Written by Thery McKinney
Edited by A. Noelle
For the United States, June is a special month for childhood memories. Smiles and tears, family picnics and reunions, baseball games (those we won and those we lost), and childhood best friends. June is a time to remember summer vacations, weddings and family reunions, mowing the lawn, poison ivy, mosquitoes and crawly things.
June is also the time to be reminded of our beautiful nation – about conserving our lands for future generations to enjoy. We all understand that a dose of fresh air is healthy and necessary for our children’s health. However if children don’t learn to appreciate nature when they’re young, they are unlikely to support environmental policies as adults.
June has been officially proclaimed as Great Outdoors Month by our nation’s president, and almost every state governor, since 1998. This is a proclamation that suggests opportunities for families and friends to explore and play, to hike and watch wildlife, to canoe, hunt, fish and camp, and to enjoy the outdoors. These outdoor activities can help adults and children stay healthy, active and energized. In Florida Governor Rick Scott’s 2012 proclamation, he says that we must “renew our commitment to protecting our environment so that we can leave our children and grandchildren a healthy and flourishing land.” He goes on to say, “Great Outdoors Month will encourage cooperative conservation and new technologies to help ensure America’s outdoors remain places where families and friends can learn, exercise, and create meaningful memories.”
Let the fun begin!
Every state has parks and nature-protected community land. Every state has planned special events for June. To find what’s happening locally, click here (sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation). This tool quickly locates parks and recreational facilities in your area.
National events for this month include:
- June 1-25: Go Camping American Promotion (sponsored by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds).
- June 2: National Trails Day (sponsored by the American Hiking Society); explore America’s 200,000 miles of trails.
- June 2-10: National Fishing and Boating Week (coordinated by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation); coincides with most states’ free fishing days.
- June 9: Fee Waiver in National Forests (sponsored by the US Forest Service, which operates 17,000 recreational sites and manages 193 million acres of public land).
- June 9: National Marina Day and National Get Outdoors Day.
- June 23: Fee-Free Day in National Parks; more than 100 national parks participate.
- June 23: Great American Backyard Campout (sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation).
Explore nature. Take trail walks. Admire the wonders of your world. But don’t forget that you don’t have to travel far to enjoy some fresh air activities; spending time in your own neighborhood can be a great family adventure. Your own backyard offers a lot of opportunities for family fun. The National Wildlife Federation has a Summer Activities Kit that includes game suggestions like Bug Bingo for a campout in your backyard. If you don’t have a backyard, there are still opportunities available to get outside, but you may have to be a bit more creative in presenting nature to your child.
A few suggestions from www.familyfitness.about.com:
- A walking game like I SPY: Make it challenging by adding rules, such as, “Something that has a name, starting with your initial.”
- Spontaneous Poetry: Start off with a simple line like, “I really love to take a walk,” and have them take turns adding their own rhymes, such as, “Except when I step on a rock.”
- Spelling Bee: Challenge them to spell out loud what they see, such as “c-a-t-e-r-p-i-l-l-a-r.” Make it age-appropriate.
- Take some plastic baggies, or paper bags, and collect leaves and tree bark to use later for rubbings and other art projects.
In your own backyard, you and your child can:
- Investigate your yard with a magnifying glass. Younger children are fascinated with bugs.
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt, and find natural objects like rocks, flowers, objects of each rainbow color. For teens, make it a photo scavenger hunt.
- Go on a Sound Safari, and identify each sound with its origin – chirping for birds, croaking for frogs.
- Use the five senses, and focus for a few minutes on each sense. Describe each one with something noticed on a nature walk (even just around your block).
- With toddlers, try lying on your back in your yard and looking at the clouds. What do the shapes look like?
- Of course, there is always the favorite: go climb a tree (safely).
A word of caution: all activities need to be individually monitored for safety and made appropriate for the child’s age. Depending on your residence (e.g., beach, mountains, or city apartment), you may want to bring (but are not limited to) sunscreen, insect spray, Band-Aids, proper clothing, and bottles of water.
What are some of your favorite family outdoor activities? Share some of your summer experiences with other Chelsea Blog readers by leaving a comment.