Free July Desktop Calendar

7 July 2016 Sunday Start

It is amazing to think that tomorrow is July 1st!

As unbelievable as it is, it means it is time for a new desktop calendar to bring some nature to your computer!

Download the Sunday start version here .

The Monday start version can be found here.

Simply download and right click on the preview, then select “use image as desktop picture.”

Enjoy this little glimpse of nature on your desktop.

Happy July!

Dawn

 

P.S. The Mud Puddles Monthly Newsletter will be going out soon. Sign up right here if you want it to land in your inbox. When you sign up you will also receive a great PDF with 21 Ways to Get Your Kids Unplugged and Engaged with Nature. 

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07 July Promo Graphic

 

I have made of Five Fun Prompts for July Nature Explorations.

These are super prompts for engaging kids, and their adults, in nature and are a great jumping off point for further explorations.

If you would like to read more about what prompts are and how I use them with my own kids you can check out the post Nature Prompts & How to Use Them.

Click right here to sign up and download the prompts.

As always, if you have any questions or want to share your nature experience you can get in touch with me in the Mud Puddles to Meteors Facebook Group or email me at dawnsuzette@gmail.com.

Happy Exploring!

Dawn

 

P.S. The Mud Puddles Monthly Newsletter will be going out soon. Sign up right here if you want it to land in your inbox. When you sign up you will also receive a great PDF with 21 Ways to Get Your Kids Unplugged and Engaged with Nature. 

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Plug into Nature this Summer

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“Just one more minute, pleeeeease. I need to finish fighting this boss.”

“I have to check in to get my daily reward.”

“My friends are going to be online at 10:30! I have to meet them in the lobby.”

And on and on…

There are lots of great reasons for kids play games and use technology in general. They can interact with friends; use their writing skills to message with friends online, write emails or even blog posts; plan, build and create; budget their time and learn patience by waiting to collect ‘rewards’ instead of buying them; simply have fun and so much more. I get it. I can see all of the arguments for tech and think some of them are pretty valid. Our kids are growing up in a technology filled world and it is going to be a part of their lives until the end of their days.

All of that said, they need other things too. Most notably, they need balance. They also need nature and deep, meaningful interactions with friends and family. Those things (and many more like music, art, physical activities… ) need to balance out with the technology in a way each family sees fit.

Nature can play a big role in helping kids to bring balance into their lives. Nature can ground them and help connect them to the bigger world and the people around them in a way that gaming on a server just can’t.

Studies have shown that kids with regular access to nature in outdoor play environments engage in more creative play, have increased ability to focus, have greater self-discipline and so much more. Many parents know time in nature is beneficial to their kids but are faced with more and more difficulty getting their technology loving kids outside. The question is posed to me often: How do I get my kids outside when all they want to do is sit on the computer, iPad, etc…?

So, parents know it is important and the question is not if kids need nature, but how to get them outside when faced with the ever alluring pull of the technology at their fingertips?

This is a valid question that does not have a simple one-fits-all answer and can be approached in a variety of ways. 

While it is easy to say,

“Just do it! Just take them outside!”

It can be a bit more complex than that and each family needs to find their own strategies and tactics for dealing with the issues at hand. One way is to play off the fact that kids love tech is to take technology outside and use it as a tool to help kids connect – like a gateway to bridge the gap.

 

If you are struggling with getting your technology loving kid into the great outdoors (or even just the backyard), take heart and check out the tips below. 

 

Some Tips for Using Tech Outside

 

For the younger kiddos:

First of all, if kids are not already using technology I would wait to introduce them to the idea of using it in the outdoors. There are plenty of things for children to do outside without the addition of tech to their outdoor time. In fact, young kids need to bring very little outside. They can find everything they need (sticks, rocks, water, flowers, bugs, etc…) to play, explore, and wonder.

The tips here are for kids who are reluctant to get out and need an extra incentive. 

If they are already using tech and they want to use it outside (or you want to use it to help motivate them to spend more time outside) encourage them to try some of the nature related tech activities like the ones I will share below. You may have to do these things yourself to encourage them to give them a go. The hope here is to get them out and eventually transition them to the much more organic, free-range time outside (whatever that looks like for them). The benefits of unstructured outdoor play for children cannot be stressed enough and you will probably find that over time the tech use will decrease as the discovery and sheer joy of play outdoors increases. 

Here are some ideas for using technology outside with all kids, but especially the younger crowd:

  • Take photos of nature discoveries with a camera or phone and share with friends. Kids love to share. Heck, we all love to share. Younger kids might want to share with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or any number of other family and friends. If posted to Facebook for all of your friends and family too see, it might even inspire others to explore nature and share those nature explorations with your kids.
  • Use a macro lens (like Easy Macro) to get close up with nature and see the details.
  • Take a favorite Doll or Dino (or any other toy) on a photo safari. Using a favorite toy to get outside is a wonderful idea. Posing that toy for a photoshoot along the trail is great fun for kids of all ages.
  • Load nature apps on your phone to help inspire exploration and identification (see list below).
  • Geochaching is another great motivator for kids to get out. Who does not like a treasure hunt?  And, there is an app for that! (See below)  You can also use a GPS, which kids love.
  • Use nature prompts as a photo hunt.
  • Don’t forget traditional ‘technology’ like magnifying glasses, binoculars and microscopes. They open up whole new worlds!

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Seeing through the lens of a camera can often make one notice things that might have been missed.

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Watching even the most common creatures under the macro lens can be an eye opening experience.

All of the ideas above apply to teens as well but here are a few more ideas for the older kids:

  • This older crowd might want to share photos or videos on Facebook or Instagram with reviews of the places they explored and the cool things they did: rope swing, ropes course, white water rafting, rock climbing, awesome view from the top of the hike, an especially cool flower or other nature sighting, a bushcrafting project. Those are all super things to share and may just inspire some of their friends to come along with your family on your next adventure. (And I use the term adventure lightly here. A trip to your local hiking trail can be just as much of an adventure as a longer trek or exciting activity. It is all about how you frame it. You might consider getting a local hiking guide and let the kids plan the next adventure!)
  • Use a video editor right on the phone or on the computer to make a nature documentary (let them channel their inner Sir David Attenborough) or vlog (video blog) of their explorations.
  • As with the younger crowd load up on nature apps for identification. Some of these also let you record your sightings and keep life lists and would be a great way to motivate older kids to get out. (You can make these records and lists private to limit online interaction if needed.)

A few apps we love:

The Audubon Society apps

iNaturalist

Cloud Spotter

eBird

Merlin Bird ID

SkyView

Tides Near Me

NOAA Weather Radar

Geochaching

 

The article 10 Way to Take Better Smartphone Photos will help you and yours do just that, and if you are going to take photos of cool nature stuff it is always fun when they turn out good.

 

Being out in nature is a good thing in and of itself. There are benefits beyond measure. The hope is that whatever tools are used to get kids out and engaged will eventually lead to fantastic interactions with our natural world, a genuine love of nature, and plenty of unplugged time in nature as well.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, talks about helping kids develop a ‘hybrid mind’ that can work within the realms of both nature and our technologically advancing world. There are advantages and strengths in both and a child that can function swiftly in both worlds, bridging the gap between the two, will be better off in the long run.

Do you use tech to help get your kids engaged with nature?

I would love to hear more about how you use it and what the kids think!

Happy Exploring,

Dawn

 

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P.S. The Mud Puddles Nature Lab is a wonderful community of people working to connect their families with nature and enrollment is currently open for a short time.

Members receive:

– daily prompts, with extension activities and ideas for incorporating the prompt into daily life, right in their inbox

– printable journal sheets and activities

– thematic book and resource list each month

– membership in a private Facebook group

– discounts on future workshops through Mud Puddles to Meteors

– inspiration, support, and encouragement in a vibrant community of like-minded families

We would love to have you join us!

Click here to learn more and sign up!

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Today is World Oceans Day! 

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“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul”

                                                                                  ~  Robert Wyland

 

There are some wonderful ways to celebrate our oceans. We are fortunate enough to spend a lot of time at the seashore and interacting with our ocean here in Nova Scotia. If you can’t physically visit the sea today you can certainly go on a virtual visit or travel there through books.

There will be a lot of information out there today about the big issues facing the oceans and how we can help. These are important and there are so many things we can do in our daily lives to help our oceans, and therefore all life on this amazing planet, but please remember that with young children it is about falling in love with something before we present them with the challenges. With that in mind be aware of what you share on this day and how it will impact the kids. Use this special day to spark the desire to learn more and promote wonder at all of the phenomenal creatures that live in the sea. Take your children on a journey of discovery that will build the foundation for action and stewardship later in life, and lead by example when it comes to those action steps to help our oceans.

Here are a few resources to get you started:

From the Web

A super fun Wave in a Bottle project PDF with amazing High Seas booklist from Alphabet Glue shared by Ginny!

World Oceans Day websites with resources here and here

Ocean Portal

The Blue Planet clips on You Tube

Books & DVDs (and see booklist in PDF above)

Exploring the Deep Dark Sea

Magic School Bus Books: On the Ocean Floor & A Books About Coral Reefs

Ocean: the definitive visual guide

The Blue Planet: Seas of Life

On Instagram

#WorldOceansDay

National Geographic

 

Do you have a favorite memory of time at (or in) the ocean?

 

Happy World Ocean Day!

Dawn

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Nature Around the Net

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Happy Saturday!

It has been awhile since I have shared links here so on this quiet Saturday morning I thought I would pop in with a few I thought you all might like.

– Today is National Trails Day! Will you be getting out on the trails?

– This BirdSlueth Explorer’s Guidebook is amazing and available for free download or to order.

The School of Nature: Greening Our Schools May Be the Real Cutting Edge of Education is a great article filled with super information and inspiration.

The Best Books to Read with a Magnifying Glass. What a great idea for a book list!

Mud Puddles Post from the Past

Five Tips for Eco-Friendly Parties

Visit a Nursery

A Booklist for Young Gardeners 

 

Lastly, the Mud Puddles Nature Lab is open for enrollment!

If you are interested in helping your family slow down, be more mindful and make nature connection a part of everyday family life this summer check out the Mud Puddles Nature Lab.

It is filled with wonderful prompts, daily inspiration, a supportive community, and so much more. 

You can find out more and sign up by clicking over to the Mud Puddles Nature Lab page here.

Enrollment is open until June 15th.

Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment or emailing me at dawnsuzette@gmail.com.

 

Happy Exploring!

Dawn

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Nature Prompts & How to Use Them

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I am a big advocate for child-led, unstructured outdoor play and exploration. I believe that kids need to have lots of unstructured time in nature that allows them to make their own discoveries, ask questions, and simply wonder.

In light of this some may ask, “If that is the case, then why do you give nature prompts?”

It is a good question!

Let’s first start with the basics.

What are prompts?

I see nature prompts as little bits of inspiration for investigation. They are an invitation to explore, dig deeper, and open up a door to a world that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

They can serve as a SPARK to get the mental wheels turning and a leaping off point for greater investigation.

Kids, and their adults, often need an incentive to slow down and wonder about the world around them; an invitation to stop, be idle for a moment, and mindfully look a little closer.

Nature prompts are a great tool to achieve to this goal and bring nature into daily family life.

That’s nice but, really, what are they?

Okay, so if you have not seen the nature prompts you may be wondering what they look like, EXACTLY.

Below are some examples of both short-term and long-term nature prompts.

Short-term prompts are those that can be done fairly quickly. They could take just 5-10 minutes and can be done around the backyard, walking down a neighborhood street, or on a trail.

Short-term prompts are things like:

  • Going on a color hunt (for a specific color or as many different colors as you can find)
  • Finding five different types of leaves (and identifying them if you want to extend the prompt)
  • Going on a build a poem walk to write a poem with nature things you find along the way

Long-term nature prompts are those that you return to daily, weekly or monthly to do what amounts to a longitudinal study of your chosen subject.

Long-Term prompts include things like:

  • Tracking the sunrise or sunset over the course of a year to watch how the sun moves along the horizon as the seasons change
  • Tracking the phases of the moon over a month
  • Doing a year-round tree observation, checking in monthly with your chosen tree

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Now that we are clear about what nature prompts are, let’s talk about what they are not.

They are NOT:

  • Hard and fast “lessons” like you might find in a nature study curriculum  
  • Set in stone to be followed exactly as they are presented

 

They are loose and intended to be manipulated, molded, and played with in any way the child, or their nearest adult, sees fit to make it their very own experience. Remember, they are a spark of inspiration!

When using nature prompts keep in mind that a set outcome is not the most important part of this exercise. There will be an outcome, it just might not be what you thought it would be, and that is okay. In fact, that is far better. It means that child has taken the prompt beyond the surface intention and made it their own. They have turned the spark into a raging fire. (Time to roast the marshmallows!)

 

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Now, all of that being said, what if the child is simply not interested in a nature prompt? What if you bring it up and they blow it off?

That’s okay too.

In that case, know that you have planted a little seed and you never know when it might grow. Have you heard about those wildflowers in the desert? They sit dormant for years and years waiting for the right conditions to grow. That is what that prompt might be. You never know when the topic may come up again. Once you throw it out there let it drift and see what happens. Weeks or even months down the line you may hear an exclamation of delight and wonder when they hit upon something that ties directly into the prompt you tried to share. It just needed the right conditions to truly flourish in their mind.

If you find your prompt being rejected but you find it interesting, go on to investigate it yourself. One of the quickest ways to get kids engaged in nature is to engage yourself in nature. As with anything else in parenting, lead by example.

Depending on the age of your kids and their experience in nature you may have to frame the prompts in different ways. If kids feel like nature experience is a chore or one more lesson to check off they will likely be uninvested in the prospect of heading outside.

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This leads me to how I use nature prompts with my own kids.

I use prompts in three main ways.

  • As inspiration to get the kids out the door. It is a surprise to some people that even I sometimes have a hard time getting my kiddos outside but I do. They can be just as adverse to the heat, biting bugs, and general disinterest as any other children. So occasionally I will invite them out with an investigation (prompt).
  • As inspiration for myself to get out the door. It is not always about the kids and we mamas and papas need to lead the way and inspire by example. Remember the idea that if you want your kids to do something (write, be active, clean up their room) you need to do the same. Well, as I said above, nature study and connection is no different. I would not be a very good example if I call to the kids to get outside while I am sitting on the couch looking at my iphone or never show any interest in getting outside for my own benefit. Granted I have gotten to the point where it does not take much to get me outside but it has not always been that way, especially when faced with challenges like biting bugs and super hot weather. I have done my share of whining in the past when conditions are not ideal. Prompts are just as good for adults as they are for children. With more and more parents coming of age in an indoor society, with less personal childhood outdoor experiences to draw upon, it is more important than ever that they build their own nature vocabulary through experience.
  • Lastly, I tuck them back in my brain for when the right moment arises. As my kids get older they are not as enchanted with many aspects of nature. Many of the mysteries have been solved, and my daughter (almost 13 now) can sometimes feel as if there is nothing left to know. I keep encouraging her to find the NUGGET of new information. There is always something more to learn! So, I keep nature prompts and the motivation behind them in my mind as we move about our time outside. When I see a window to wonder I throw something out there to see if it will stick. I don’t usually say, “Hey, there is this nature prompt I wanted us to try…” as that would most likely lead to rolling eyes and a shut down. I do say, “I wonder….” and lead into whatever it is there is to wonder about: Why the water flows that way? If all flowers have the same parts? Why some birds hop and others walk? These are things that are of genuine interest so I am not belittling or pretending I wonder. I really do wonder and the kids know it. They often join in and we have great conversations about these things. So the prompts provide a leaping off point for my own wonder and pull the kids along as I go.

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The point of all of this is to spend more time out of doors and in nature. However your family uses prompts, or not, is perfect, as long as the end goal is achieved: time outside!

How do you use prompts?

What do you do to motivate your family to get outdoors?

I give free nature prompts here on the blog each month. To get those sent to your inbox you can sign up right here.

 

If you are interested in helping your family slow down, be more mindful and make nature connection a part of everyday family life check out the Mud Puddles Nature Lab.

It is filled with wonderful prompts, daily inspiration, a supportive community, and so much more.

You can find out more by clicking over to the Mud Puddles Nature Lab page here

Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment or emailing me at dawnsuzette@gmail.com.

Happy Exploring!

Dawn

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Five Fun Prompts for June Nature Explorations-3

 

I have made of Five Fun Prompts for June Nature Explorations.

These are super prompts for engaging kids, and their adults, in nature and are a great jumping off point for further explorations.

Click right here to sign up and download the prompts.

As always, if you have any questions or want to share your nature experience you can get in touch with me in the Mud Puddles to Meteors Facebook Group or email me at dawnsuzette@gmail.com.

Happy Exploring!

Dawn

 

P.S. The Mud Puddles Monthly Newsletter will be going out tomorrow morning bright and early. Sign up right here if you want it to land in your inbox. When you sign up you will also receive a great PDF with 21 Ways to Get Your Kids Unplugged and Engaged with Nature. 

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Free June Desktop Calendar

June 2016 Mud Puddles to Meteors Desktop Sunday Start-2

Tomorrow we will be flipping the calendar to June, so it is time for a new desktop calendar to bring some nature to your computer!

Download the Sunday start version here .

The Monday start version can be found here.

Simply download and right click on the preview, then select “use image as desktop picture.”

Enjoy this little glimpse of nature on your desktop.

Happy June!

Dawn

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Take a Night Walk

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Whether walking along the lakeshore while camping or around your neighborhood on a summer evening, a nighttime walk can awaken the senses and make even the most familiar places come alive in a whole new way.

As humans we typically rely on our sense of sight more than any other sense. We are visual animals that are made to carry on with life during the day and hunker down for much needed rest and recovery at night. All the more reason to get out of our natural rhythms every so often to experience the world from a different perspective, helping our other senses take over and come alive.

Hear the world in a new way…

At night the big sounds of the world die down and a quite falls over the landscape.

That sounds like something right out of a story book, right? To a certain degree it is true, but you will quickly discover on your night walk that while the hustle and bustle of human activity has quieted down, the creatures of the night are just getting started and sometimes they can make quite a ruckus, for those who are listening.

While you are out listen for frogs peeping, bats on the wing, birds of the night (most are quite quiet), the wind blowing through the tree, insects chirping and buzzing, along with other signs that tell you someone is rustling about.

Before you leave you might want to talk about which animals you know about that are nocturnal and how the wind might make things move. You may want to even tell a few stories about nighttime creatures. This will help even the littlest explorer tune in, and dampen some fears that may arise from the sounds you hear. A reminder that even little creatures can make big sounds when the rest of the world is quite is helpful for everyone.

What do you smell?

Without our vision to help us we have to rely on our other senses and all of a sudden smells become very important. While it is true that even people who cannot see don’t have a heightened sense of smell, our sense of smell can tell us a lot about the world around us and it is really more keen than we give it credit.

During your walk tune into how things smell. Smell the bark of a tree, the grass, and flowers you pass by. Do they smell any different than they do during the day? Do they have a stronger smell? Weaker smell? Why would that be?

As you may well know, our sense of smell is intimately tied into our sense of taste. (Is that is why S’mores around the campfire at night taste extra good?)

It is also linked strongly with memories. While you are out talk about any smells that remind you of something.

Our eyes adjust

While we are not known to be nocturnal the human eye can adjust to see better in the dark. It takes about 20 minutes for our eyes to adjust to low light conditions so try to keep from looking at any lights or turning a flashlight on so your eyes can do the work of seeing better in the dark. To help kids understand how our eyes do this have them look into your eyes…

A super fun and simple way to learn about the human eye is to see it in action and a great way to do that is to have the kids see your pupil change right before their eyes. To do this simply close your eyes for about 10 seconds then open them while facing a bright light. Your pupils will quickly dilate to adjust to the increase in light and the kids will be able to see them get smaller. If you have someone around with light colored eyes have them do this for a greater effect.

The simple explanation here is that our pupils take in light to help us see and when light is low they get bigger to take in more light, and when the light is bright they get smaller to take in less light, very similar to the shutter on a camera. This is obviously a very simple explanation (since there are folks who study the eye in depth) but this will get them started on learning about the eye and who knows… medical school could be in their future because you took them on a night walk.

 

Keeping safe on a night walk

A few simple precautions will help you and yours stay safe during a night walk.

  • Stick together and pair up if you are in a large group
  • Wear light colors so you can be seen (especially if you will be walking near a street)
  • Take a flashlight (but try to keep it off as much as possible to let your eyes adjust to the dark unless you need it for safety, then just point it toward the ground and back as you walk)
  • Walk in a familiar place to avoid getting lost in the night

Extra tips

  • With very little ones start your night walks at twilight just as the sun is setting to let them get use to the fading light as the walk goes on
  • Before you go read stories about nocturnal creatures learning more about how they are adapted to the night and what they do out there
  • Be a confident role model for your kids (if you need to get used to being out at night yourself try a few night walks with a friend to get yourself familiar with the nighttime world before taking your kids out)

This will get you started on your journey to discover the night and make memories that will last. My kids still talk about seeing the stars reflecting off of the calm black lake one night while we were out exploring the darkness. It was brilliant.

We would love to hear about your night walk. Pop on into the Mud Puddles to Meteors Facebook group or tag #mudtometeors on Instagram to share your walk with us!

Happy Exploring!

Dawn

 

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FS Coastal Colour

Coloring nature scenes is a great way to get a little closer to some of the finer details in nature through amazing illustrations.

And it is a whole lot of fun!

Kirsty, from Fog and Swell, has a new coloring book available for download that can help with just that very mission. This is super exciting news around our house!

I have known Kristy through a variety of social media for who knows how long and I can’t tell you how excited I was when she started offering prints of her illustrations. I had been seeing little glimpses of her amazing work through photos and while we own a number of her sewn creations (which my kids love) having her artwork in our home is a real treat.

Now the kids, and this mama, can color our own versions of Kristy’s work and we are over the moon about it!

To give you a little taste of what this awesome coloring book is all about Kristy is offering Mud Puddles readers a free coloring sheet to download. Yay!

You can find that sheet right here.

Pop on over to Kristy’s shop to check out the coloring book and her other amazing prints.

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You can find Kristy on Instagram here and Facebook right here. Pop over to follow and give a like!

After you color your pages tag them on IG or FB with #fogandswell and #mudtometeors so we can see your pages!

Have fun coloring!

Dawn

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