Get Outside! Enjoy Nature with Kids


Our family loves spending time outside, and while we have the gear to make it comfortable in the winter, it’s just not the same. With spring comes new flowers, birds, and insects to watch for. 

It also is a time we really connect and truly enjoy each others’ company.

One of our favorite family activities is going to the Brenton Arboretum in Dallas Center. It has an amazing natural playscape where we can climb the fallen tree, build with branches and stumps, and play “the sand is lava” as we hop across on wood rounds. 

outside play

Beyond the playscape, there are numerous hiking trails spread throughout the arboretum. The kids love learning what kinds of trees are in the park. We also collect nature items for the Collector’s Corner at the Science Center of Iowa. There are certain things, in line with conservation laws, that we can examine and take with us. When the kids bring something into the Science Center, they can tell staff all about it and earn points to trade in for cool things like geodes, fossils, and arrowheads.

We seek out these opportunities for family time without distractions. They build our connection as a family and create lots of fun experiences and memories.

get outside play with kids and bugsBy spending time outdoors and talking about how we respect Mother Nature, we are fostering a love for the environment in our kids. They talk about Mother Nature as a real person in our life. Our kids also point out when others aren’t respectful to her.

Through our time in nature, our kids have learned that there are lots of unusual creatures out there, and uniqueness is something to value. We’ve spent days examining katydids and praying mantises. They’re fascinated by cicadas. 

Modeling these positive attitudes toward nature has even helped me overcome my fear of bees. Since I don’t want the kids to feel like nature is scary, I’ve learned to self-regulate, even when I see a huge ground wasp buzzing about the yard. It’s been hard, but deep breaths and self-talk help me keep my cool. When that fails, I find a reason to grab something inside!

Spending time outdoors with our kids has helped me to reconnect with nature. While I’ve always loved being outside, during adulthood I started getting wrapped up in my other responsibilities. I would spend hours indoors at work and then come home and go no further than my deck.

I truly believe kids bring out the best in us. They remind us of our values. Mine gave me an excuse to get back to nature and share something I love with them.

How are you connecting with your kids and sharing your values?

Looking for something to do outside with your kids? Check out 5 of our favorite Des Moines Parks

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Always up for taking on new roles, Steph is a hobby enthusiast and now enjoys sharing her varied interests with her amazing, silly, sometimes-adventurous step-kids Olivia and Wyatt. Exploring outdoor spaces and coming up with messy science experiments are favorite family pastimes. Steph is a life-long Iowan, Des Moines area resident since 2006, and happily settled down with husband Alan in 2015. She has a couple different gigs including adjunct instructor at DMACC and graduate student at the University of Iowa School of Social Work, but step-parent is (usually) the most fun.


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