Family life

8 simple ways to spend family time outdoors

Inspired by our 30x30 Nature Challenge, one mom shares how she encourages her kids to get outdoors.

By Jennifer Pinarski

8 simple ways to spend family time outdoors

Four years ago, I lived in suburban Winnipeg with a single non-native city-planted tree in my front yard. I never would have guessed that today I’d be writing this blog post from a tiny cottage in rural Ontario, where bears and beavers make up the majority of my neighbours. The outdoors and nature, in general, have shaped everything in my daily life—especially how I spend time with my family. Today’s Parent announced earlier this month they were participating in the David Suzuki 30x30 Nature Challenge, encouraging Canadians to spend 30 minutes a day in nature for the month of May.

Inspired by both the Today’s Parent and David Suzuki Foundation daily tips, here are eight ways we’ve embraced the outdoors in my family:

Find a cool bug We discovered this cool caddisfly larva in a ditch at the front of our property. There are 12,000 species of caddisflies falling into three different categories—this one is a case-making caddisfly. It builds this nifty case around itself using silk and bits of stone and bark. Can you spot it in the picture below?


Smell the flowers Granted, Ontario’s provincial flower doesn’t smell all that remarkable, but trilliums are a sign that spring has arrived. This trillium was the first one of the season that Gillian and I spotted while out walking near our house.


Skip the gym This is an easy challenge for me since I’m not much a gym-goer. My workout for the day was a muddy trail run in an area I hadn’t explored before. Since I’m slowly getting back into shape, I don’t feel bad about slowing down to enjoy the scenery.


Play at a park One of the playgrounds in town has two play structures: one that is the ubiquitous primary colour monkey bars and slides (complete with safety warnings), the other one I affectionately call the Tetanus Dinosaur. Made of metal with lots of places to pinch fingers, it’s the same climbing structure I played on as a kid and the same one my children run to when we go to the park. My kids were shocked to know that there were toys like that “so long ago.”


Show off your #naturehood The “neighbourhood” I live in is more like a campground than traditional neighbourhood. When I posted this picture of my #naturehood on Instagram, the first question I got was “where is this?” I’m proud to say that this is my backyard. Here, Gillian is heading down to the river to catch frogs and crayfish.


Get dirty in the garden We put our own spin on this challenge by foraging for wild leeks in the woods and turning them into a delicious pesto. Wild leeks are a cross between garlic and leeks, and quite pungent! We mixed our pesto with a mild cheese filled tortellini the whole family enjoyed.


Search for animal homes Each spring the ditch in front of our house is full of frogs that my children—especially my daughter—love to catch. This is the closest we’ve come to catching our first frog of the year.


Go for a hike While this picture looks quiet and serene—a little girl wearing a princess dress in the woods—it’s not. She’s belting out "Let It Go" from Frozen at the top of her lungs. I never worry about wild animals confusing us for prey.


Joining the 30x30 Nature Challenge is easy! Tag your photos with #tp30x30challenge on Instagram to show how you’re spending more time in nature with your families—I can’t wait to see your outdoor adventures!

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her @JenPinarski.

This article was originally published on May 16, 2014

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