excitement to us that we spent more time outside than we had in previous years. Mission accomplished. Check out Ginny’s blog at 1000hoursoutside.com/blog, or you can find the group on Facebook or Instagram.
All of these ideas are simple ways to have meaningful adventures with your kids. If you want to connect with them through adventure, begin by starting right where you are. While you may tend to see the rivers and mountains that are missing in your backyard, they may see a Land of Eternal Beauty waiting for an adventurer.
I received a game in exchange for this blog post. All opinions expressed belong to me.
Sara E. Trim is a lifelong reader and truth seeker. She believes stories slow and enrich time with kids, and that reading aloud strengthens the bonds of love. When she isn’t reading or writing, you can find her outdoors experiencing the story of nature. She is learning with each passing season to appreciate the peace found in wild things - the grass, wildflowers, trees and clouds above - and is eager to learn more about them. She lives on The Land of Eternal Beauty with her husband of 18 years and their four adventurous, book-loving boys.
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