Landscape designer Nancy Striniste of EarlySpace LLC has helped hundreds of schools and parents transform their outdoor spaces into natural playscapes. This winter, she is offering a course called “Create Your Own Outdoor Magic” that is designed to help schools come up with their own playscape plan that will be ready to implement without having to hire a designer. The unique DIY program is a fundraiser for NoVA Outside, an alliance of environmental educators with which Nancy volunteers.
Annmarie Sculpture Garden‘s 7th annual the Fairies in the Garden exhibit, which opened in April and closes on September 5, is a delightful attraction at an always-magical venue. With an outdoor natural play area under towering pines and an indoor Art Lab, Nature Nook, and exhibit gallery space, Annmarie is a great day trip for all ages.
A visit to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens during July or early August is a must for families in Metro DC. The majesty and beauty of the blooming lilies and lotus flowers are magical. Peak bloom is now through early or mid-August, and the Gardens is hosting its annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival on Saturday, July 16. Read More
Even if this is a mild winter here in D.C., we’re still likely to have days when the school officials decide it’s too cold for kids to go outside to play. In fact, that’s already happened at my kids’ school! And yet, we all know that gross motor activity and connection to nature are super important for little beings, and really for all of us! So how to we make sure outdoor activity happens when temps our low? Read More
When I heard that Julie Hantman, DC field organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, was going to be on a discussion panel after the March 21 screening of Project Wild Thing at the 2015 Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital and I watched the trailer, I knew it was a must that I attend. The film is about a man whose children spend a lot of time inside and in front of screens, and he takes it upon himself to become the “marketing director for nature.”
Great Falls Park seemed like the perfect excursion on a sunny day during a long holiday weekend when we’d all eaten too much and not gotten outside nearly enough. Each pairing in our family of four needed to be broken up every 20 minutes. I hoped watching the water tumble over rocks would be good for all of our souls.
It was. The trip even garnered my son’s “favorite part of Thanksgiving” when asked today by the dentist. But that doesn’t mean it was perfect. My daughter, aged four, is not one to go long without whining these days. She’ll turn it off on an instant if we find the right antidote: a race, a “look over there,” and sometimes things I don’t care to share! She’s spunky and opinionated, and not accustomed to the kind of long hikes I thought I might take my kids on all the time if I hadn’t had so many postpartum (and lingering) health issues. Fortunately, her older brother has more stamina than he did when I read and wrote about the memoir Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure, but I still marvel to think about how long Patricia Ellis Herr’s 3- and 5-year-old hiked with her. And how often!
Unlike those treks to peaks in New Hampshire, our short excursion in Northern Virginia was alternately beautiful and blissful and incredibly annoying. Mostly due to the finicky nature of my four-year-old. The path was fun until her brother outpaced her and me.
The reflection of a tree north of the falls was pretty cool until she complained she was hungry (which will happen if a child doesn’t eat her lunch and her parents don’t give in to piling her with snacks instead as they might on weaker days).
The view of the kayakers was impressive and garnered lots of commentary, but once we left the overlook, it was all downhill, so to speak.
I thought we might last more than 90 minutes and actually get a little ways down the River Trail. I recalled her brother scrambling over rocks at not quite her age and enjoying it. But alas, she had to pee. And we didn’t learn until later that further into the park, just before entering the woods, was a building with a flush toilet. Read More
Even with school already here for those in much of Maryland and DC or just around the corner for many Northern Virginians, the late summer weather is crying out for day trips. Once older children get back into the swing of school, their need for imaginative play grows even bigger.
Before soccer and fall festivals get into full swing, there’s a place I’m dying to take my kids. Alexandria mom of two Pallavi Raviprakash told me about Annmarie Sculpture Garden in Maryland, whose 5th annual Fairies in the Garden outdoor exhibit closes on September 1. I can’t wait for my children to pretend up a storm there! Thanks to Pallavi for this lovely guest post!
Not only are moms around the country lobbying legislators today for clean air as part of the Moms Clean Air Force Mama Summit, but thousands of children are out in that air today riding their bikes or walking to school as part of Bike to School Day. Talk about walking the walk!
It was a beautiful morning for DC-area families to participate today. Ironically, we could walk to school every day if we’d decided to attend the language immersion magnet school located in my neighborhood instead of the hands-on Expeditionary Learning school two miles’ drive away.
Both schools are great, but we love our EL community and have stayed their, driving the kids in the morning and letting them ride the bus in the afternoon. My son finally learned to ride a bike at the end of last summer. He was excited for October’s Walk to School Day when my husband pulled my daughter in a trailer along the longer. Our school is only two miles away, but it’s a hilly ride through traffic and a much nicer but longer ride along the bike trail, so it takes a good 30 minutes or more, even for my in-shape husband.
He had to be out of town today, and I’m not well enough right now to bike my preschooler daughter with the trailer weight. I didn’t anticipate being able to get the kids out of the house in time to walk two miles by 8 a.m., and since my son is congested from seasonal allergies to boot, we just parked a few blocks from the school and walked the rest, per the assistant principal’s recommendation.
It’s amazing how even that small amount of connecting to your community and moving your legs can change your perspective. We got a chance to feel a part of the neighborhood and to enjoy the lovely Wetlands Learning Lab our school built in 2012, now grown in and lush. There we were greeted by the principal and assistant principal who gave the children school-imprinted water bottles and reflective stickers for their wheels along with stickers to wear during the day. They were so excited!
Last year at this time, my daughter and I were doing an outdoor parent/child class through Washington Waldorf School. We hadn’t been hiking much as a family at that point. The first week of the class, shortly into our hike she asked, “Where are we going?” It seemed to her like there must be some kind of destination; the idea of enjoying the journey for its own sake was new to her. She asked the same question the following week, but by the end of the class, you could see how comfortable she had become with the trek and how excited she was about all the things we might see and hear along the way.
Between health issues and the snowy winter, we’ve lost our way, so to speak, and haven’t done much hiking since New Year’s Day. Today’s short walk to school helped me remember what even small steps can do to shift what you think of as “normal.” I hope we can get our feet moving more as soon as the pollen counts are down.
Now that my daughter is almost four and I’m hoping to get stronger, I’d like to look into a Wee Ride Co-Pilot or a Trail-A-Bike that she could pedal so that by October 8, 2014, the next Walk to School Day, we might be able to go as a family, even if I am solo parenting that day.
For more information on Walk and Bike To School Day, visit http://www.walkbiketoschool.org/