Be Out There

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The Challenges to Getting Outside Balancing Screen Time and Green Time Cool Activities for Hot Summer Days Outdoor Time in Everyday Life Nighttime Activities Celebrating Special Occasions in the Great Outdoors The Authors Resource Links 2


Being Out There Comes with Challenges National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF)

Other challenges included the lure of

Be Out There movement is on a mission

technology (such as computers and video

to help American families raise happier,

games) keeping kids inside, busy schedules

healthier children with a life-long love of

with no wiggle room for unstructured outdoor

nature by helping families, particularly kids,

play, and the fact that – let’s face it – sometimes

spend quality time outside.

parents just don’t like being outside themselves.

We know that mission isn’t always easy for

It’s worth overcoming these challenges,

parents. The Motherhood and NWF surveyed

because there is a whole host of benefits

and spoke with hundreds of moms and dads

to involving kids in outdoor play, including

just like you last summer, and while we heard

improved mental and physical health.

overwhelmingly that parents don’t think kids are spending enough time outdoors (94 percent!), we also learned of an array of obstacles families face in getting out there.

Parents cited weather as the number one barrier to outdoor time, with 61 percent lamenting that rain, cold and summer heat prevented outdoor play.


National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

We know that parenting is one of the most rewarding – and difficult – jobs on the planet, and our goal is not to add another item to your to-do list. The Motherhood enlisted a team of 15 amazing mom blogger authors who have shared their (and their readers’) best tips and thoughts to help you:

From NWF's Be Out There Movement

• Overcome the challenges of hot summer weather with cool daytime and nighttime activities • Balance screen time with green time • Find ways to incorporate the outdoors into your family’s everyday life

1 Be Out There to Get Fit: Outdoor play increases fitness levels and builds active, healthy bodies.

2 Be Out There to Improve Your Mind: Kids who spend time outdoors learn teamwork and problemsolving skills. They also score higher on cognitive and standardized tests.

• Appreciate the great outdoors as you celebrate special occasions We hope the following pages, which are filled with our authors’ creative ideas and

3 Be Out There to Soothe Your Spirit: Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.

magical experiences, will inspire you to take an extra step to beat the heat and Be Out There with your own families!

4 Be Out There to Nurture Nature: Nature needs our kids as much as our kids need nature: if they don’t learn to love and appreciate it while they’re

Learn more on the Be Out There website.

young, who will ensure it will be there for them, and future generations, when they grow up?


Photos provided by: Fadra Nally

Chapter Intro: A Different World As much as we want our kids to naturally want to go outside, we have to realize they aren’t growing up in the same world we did. When most of us were growing up, video games were either a very new invention or still a novelty. And the quality of gaming was altogether different. Let’s face it. Those pixels could only hold our attention for so long. We also loved watching TV, but the shows we loved to watch were on from 3pm to 4pm after school and on Saturday mornings. We had nothing else to do. We went a little stir crazy, so we went outside, either by our own choice or our parents’. My son is faced with a different world. Not only does he have the distractions of ondemand TV, but he also has access to a computer, an iPad, a Wii U, and a Nintendo


National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

3DS. With so many choices of entertainment, it’s easy for kids to decide not to go outside. And if you are a conscientious parent and have discovered that this isn’t a good choice for them, then you’ve also discovered that getting them to agree to a better choice can result in huffing, puffing, whining, and even yelling. It took me a while to figure out that I couldn’t reason with him. I couldn’t explain why it’s important to get outside and appreciate the world around him. I had to show him, and not in the forceful parent kind of way. I had to make it an extension of the world he already knows, by relating it to technology. — Fadra Nally, All Things Fadra

Turn Off the TV Luckily, I don’t have to force my kids to play

dog.” The dog is on a leash – the jump rope,

outside, but I do have to turn off the TV and

of course – and then the dog gets loose. Then,

other electronics to get them to go outside

the other two of us have to work as a team

sometimes. The easiest way to get them to go

to catch the runaway dog. It gets us running

outside is when there is a knock on the door

around and being silly. We’ve also played

and it’s one of their friends.

circle Frisbee, where you always throw it to

Even when friends aren’t involved, my kids still love the outdoors. I’m actually the one

someone different, keeping everyone involved on their toes.

who doesn’t really want to go outside, so I’ve

It’s ok to let your children see you being silly;

had to come up with some engaging games

it might even make you a closer family if you

we can play together (and be willing to play

relax a little and just have fun!

their games). My kids came up with a really cute game with a jump rope called “catch the

— Louise Bishop, MomStart

Search Our Activity Finder Quickly filter through a wide range of activity ideas to help you connect with nature.

Photos provided by: Louise Bishop


Enjoy Everything in Moderation When I was growing up in Florida, most

Since I work from home, I struggle with this,

of my days were spent outdoors. If I wasn’t

because children on screens are quiet children,

swimming in a pool or the ocean, I was riding

and I don’t want to take advantage of that. I

bikes with my parents or inventing dance

love technology, and I love how much my

routines in my front yard. I was a total tomboy,

boys can learn from it – the key is to enjoy

and I lived my life outside.

everything in moderation. As they get older,

Now that I am a stay at home mom of two boys a couple of decades later, getting them outside seems a bit more challenging than I remember. They are just four and two years old, so sending them “out to play” isn’t yet an option. But the way gadgets grab their attention, I have to be really careful about making sure they get outside as much as they should.

Photos provided by: Andrea Updyke


National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

my husband and I want to be intentional about how we spend our days together, both indoors and outdoors. — Andrea Updyke, Li’l Kid Things

1 Invent Outdoor Games Based on Favorite Video Games or TV Shows: The reason kids are drawn to games and television is because they are beautiful, fun and colorful. I don’t know about your children, but sometimes mine need a little direction. I have found that I get a far better reaction when I have a plan for a specific type of play, rather than saying, “ok, let’s go outside and do whatever we want.” I can say, “let’s go play!” – or I can say, “let’s go play tag or find leaves or have an adventure,” and the response is totally different. Sometimes, I invent games based on whatever video game my son is currently into or a TV show he enjoys. Pretend play is huge for a four-year-old, so don’t be afraid to

2 Use Apps to Enhance Outdoor Learning: You can do a search for just about anything on Google and you’ll find an app for it. I found nature apps and leaf apps – both of these apps will tell you what kind of plants you are looking at, so while you’re on your hike, you can learn about the plants. That goes for birds and animals too. You can find great apps to help you identify animals

or bugs in the garden. Talk with your kids about the difference between a bug and a spider – my daughter can tell you all the parts of a bug and that a spider has eight legs and a soft body. Your children can learn just as easily with these nature apps. — Louise Bishop, MomStart

make the most of it! — Andrea Updyke, Li’l Kid Things

Learn more at


3 Find Ideas for Outdoor Apps: I discovered some great apps with just a few minutes of googling. I absolutely loved this list from blogger Candace Lindemann that includes: • Project Noah (an online community sharing sightings of local flora and fauna) • Geocaching (an introduction to outdoor scavenger hunting) • Chirp Lite (a great way to learn bird characteristics and bird calls) My suggestion is to spend some time exploring the app store for your mobile device. If you find a free version available, test it out and if it’s something of value, you can always purchase the full version. You may also find suggestions similar to some of the outdoor apps you already enjoy. — Fadra Nally, All Things Fadra Photos provided by: Fadra Nally


National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

4 Get into Geocaching:

of its benefits! Check out local museum sites, blogs and local visitors centers online to learn

My friend Summer loves to go geocaching.

about opportunities right in your town that

She took me to the geocaching headquarters

you may not already know about. Talk up the

in Seattle, where I learned a lot about it. You

adventure to your kids and discover new things

can download an app to your phone and then

together! Take photos and create a memory

you will find GPS coordinates leading you

book together with your local adventures.

to a prize box. You take a prize and leave a prize. It’s a fun game of swapping and treasure hunting. Summer even said that it’s a whole community: “Any day is really a great

— Andrea Updyke, Li’l Kid Things

6 Take Pictures:

day to get out and geocache, but geocaching

Having a good time outside, enjoying nature,

isn’t just about locating caches, there is a whole

and taking pictures all seem to go hand in

community in geocaching and in our area there

hand. But make sure you put a camera in the

are events almost every weekend such as meals

hands of your child. Something like a Kodak

– BBQs, potlucks, meet and eats; clean-up

EasyShare provides easy-to-use features and

projects; and cach-aversary or holiday parties.”

a price tag generally close to $100. The best

Learn more about geocaching for all ages.

part about taking pictures outside with your

— Louise Bishop, MomStart

5 Use Social Media to Explore: Our kids aren’t on social media just yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage

kids? Seeing the world through their eyes. You might be surprised at the things that capture their attention. Click here and have kids submit their photos in the Ranger Rick Photo Contest — Fadra Nally, All Things Fadra

Learn more at


Chapter Intro: Explore Outdoors Safely How many perfect weather days per year do you have where you live?

Photo provided by: Holly Ambrose

When I thought about it, I came up with 75

half of the year, it is hot and humid and often

blissful days – days when it doesn’t rain,

rainy – many times stormy. (The other half of

it’s not take-your-breath-away humid or life-

the year – the dry season – the weather can be

suckingly hot, and it’s not bone-numbingly cold.

mild but still unpredictable. We never get snow

That means 290 days of the year, the weather is less than ideal for being outside.

40s, that’s freezing to us Floridians!) We have to be prepared to deal with heat, humidity

Does that mean my family doesn’t go outside?

and a high UV Index (ultraviolet radiation from

Nope, we still do.

sunshine) almost all the time. Throw in warm-

There is no way my family could stay inside for most of the year. Even if we weren’t committed to having a Green Hour each day, I couldn’t keep my two sons indoors if I tried. Going outdoors in summer is a challenge for us, which might seem odd, considering we live in southern Florida. Here, we have summer like weather most of the year. Hurricane Season lasts from June 1 to November 30. So


or ice, but when the temperature dips to the

National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

weather waves of biting insects like mosquitoes, and you can tell that being outdoors has the potential to be downright unpleasant. However, we don’t let weather keep us inside. There are just too many fun things to do outside! With some planning, we still get our chance to play and explore outdoors safely. — Holly Ambrose, Tropic Home and Family

Making Memories Under the Sun Summer is a unique time in a child's life, when

Our idyllic location means we have access

some of their most cherished memories are

to a wide variety of outdoor activities, but

created. Characterized by adventures near

it still requires a purported effort to get our

and far, long, sun-filled days, breezy, star-filled

children away from technology to experience

nights, and splish-splash fun, everything about

all that nature has to offer. As the summer heat

summer points to the outdoors. This is the time

intensifies, our natural inclination is to stay

when nature looks and feels the most alive,

indoors watching movies or playing games.

beckoning us to be immersed in its beauty.

But summer really is the optimal time for

Despite society's technological temptations, I

children to be outside.

am purposeful about our summer activities, recognizing how vital it is for my children to

— Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama

love the outdoors.

Photos provided by: Caryn Baile y


Sun-Soaked and Sun-Screened Growing up, I liked being outside but would

outside long enough to let the sun soak deep into

never have considered myself an “outdoors-y”

your core (with sunscreen of course).

type. Until the day that I could no longer ride my bike on a hill near my apartment. You see, my body could not keep up with the pedaling thanks to chemotherapy drugs that were supposed to be helping rid my body of NonHodgkin’s Lymphoma. The inability to ride my bike in fear that I was too weak, or even to walk from the metro station back to my apartment, suddenly made

Being outside helped me recover. Whether I was perched on the rocks in the river in Deep Creek West Virginia without worrying about anything, planting Jasmine plants in a pot on my balcony, or sitting on my parents’ boat, listening to the sound of the waves lap around the hull, being “out there” helped me feel normal. — Elena Sonnino, Live.Do.Grow.

being outside something that I could not do… but craved. Fast forward to now, all these years later, where my primary role is that of mom. I am not going to tell you that my cancer turned me into an outdoor aficionado or expert, but it did teach me about the good that being outside can do. The fresh air, the energy you get from exploring and even gardening, the rejuvenation that can happen if you stay


National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

Photos provided by: Elena Sonn ino

Stay Cool without the Pool

Play Time or Spray Time

In recent years, my building managers filled

As a mom, it is my job to keep my kids healthy,

the swimming pool with soil and landscaped

happy, and active. When the summer heat hits

the area surrounding it. Although the outdoor

the 90s in the Midwest, we try to find creative

space is now a quaint courtyard where

ways to get outside to burn off energy, absorb

my daughter and I blow bubbles, the rock

some Vitamin D from the sun, and have a blast

formation reminds you that a pool once

while doing it, despite the climbing temperatures.

existed underneath the surface. At first, I mourned the loss of the enviable amenity. Then, I breathed new life into finding ways to stay cool without a pool. I learned that you don’t have to go swimming to beat the heat. — Heather Hopson, Diary of a First Time Mom

For example, I like to grow pretty plants and flowers in the yard in the spring, to enjoy well into the summer and fall. Keeping up with the watering is always a struggle for me; I have a horrible memory. But when I pull out the hose to water all the plants, the kids BEG me to spray them. They run around the front yard trying to cross the water stream, and they always manage to win. By the end of what began as a repetitive chore, my kids are often “watered” as well as the plants, clothes and all. I love this because it shows my kids that it’s okay to be spontaneous and carefree, and after a day of sweaty summer fun, I don’t mind hosing them down! — Jen Matuska, Mommy Instincts

opson by: Heather H Photo provided


1 Host a Sponge Ball Olympics: By spending a few dollars on packages of sponges and a spool of dental floss, you can create a bunch of “Sponge Balls” to use for a variety of games and boredom busting activities. You can play “Sponge Ball Baseball” or “Sponge Ball Dodge Ball” – or simply throw them at Dad when he gets out of his car after a long day at work. To add another aspect, you can paint with them, too. Dip the sponges into some washable paint, hang up an old shower curtain in the yard,

2 Create a “Soak Yourself” Obstacle Course: This is an easy and creative way for kids of all ages to enjoy some exercise and splashtastic fun with the use of things found in your garage, basement, or by spending a few bucks at the hardware store. Get the supply list here. — Jen Matuska, Mommy Instincts

3 Re-purpose the Garden Hose:

and have at it! The paint will easily rinse off

When the temperatures rise, playing in

after playtime is over, to make a whole new

the park isn’t always a pleasant outdoor

creation the next day.

experience. The hot summer sun beats down

— Jen Matuska, Mommy Instincts

on playground equipment and results in sweltering slides, monkey bars and merry-gorounds. When the swing set steams, get out the garden hose and let the water run down the slide to cool off. — Heather Hopson, Diary of a First Time Mom


Photo provided by: National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement Jen Matuska

4 Try Birdwatching:

6 Be Out There with Frozen Treats:

In the shade of a tree, you are likely to see

In my experience, everything is better with a

some wildlife like insects, squirrels and birds.

popsicle, so we try to keep an endless supply

It’s okay if you don’t know how to identify

of frozen treats during the summer months.

different species of birds – just watching

While you could easily enjoy a frozen treat

birds is fun. If you want to learn about the

with your kids in your backyard, why not kick

birds in your area, though, there are lots of

it up a notch by hosting an ice cream social

field guidebooks, mobile apps and sites that

in your neighborhood featuring popsicles,

will help.

smoothies, or snow cones you've made with

— Holly Ambrose, Tropic Home and Family

your kids? — Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama

5 Row, Row, Row Your Boat:

Photo provided by: Heather Hop son

If you can’t or don’t want to buy a boat, you can borrow one. Most cities with rivers and lakes rent canoes, kayaks and even water skis in the summer. Anglers of all ages can participate in the sport. Select a lake or pond that isn’t too crowded, so your kids catch fish – not a passerby – when they cast their lines. Bring along a net, so you child can catch insects and frogs as well. — Heather Hopson, Diary of a First Time Mom

Saving Water t Water play is a grea g way to cool off durin the summer, but end remember to be a fri and to the environment ly use water responsib at all times! Learn more at


7 Find Nearby Water Parks – or Create Your Own: Water play is one of the easiest ways to cool off on a warm summer day. Your local beach and/or community pool are wonderful options, but think outside of the box. Many communities offer access to splash pads and water parks for free or a nominal fee. If there are no local or amusement water parks in your area, have your children don their swimsuits and run through the sprinklers, toss

9 Bring What You Love Outside: Why not have our children bring their games, books and activities outside to a shady spot on a hot day? Or at the end of the day, as the sun starts to lose its heat? If it is too hot to play an active sport, reading a book while sitting outside or playing a family board game under your patio umbrella at least gives children the chance to take in the fresh air. — Elena Sonnino, Live.Do.Grow.

water balloons, or slip 'n slide. — Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama

8 Play Lawn Games in the Shade: My kids have set up most of their toys in the shade of two oak trees in an area of our yard. Balls, badminton racquets, T-ball, golf toys, lawn darts and a sandbox are part of the shady play repertoire at our house. My boys also like to play Hide and Seek. — Holly Ambrose, Tropic Home and Family


National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

Heather Hopson Photo provided by:

Love the Shade?

Learn how to plant your own!

hold. Day trips do not have to involve long

10 Have a Picnic:

road trips or time in the car. Exploring parts

Find a shady spot at a park, and invite your

of your city that you do not visit often are a

family and friends to a “bring your own” or

good place to start – or look for national or

potluck meal. Recently, my kids and some

state parks that have ranger programs where

friends hosted an animal-toy picnic at a park.

children engage in scavenger hunt activities

We spread an inexpensive comforter on the

that keep their mind off the temperatures.

ground and ate snacks brought from home.

— Elena Sonnino, Live.Do.Grow.

Then we showed one another our favorite stuffed animals and tried to figure out which habitat each animal came from. (Our

12 Cool Down with Ice:

friend’s unicorn stumped us!)

What’s even colder than water? Frozen water, of course. Let kids shoot or pour water

— Holly Ambrose, Tropic Home and Family

over blocks of ice where you have frozen

11 Take a Day Trip:

small toys inside. Create art with paint frozen in ice cube trays. Set up a “snow” scene with

The power of taking a day trip to a new or

a bin of shaved ice. Kids will love to play

favorite area is that regardless of what the

with ice on especially hot days.

thermometer says, the new scenery and areas to explore will feel cooler than had

— Holly Ambrose, Tropic Home and Family

you stayed at home. Somehow, the humidity that you feel when you step outside your door onto your driveway dissipates when a sense of adventure and new-ness takes

Photo provided by: Holly Ambrose

Photo provided by: Elena Sonnino


Learn more at

Chapter Intro: The Challenges of City Living Despite being city dwellers, for the most part, my children love getting outside and enjoying time in the sun – but it comes with a challenge for us. Living in an apartment, we don’t have a yard that they can just play in freely. Space is also limited because some of the play areas double as areas for residents to walk their dogs, so we are careful with the places we allow our

children to play – not to mention the fact that I have to stop everything I am doing to take them out, whereas if we were living in a house, I could probably find ways to multitask. Regardless of the challenges of our living situation, outdoor time is very important to us, and our children really enjoy it as well. For us, it doesn’t matter if we’re outside for five minutes or five hours, as long as we get some fresh air and enjoy the time we have. Just find something you know your family will enjoy and get out there and enjoy the outdoors. — Nickida Stephens, Nicki’s Random Musings

Photo provided by: Nickida Stephens


man Photo provided by: Kimberly Cole

Photo provided by: Heather Hopson

Balancing Work and Play at Home

Photos provided by: Tiffany Merritt

Since I work from home, I often wrestle with

will keep themselves entertained while mommy

balancing work obligations and spending time

checks something off her “to do” list. That’s a

with my family. Rather than sticking the girls in

win-win in my book!

front of the television, I can take them outside and accomplish some work.

You can even enlist the help of your kids in some outdoor chores. Put a broom in their hands and

Whether it is firing up the grill for dinner while

let them sweep the walkway, or have them help

they play, or bringing my laptop outside to

with some weeding in the garden.

answer emails, if I have provided the girls with a few interesting options for outdoor play, they

— Tiffany Merritt, Stuff Parents Need


City Walks and Talks One of the things that I appreciate the most about my kids is that they keep me on my toes and teach me new things daily. Enjoying the outdoors in our daily life is simply one of the many areas in which they

unstructured and warmer, I have to be more deliberate about our daily walks. No one in my family is a big fan of hot weather, so we try to stay in the shaded areas. Whether it’s walking to one of the kids’ summer activities or simply having them run errands with me, we still try to make the most of our walks together though…even in the summer. — Kimberly Coleman, Mom in the City

teach me how to be spontaneous and make the time to relish life "on the go." Most of our outdoor family adventures begin with a walk. During the school year, I walk my sons to and from school every day. It is one of my favorite parts of each day, because it gives us time to connect. Like many boys, my sons Michael (9) and Sean (6) tend to open up and be more expressive about their thoughts and feelings when they are in motion. Since the summer is a lot more Photo provided by: Kimberly Coleman


National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

1 Keep a “Fun Tote” Ready:

2 Walking Instead of Driving:

I tend to bring a “fun tote” with us when we

If you are going somewhere and it’s in

go out for the day during the warm weather

walking distance, consider walking instead

months. The bag includes simple things

of getting in the car. When it’s nice outside,

like bubbles, Frisbees, a ball, swim trunks,

taking the time to walk is a great way to

sunscreen, flip-flops and towels for the boys.

get some outdoor time in, and you can also

That way, we can take a little time to explore

count it as exercise. We like taking walks

if we happen to run into a fun-looking new

because it gives us the chance to observe our

park or playground. (We live in NYC, where

neighborhood and surroundings. The kids

there are so many different outside spaces

also like finding wildflowers, especially the

that are hidden gems. Several of them

ones they blow on to make wishes. Make

include sprinklers – which the kids love.)

it even more fun by playing a game of “I

— Kimberly Coleman, Mom in the City

Spy” and see what things you notice that you would have missed if you were in the car. — Nickida Stephens, Nicki’s Random Musings

Photo provided by: Louise Bishop man Photo provided by: Kimberly Cole


3 Take Off Your Shoes:

to factor in what I call “wiggle room” (15 to

My girls, for some reason, will run more

30 minutes) between planned items to allow

and wear bigger smiles on their faces while

for these spur of the moment times of outdoor

they play if their shoes are off. It makes for

exploration…even on my busiest days. I’m

a great sensory experience and just seems

often reminded that I will probably only get

a little wild to them, I suppose. What an

18 full summers with each of my sons. That

effortless way to crank up the fun!

is why it is so important to enjoy as many

— Tiffany Merritt, Stuff Parents Need

4 Give Yourself Some Wiggle Room: Since my husband is a teacher and often takes the summer off from work, we try to keep the months of July and August as


loosely structured as possible. However, I try

moments as possible and to be deliberate about creating special ones. The great thing, though, is that even if we parents aren’t especially creative (indoors or outdoors), our kids usually are. We just need to take a step back and follow their lead! — Kimberly Coleman, Mom in the City

ritt Photo provided by: Tiffany Mer

Photo provided by: Elena Sonnino National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

Photo provided by : Fadra Nally

5 Find Nature in Your Own Backyard:

getting water for them and rotating them in the sunlight. It’s not much, but every second

Grab a magnifying glass or any sort of bug

counts. If you have a yard to start a small

catcher and turn a negative (lots of bugs in

garden, get out there on a nice day and test

the yard) into a positive (lots of specimens to

your green thumb. The kids will be excited to

inspect!). I have had some great conversations

see the plants they helped grow, especially

with my oldest about insects thanks to our bug

when they begin to flower or bear fruits/

viewer. She used to be scared of bugs, but

veggies. You could also look for a community

now she is very intrigued by them! Fairies are

garden to volunteer or crop share.

a big deal in my home right now, so hunting for mushrooms is also a new favorite game.

— Nickida Stephens, Nicki’s Random Musings

Darah spends a lot of time scouring the yard

Photo provided by: Fadra Nally

for these fairy hangouts. — Tiffany Merritt, Stuff Parents Need


Grow a Small Garden: Since we live in an apartment, growing plants is not easy, but recently my husband brought home a pepper and tomato plant, and it’s sitting on our balcony. Since they need watering, especially in this hot weather, the kids get to spend at least a few minutes

Photo provided by: Brett Martin


Let’s Be Out There!

Photo provided by: Jen Matuska

Chapter Intro: Beat the Heat During the summer, we visit our local lake four days a week for swimming lessons. However, on those sweltering, humid, Northeast summer days, we immediately head back indoors to hide out in the air conditioning.

Instead of venturing out into the heat, we can wait until the sun goes down to head back outside.

Family Movie in the Park When the heat of the day takes its toll on us, and the kids and I succumb to a lengthy afternoon nap, we will often take advantage

My children are still young (four boys

of the setting sun and plan a few activities for

ranging from ages 3 to 8), so waiting

after dark. One of our favorites is attending our

for full night is tricky since the sun sets

local “Family Movie in the Park” that is held

so late in the summer. I have found

in our small town’s downtown park, hosted by

that we really enjoy the twilight part of

the public library. They set up a large screen

the evening. It is cooler, with enough

and sell popcorn and bottled water, and begin

light to be able to see, and does not

the evening with some sort of entertainment

compromise bedtime by too much.

(local musician or school band). The movies are

— Marianna Nichols, Green Mama’s Pad

always family friendly and we have a blast. — Jen Matuska, Mommy Instinct


National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

Starry-eyed Kids One of our eight-year-old’s favorite activities

visible. Those are the brightest ones. For

is stargazing. We head out onto our deck

us, the only star we could see initially was

with his telescope and my iPad to sit down

Vega (thank you, app, for telling us the

and wait for the stars to appear. A child’s

name!). As the sky darkened, more stars

telescope might not be super strong, but

seemed to pop up. My son was really

they still like looking at the moon and stars

excited every time he spotted a new star.

through it. The perfect accompaniment to

Ultimately, watching the stars and learning

this activity is using a constellation app on

about them proved to be a great activity not

your mobile device.

only for the kids, but us parents as well.

For 99 cents, I downloaded the Night Sky app onto my iPad, and it was money very well spent.

— Marianna Nichols, Green Mama’s Pad

We just hold it up to the sky, and the app shows us which stars and planets we are looking at, as well as outlining the constellations. If you start your stargazing around twilight, only a few stars may be Photos provided by: Marianna Nichols


1 Play Flashlight Tag:

around a campfire or fire pit. Make it even more fun by singing songs while you snack!

Hand each of your children a flashlight, I

Please remember fire safety and make sure

prefer the LED ones, and let them loose in the

the fire is 100% out before you head in for

yard. For younger kids, it may be more like a

the night.

free-for-all of running around as opposed to an organized game of tag, but at least they will

— Billie, & Maura (friends of Marianna)

be worn out for bed. And older kids will love to do this once it gets good and dark outside. — Andrew, (friend of Marianna)

3 Watch for Nighttime Critters: Evening is a great time to watch the

2 Make S’mores:

sun set and to look for fireflies, swallows and other creatures.

Who doesn’t love an ooey, gooey,

Many times, my family has

chocolate-y S’more?! Stock up on all the

seen northern screech owls in

supplies, preferably ones without artificial

our neighborhood. Barely a

ingredients, and have everyone huddle

night goes by that we don’t see raccoons, the most prevalent nocturnal animal in our area. — Holly Ambrose, Tropic Home and Family


Photo provided by: Caryn Bailey

Photo provided by: Molly Balint

4 Take a Walk: Some parks offer guided night hikes, often during a full moon. Rangers or volunteers lead groups through natural areas to look for nocturnal wildlife or see unique sites. Check with your local, national, state and county parks for nighttime events. Along the coast, many people like to stroll the beach, looking for sea turtle nests in summer. In late spring and early summer, sea turtle females come ashore to dig and lay eggs, usually at night. In late summer, sea turtle hatchlings crawl out of the nest and to the shore. — Holly Ambrose, Tropic Home and Family

Photo provided by: Caryn Bailey

5 Sleep Outside – Right in the Backyard: Camping, fishing, and boating are some of the most immersive ways for families to get outdoors, exposing them to a myriad of sights, wildlife, and adventures. The most sought-out camping destinations are typically located in the mountains or near the beach, where the temperatures are likely to be cooler. For those with small children who may be hesitant to venture into the great outdoors, begin with a camp out in your backyard. — Caryn Bailey, Rockin’ Mama

Photo provided by: Holly Ambrose

Learn more at


Chapter Intro: Getting Guests Outside "You know we don't have air conditioning, right?"

season. So it's no wonder that it's the perfect

Without fail, those are always the first words

you're worried about the weather, keeping the

out of my mouth whenever anyone asks if

kids entertained or wondering what people

I'm interested in hosting a family gathering,

could possibly eat from flimsy paper plates,

birthday party or book club. Though our big

there are lots of ways to encourage your

old farmhouse set on a giant green spot on

guests to get outside, enjoy the weather and

the map is the perfect place for a gathering

have a little fun.

season for moving your party to the porch, backyard, or even the local park. Whether

of friends and family, I always worry that

— Molly Balint, MommyCoddle

people won't want to party at a place where there's no escape from the heat and humidity of summer. But there are only so many times you can ask your dad to let you have a party at his house before it's time to figure out some solutions to moving a fun summer get-together out of doors no matter what the temperature, heat index and percent of humidity. Summers are meant for savoring. For shaking off the gray, cold blahs of winter and celebrating the warmth and beauty of the

Photos provided by: Molly Balint


National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

Outdoor Parties are Fun and Convenient Growing up, most of my time was spent

For example, my son’s 5th birthday party

outside from sunup to sundown. My friends

was a cowboy party held at a local farm that

and I did everything from playing Simon Says

we rented for a few hours. It was such a fun

and kickball to building forts and making mud

birthday party – the kids had an awesome

pies. It was fun, and we were constantly on

time enjoying nature and the outdoors! They

the move! In today’s age of iPads and video

got to ride horses, milk a goat, go on a

games, it is not as easy for parents to get their

hayride, and play on the playground. It was

kids outdoors. That’s why I’m always looking

a huge hit!

for ways to get my children outside breathing in the fresh air and feeling the sunshine on

— Piera Jolly, Jolly Mom

their skin. One fun way that we do that is by celebrating many of our family’s special occasions outside. In fact, all of my 5-year-old son’s birthday parties have been outside! Throwing an outdoor party is both fun and convenient!

Photos provided by: Piera Jolly


Photo provided by: Brett Martin

Create Outdoor Traditions With all of the ways we are able to connect

We build a lot of fairy houses. Our only rule?

digitally, it’s more important than ever to

Only things from nature can be used. For

ensure that we take our families offline and

example, acorns can make a great bowl, cup,

spend time together UNplugged. There’s no

chair or table.

better way to do this than to Be Out There enjoying the outdoors. Any occasion can be a cause for celebration – why not take the celebration outdoors and enjoy all that nature has to offer us? One of my family’s favorite activities is building fairy houses. For centuries now, in Switzerland, when people see a beautiful spot while outdoors, they stop and make a fairy house to show their appreciation for the beauty within. A celebration of the beauty of nature, if you will.

Photos provided by: Wendy


National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

Whatever you do outdoors, make an effort to do it regularly, and do it together. — Brett Martin, This Mama Loves…

2 Bring a Change of Clothes:

1 Have a Party Outdoors: • Affordable since you can use your own

It's what I tell almost every family before

backyard or a local park

they come to our house with their kids. If

• More space • Mess is OUTSIDE rather than in your home • Less cleanup • Kids get to enjoy the outdoors • Lots of activities to choose from

you're playing outside, chances are pretty

The first things you will want to do are to choose a space and theme. The space could

good that you'll get wet, grass-stained, sticky or stinky. And feeling uncomfortable is a sure way to bring a good time to a screeching halt. So encourage your guests, and especially their kids, to pack a little something extra, in case of emergency. — Molly Balint, MommyCoddle

be your own backyard (my favorite!), a local park, or farm. And any theme will work for an outdoor party! Some potential theme ideas include: Cowboy/Western, Camping, Afternoon Tea, Carnival, Sports, Water Fun, Garden Party, and more! — Piera Jolly, Jolly Mom Photo provided by: Molly Balint


3 Keep it Casual:

everyone to have a comfortable place to sit and eat their meal? These are things to think

Moving a party outside doesn't call for

about when you choose your menu and decide

elaborate decorations, centerpieces and

if you'll be serving finger foods, burgers off the

goody bags. Take a cue from the natural

grill or cold salads and gazpacho.

world and keep things casual and natureinspired. Tables can be moved to the lawn, draped with tablecloths and topped with jars of wildflowers. Scatter lawn chairs and benches in a variety of shady spots around your space, or toss a few picnic blankets and pillows in a grassy spot. Encourage your guests to relax and enjoy being outside. — Molly Balint, Mommycoddle

— Molly Balint, MommyCoddle

5 Keep a Survival Kit on Hand: It's inevitable. There will be skinned knees, bug bites or bee stings. Keep a well-stocked survival kit handy. Stock it with the things you might need to treat minor injuries, scrapes and bruises. I like to include band-aids, antiseptic wash, bug spray, extra sunscreen,

4 Think About What Foods You're Putting on People's Plates: There's nothing worse than going to an outdoor party and juggling complicated meals, utensils, napkins and drink cups. Will guests be standing up and mingling while they eat? Or do you have enough seating for


National Wildlife Federation's Be Out There Movement

hand wipes, and "after bite" creams. — Molly Balint, MommyCoddle Photo provided by: Molly Balint

6 Let Nature Be Your Guide:

• Food/Drink – Keep it simple with BBQ, hot dogs, hamburgers, lemonade, sweet

There are so many nature-inspired crafts and

tea, etc. We did grilled food, summer

activities that a quick search on the Internet

salads, and rolls.

or Pinterest will have you overwhelmed with ideas. A few of my favorites are leaf-printing on t-shirts, digging for fossils (aka using a toothpick to carefully remove the chocolate chips from a cookie), and having a collection of magnifying lenses and bug jars at the ready. — Molly Balint, MommyCoddle

7 Cowboy/Western Birthday Party Ideas:

• Activities – Horseback riding, hayride, petting zoo, cowboy photo booth, potato sack races.

• Cake/Dessert – We did a variety of cupcakes decorated with western cupcake toppers, including S’mores cupcakes. However, a campfire and real S’mores would also be lots of fun.

• Goody Bags – Cowboy hats, bandanas, sheriff’s badge, or even Gold

• Location – Outside!

Nugget Bubblegum. We also asked

• Invitations – FREE Printable here

parents to send us a picture of their child

• Decorations – Think rustic decorations

cardboard “Wanted”

before the party, which we framed using

such as red and blue balloons, western

frames that we

birthday banner, gingham checkered

purchased at a

tablecloths, mason jars for glasses and vases,

party store.

wooden cutlery, etc.

— Piera Jolly, Jolly Mom

Photo provided by: Piera Jolly



Andrea Updyke, Li'l Kid Things


Brett Martin, This Mama Loves‌


Caryn Bailey, Rockin' Mama


Elena Sonnino, Live.Do.Grow.


Fadra Nally, All Things Fadra


Heather Hopson, Diary of a First Time Mom


Holly Ambrose, Tropic Home and Family



Jennifer Matuska, Mommy Instincts


Kimberly Coleman, Mom in the City

10 Louise Bishop, MomStart

11 Marianna Nichols, Green Mama's Pad

12 Molly Balint, MommyCoddle

13 Nickida Stephens, Nicki's Random Musings

14 Piera Jolly, Jolly Mom

15 Tiffany Merritt, Stuff Parents Need



Observe bugs at night:


Rain music:


Flashlight tag:


Summer obstacle course:


Car bingo for road trips:


Ice cube games:


More water and ice games:



Fruit popsicles:


Avoid insect stings:

10 Avoid poison plants:

11 Try to stay dry obstacle course:

12 Water scope:

13 Sprinkler games:

14 Explore a pond:

15 Deter mosquitoes:


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