Outdoor Family Activities- Play Garden - Backyard Family fun

My Tips For a Happy,
Healthy Family


At Incredible Horizons, we feel strongly that there is no perfect family, or even a “normal” one. Families come in all shapes and sizes, and have their unique ways of interacting with each other. However, something we’ve observed over the years is that healthy, well-functioning families tend to have several key characteristics in common:

  • mutual support

  • love and caring for each other

  • a sense of security and belonging

  • open communication

  • a confidence within each family member that they are important, respected and valued

6 guidelines for maintaining a healthy, well-functioning family

Dinner: 30 Minutes to a More Connected Family

Believe it or not, time spent having dinner together as a family is an excellent gauge of how well kids will navigate adolescence. The more frequently kids eat dinner with their families, the better they do in school and the less likely they are to get involved with drugs or alcohol, suffer depression, consider suicide or become sexually active during high school. Why? Maybe because families who eat together talk more, which helps them stay connected and build better relationships. Dinner transforms individual family members into a “group” – all for one and one for all. And, children, even more than adults, need something to count on every day, the tangible security of belonging and being nurtured that is represented by the ritual of sharing food with those who love you.

Why Kids Need Routines and Structure

Children are confronted with change daily, which can be stressful. Their own bodies change on them constantly. Babies and toddlers give up pacifiers, bottles and cribs. School-age kids have to get used to new teachers and classmates every year. They learn new skills and information at an astonishing pace, from reading and crossing the street to soccer and riding a bike. Few live in the same house for their entire childhood; most move several times, often to new cities, new neighborhoods and schools. Routines give kids a sense of security and help them develop self-discipline. And few of these changes are within the child’s control. That’s why dependable, productive routines can keep stress and tempers at bay and give soothing structure to family life.

The Family That Plays Together

From a joke-telling competition to an impromptu pillow fight, infusing a spirit of joy and playfulness into your home nurtures your family like little else. Playing together is an almost magical way to build connection, because when you’re laughing with someone, you’re bonding. Laughter also heals minor relationship stress, helps people forget grudges, and brings the family into cohesion. We have seen that children whose parents use silliness to keep the day flowing smoothly are lucky indeed.

Family Meetings

If the idea of family meetings seem stilted and artificial, our advice is: just try them. They create connection. They give you a way to work things out when everyone’s calm. They help your kids learn to solve problems. They help kids feel like integral members of the family. They give every family member a voice. They even help siblings work things out and appreciate each other. Again, schedule a couple and let us know how they worked.

Make Your Home a Haven

To thrive, we all need a safe place — both physically and emotionally — to come home to. Children especially need a secure, solid home where they feel protected and can recharge. No matter how independent they become after they start having sleepovers and sports tournaments, when they come home they want two things: a safe place where they can be fully themselves, and to connect with the rest of the family in a comfortable way. So what can you do, in this busy world, to create a sanctuary for your family?

Family Culture:
Shared Identity and Belonging

How do you hold a family together? How do you make kids WANT to spend time with the family? The answers to these questions largely have do with the family culture you create. For example, take an interest in each other’s interests and hobbies, like Star Wars, ice skating or cooking. Seize any excuse to celebrate and have fun together whenever possible. As stated earlier, share dinner together whenever possible. And most all, create family rituals. Through their repetition, rituals reinforce family cohesion through shared, cherished experiences (Jack-O-Lantern carving, birthday celebrations, July 4th picnics).

Maintaining a healthy family

In order to provide a supportive, emotionally-healthy environment, you might consider the following questions:

  • Do you treat each child as an individual? Each child has his/her own temperament, strengths and weaknesses. Parents may love their children equally, but naturally will have different relationships with each of them. It’s important to develop a unique relationship with each of your children, reinforcing their talents and “specialness.”

  • Are your expectations of your children realistic? Your child’s maturity, self-awareness, knowledge and skills are constantly changing. Find out what can reasonably be expected of him/her at each stage of development. At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we can help in this area; please come in and talk with us.

  • Does the time you spend together as a family foster good relationships? Can you describe your “family togetherness” time as fun, relaxed and mutually beneficial…or tense, competitive and full of conflict?

  • Are you teaching your child solid, positive values? Remember, you and your spouse are the most important role models for your child and you need to demonstrate your value system, through actions as well as words.

Green time is better than screen time

Posted on Sep 9 2020 by admin

Green time children outdoors

Children and teenagers could potentially improve their wellbeing and achieve better school results by spending more time outdoors, University of Adelaide research suggests.

“Screen time and green time are linked to psychological well-being in contrasting ways.”

Green Time vs. Screen Time

The Children Nature Network compiled data from 186 studies. They state, “generally, high levels of screen time were associated with unfavorable psychological outcomes, while green time tended to be associated with favorable psychological outcomes.”

Unfavorable psychological outcomes from screen time include

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Stress

  • Psychological distress

  • Poor self-regulation

  • Emotional challenges

  • Negative affect or mood

Favorable psychological outcomes from green time include

  • Happiness

  • Resilience

  • Hope

  • Prosocial behaviors

  • Positive affect

  • Self-esteem

  • Cognitive functioning

  • Academic achievement

For these reasons and more, We emphasize outdoor learning and play as important aspects of the school day for each student in every grade. We encourage limiting media use and screen time to high school students.

Tassia suggests that further research will help us to work out whether we should focus our efforts on reducing young peoples’ screen time; or whether simply increasing ‘green time’ alongside their ‘screen time’ would be beneficial for their psychological wellbeing.

“Prevention is key and identifying exposures which harm or help mental health is especially important for young people,” she says.

“The psychological consequences of excessive screen time appears to possibly be worse for these children, while psychological benefits of green time appears to possibly be greater for these children.”

Urban garden image by Jacob Mills

Kids' 'green' time reduces adverse effects of 'screen' time on behavior, learning   

Studies show screen time can adversely affect behavior and learning in children, but the effects can be balanced with increased time outdoors. Photo by Andi Graf/Pixabay

Studies show screen time can adversely affect behavior and learning in children, but the effects can be balanced with increased time outdoors. Photo by

More time spent outdoors -- and less in front of a screen -- leads to improved mental health in children and adolescents, according to an analysis of existing research published Friday by the journal PLOS ONE.

Based on data from 186 previously published studies, researchers determined that young people who spent more time on handheld games and devices, television and computers were more likely to have behavior and emotional problems and display symptoms of aggression and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.

The young people also were more likely to have learning or social difficulties.

Conversely, children who spent more time outdoors and who had increased access to "green" spaces for play and learning were less likely to have these undesirable traits.

Preliminary evidence suggests that green time potentially could limit the effects of high screen time, meaning nature may be an under-utilized public health resource to promote youth psychological well-being in a high-tech era, according to Oswald and her colleagues.

How to Get Your Kids to Spend More Time Outside

From planning a road trip around "rockhounding" opportunities to building your own outdoor play area, these fun family activities are guaranteed to spark your child's interest in nature.

Show a child a tree stump, and they'll likely jump onto it, inspect it, or peel away a bit of its bark. One thing they probably won't do, though, is leave it untouched. "That's the thing about nature. Being outdoors invites kids to observe and participate. There's so much to see and investigate."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children who spend time playing outside experience better physical health, are more engaged in learning, express better behavior, and are mentally healthier than kids who don't.

Making Family Mealtime Fun for Everyone

Posted on October 21, 2010

We all k

now that family dinners are important. They give children the opportunity to develop important skills like manners and communication. They encourage healthy eating habits. They help family members connect with one another. And did you know that research shows family meal time is one of the best ways to help children avoid drug abuse?

The trouble is that with our hectic family schedules, and our children’s eating preferences, regular family dinners are often rushed and/or stressful. We begin to dread the idea of dinner time and often scrap the “sit down” idea all together. And then the guilt sets in…

This article from the Goddard School website gives families great ideas for making mealtime more fun and successful.

  • Cut yourself (and your children) some slack– adjust your idea of what “sit-down” means when you are eating with young children. Encourage and talk about manners, but respect young children’s need to be active and to touch their food. For them eating is a complete sensory experience.

  • Make it fun– throw in something unexpected, like purple potatoes, broccoli standing like trees, food arranged into a picture or shape on the plate. Serve milk in little goblets. Get kids excited to see what you will bring to the table.

  • Get everyone involved– ask Dad to make the salad, invite the kids to wash the vegetables. Set the table together and incorporate some of the kids ideas about how to set out the napkins or which plates to use.

  • Explore other eating together options– when time is short, set out healthy appetizers like veggies and hummus, cheese and crackers or other quick finger foods and have a family “happy hour” together. When you know evenings will be busy, plan a family breakfast or lunch.

Family time is important, and when we take the time to be together around a meal, we are also teaching our children the importance of eating right. And while it is nice to slow down, gather everyone around the table and enjoy food and conversation together, don’t let that ideal feel like your only option. The goal is to connect with one another and teach healthy eating habits. The way you can accomplish this can be as unique as your family!

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9 Successful Family Traits

Protecting your family’s mental health and maintaining strong family relationships is a challenge even in the best of times. These days, it can feel more overwhelming than ever. As a parent and role model, building a healthy family while living through a global pandemic, helping your child navigate school, and keeping an eye on social media may feel like a daunting task. It can be difficult to know where to prioritize your time and energy to have the most significant impact on everyone’s well-being. So what traits make a family successful?

Research from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that compiled findings from various disciplines (psychology, psychiatry, social work, sociology, and marriage and family counselors) provides some guidance and is supported by research from Oregon State University – Cascades.

According to the HHS research, successful families are enduring, cohesive, affectionate, and mutually appreciative. Family members communicate with each other frequently and fruitfully, and children go on to form successful families of their own. “They are not necessarily families that are trouble-free,” researchers noted. “Some have experienced health problems, financial difficulties, and other problems. But they are adaptable and able to deal with crises in a constructive manner.”

What Are the Top Traits of Successful Families?

According to the HHS research, nine traits exist in strong, healthy families:

  1. Expressing appreciation.

  2. Time together.

  3. Encouragement of individuals.

  4. Communication.

  5. Ability to adapt.

  6. Religious/spiritual orientation.

  7. Social connectedness.

  8. Commitment to family.

  9. Clear roles.

Embark Division President Dustin Tibbitts, LMFT, characterized the traits of successful families as straightforward for parents looking to assess and improve their family dynamic. “Their straightforwardness can be helpful because often parents tend to make it too hard,” he said, adding that parents also take a lot of shame upon themselves when things aren’t going well.

List of nine successful family traits

Below, Tibbitts explores the nine traits and offers tips for parents.

1. Expressing appreciation

When was the last time you said thank you or told your child you are grateful for them? Tell them you are thankful they are a part of your life and share the specific attributes, actions, or experiences that you appreciate about them. These simple gestures are compelling for successful family life.

According to Tibbitts, “The No. 1, most important way to help mental health is the expression of appreciation and gratitude. It sounds hokey, but it’s extremely powerful.”

2. Time together

When it comes to time together, there are two key concepts:

  1. Focus on quality over quantity. For example, when you’re together, practice active listening, which involves reflection (paraphrasing what your child says) and empathy (understanding their emotions based on what they share with you).

  2. Be available when your child needs you — on their time, not yours.

“A lot of parents feel guilty because they’re not out playing ball with their kid, taking them on trips, or going shopping,” Tibbitts said. “But really, what kids want is the time when they want it.

“So, if your teenager approaches you at 9 p.m. and you’re tired, but you give them time, that’s what they want. Even a half-hour goes a long way. Of course, it’s harder to do that when you’re exhausted, but successful families do that. They give their kids time when they need it.”

3. Encouragement of individuals

This may sound similar to the first successful family trait, but there’s an important distinction.

“Encouragement is different than appreciation,” Tibbitts said. “Appreciation is gratitude. Encouragement is saying, ‘You can do it!’, ‘There’s hope for the future!’, and ‘You’ve got this, and I’m right here with you.’”

Encouragement should take the form of mutual support, recognition, and respect. The HHS research noted that “Strong families cultivate a sense of belonging to a family unit, but also nurture the development of individual strengths and interests. Members enjoy the family framework, which provides structure but does not confine them.”

4. Communication

In the HHS research, experts recommend that families’ communication be “clear, open, and frequent.” They also noted that “Family members talk to each other often, and when they do, they are honest and open with each other.”

Tibbitts added that parents should focus on a real, true emotional connection that’s delivered in a way your child can receive it. Parents can assess if their child is receiving and internalizing connection based upon their body language, word choices, eye contact, voice tone, use of appropriate touch, conversational pacing, how often they seek parents out, and other cues.

5. Ability to adapt

Can your family react to and handle stressful situations in constructive ways? Can you grow and change when the circumstances demand it?

Tibbitts said, “Most psychosis, most neurosis, and most mental health problems come from rigidity and the inability to adapt.”

By teaching your children flexibility and adaptability, you prepare them to handle the inevitable stressors and challenges that life presents. For example, when a child fails at a school assignment, parents can work alongside them to provide support in giving it another go. If a child faces a disappointment like an activity canceled due to COVID-19, parents can encourage their child to come up with a creative replacement activity instead of doing nothing.

6. Religious/spiritual orientation

Having a connection to the broader world is vital for healthy development. According to Tibbitts, “Families that are successful share a common spirituality. This is not religion, per se, but a deep spirituality — a connection to something greater than yourself. Expressing that with your child, and helping them tap into that connection for themselves, goes a long way.”

Spirituality can be found in many places if you are not religious. Connecting with nature and your community can help put your child and family in a frame of mind to feel a part of the world around you.

7. Social connectedness

Tapping into the resources and support of groups outside your family — from friends to neighbors to community organizations — is crucial for creating strong bonds for family members.

“I’ve interviewed a lot of families,” Tibbitts said, “and families who have traditions that involve participation in the community are more successful than others.”

These community ties could be as simple as celebrating the Fourth of July with your neighbors, maintaining a tradition with your friends to share Thanksgiving together, or caring for an ailing neighbor. This stable base outside the family provides another layer of support to help cope with adversity and build meaning into life’s challenges.

8. Commitment to family

According to the HHS research, in a committed family, “They have a sense of being a team; they have a family identity and unity.” This commitment goes two ways, from the individual to the family and the family to the individual.

One way to build this commitment is through shared responsibilities.

“Especially for teenagers, they need to feel like they’re part of something,” Tibbitts said. “As much as they fight it, they’ve got to have some sense of meaning in the family, and that’s accomplished through responsibility.”

For example, many families have pets their children are responsible for. Helping aging grandparents with chores around the yard, babysitting younger siblings, changing the oil in a car, helping decorate for a holiday, and taking a turn cooking dinner are other good examples.

9. Clear roles

Knowing where you stand in your family structure and what role you play in times of crisis is critical for a well-functioning family. The HHS researchers noted, “With a clear yet flexible structure in place, family members are aware of their responsibilities in and to the family. Consequently, in the face of crises and problems, members know their roles.”

Tibbitts added, “What is your child’s role, and is it clear? What is the parent’s role, and is that clear? We see a lot of problems with families who are so fluid and nebulous that the kids are simply confused all the time.”

For example, Tibbitts said, some single parents defer the correction of siblings to an older child, and this can be confusing. “Take a moment to sit down together and outline when and where this might be appropriate so that the child knows what it means to be an adult versus an older sibling,” he said.

Similarly, some families allow children unsupervised access to credit cards, cellular phones, and the Internet. Tibbitts said taking time to thoughtfully set limits and boundaries around money, time with friends, and time online is an adult role — and it will result in children feeling much more secure and stable.

Final Thoughts

By striving to ensure your family reflects the nine traits of successful families, you can provide a healthy and nurturing environment not only for your child but also for future generations.

“Families with clear roles who spend time together, communicate well, adapt to stressors, appreciate and encourage one another, and are connected to their communities and to something greater than themselves are successful — and they’re setting future generations up for success as well,” Tibbitts said.

Here's How To Get Your Child Playing Outside More

If the pull of screens and the comfort of the couch have made the outdoors a tough sell to your child, start by reminding yourself that you don't have to trek to a national park. Nature is, after all, everywhere. Here's a list of oh-so-doable ways to bring a little more fresh air into your family's life.

Try your hand at rockhounding

Have a budding geologist on your hands? Or maybe just a kid who loves to dig in the dirt? Rockhounding, otherwise known as amateur geology, is a fun way families across the country have started to spend time outside.

The activity involves collecting mineral specimens, rocks, semi-precious gems, petrified wood, and invertebrate fossils from the earth. Whether you're heading out on a road trip and taking a detour or heading out on a "field trip" focused specifically on digging for rocks and gems, it's wise to check land ownership when planning a rockhounding trip.

You can check the Bureau of Land Management website and learn about rockhounding etiquette and rules and regulations on the USDA Forest Service site.

 Where the Wild Things Are

Go off-road with toy cars

If you've got a little hot rod racer at home, try this fun activity: take your remote control cars to a park to vroom-vroom over rocks, dirt, and twigs. This fantastic tactile experience is far more satisfying than driving these battery-operated cars across a carpet or a smooth wooden living room floor.

Create challenges by setting up ramps, bridges, and other wonky terrains for the cars to traverse. Not only will your child have a marvelous time with their toys, but they'll be exploring nature in an up-close and super fun way.

 Playing Outside May Make Kids More 'Spiritual'

Play camp kitchen

If your kid enjoys whipping up meals of faux food, they'll love playing "campfire" in the backyard. Help your little one pack their play pots and pans, rubber chicken, and whatever else your little chef suggests into a backpack, then head out to collect kindling and build a "fire."

Is it mud season in your neck of the woods? Set up a mud pie-making station by pulling out pie plates, spoons, spatulas, and other fun kitchen stuff. Then start scooping up heaps of ooey, gooey, amazing mud, and let the creativity begin. Try decorating your pies with flowers, fun rocks, and twigs that you find outside.

 13 Ways to Make Your Backyard More Fun

Create your own outdoor play area

Creating a special outdoor play area can make your backyard just as adventurous and thrilling as heading out to a special destination. From building sandboxes to tree houses, hammocks to tire swings to a mud kitchen den (an outdoor space equipped with bowls, utensils, a sink, water—and mud!), there are many ways to promote exploration and sensory play for your children right at home.

You could also try an obstacle course that will get kids moving or a whimsical set-up like a magical gnome garden, a bear cave, or a wild animal safari to stimulate their growing imaginations. One-off projects like rainbow bubbles can also make for a memorable experience.

 7 Backyard Camping Ideas for Kids

Take Barbie into the wild

Kids learn through the power of play, which is why it's so common to see kids with a Barbie teddy bear or superhero (or some other doll-type toy) in hand as they explore the world around them. Have your child pick their favorite action figure or doll that you don't mind getting dirty, and take a trip the great outside.

You can check out your local park, a forest with trails, or even your backyard, where your child can explore nature and their imagination through hands-on play. How better to demonstrate the Hulk's strength than to have him lift a real "boulder"? (Okay, it was a rock, but still.)

 Independent Outdoor Play is Critical for Kids—Here's How Parents Can Help

Get crafty

Little ones who like to paint on paper will be psyched to do so on snow or the driveway. Mix water with food coloring, pour it into spray bottles and let your kid channel Jackson Pollock.

If the weather is cold enough to freeze water in your neck of the woods, try adding food coloring to some water and pouring it into fun shapes like snow brick molds, latex gloves, balloons, or cookie sheets. When they freeze, you've got some wild shapes to build with. Your child can tap into their inner Michaelangelo and create fun winter sculptures.

The next time you're in the woods, gather up twigs, leaves, pine cones, and other natural fins and create a lovely glue-on-paper collage.

 5 Fall Nature Crafts for Kids

Go bird-watching

"Once kids are introduced to this activity, a love of nature evolves naturally," says Jane Kirkland, author of the children's book Take a Backyard Bird Walk. "Watching birds requires that kids look from the sky to the ground and everywhere in between."

Get to know the birds in your region. The next time you head outdoors with your child, bring a pair of binoculars. Survey trees, bushes, telephone poles, and grass for feathered friends. Observe a bird's colors, size, and behavior. Listen to its song, and watch how it flies.

Younger kids will need you to tell them what they're seeing, but older kids can make notes and later identify the birds in books or online. Attract birds to your yard with a bird feeder, a birdbath, or a nest box.

 8 Spring Activities for Preschoolers

Spell it with sticks

Use a twig to inscribe letters in sand or dirt, or play the alphabet game (find elements in nature that start with a, b, c, and so on) while on a walk.

 Simple Wood Crafts

Play "rock" music

One creative and fun activity you can try at your local botanical garden or public forest is to collect items like rocks, acorns, and sticks, then seal them in storage containers. Try shaking them to hear the different sounds they make. Once you get a few different sounds, try making up a song!

 24 Cheap Summertime Activities for Kids

Keep your eyes open

"One winter, my kids and I drove up to Mount Agamenticus in southern Maine and found ourselves standing face-to-face with a snowy owl, which turned and stared at us," says Veilleux. "It was magical to have such a close encounter."

Introducing kids to nature can open up a world of magical happenstance, like unexpectedly meeting a snowy owl or spotting a beautiful butterfly. Think of outings as an opportunity to learn more about the nature around you by reading up on local animals, plants, and insects.

Try documenting all of your finds by creating a family scrapbook where you and your children can jot down notes, save pictures, and even cool little trinkets—like bird feathers and sea shells—that you find along the way.

 17 Things to Do at the Beach with Kids

Let your kids rough it

Judy Chen, a New York City mom of Leo, 5, and aunt of Hazel, 7, does not like to camp, but when Leo begged, she and her husband took the kids on an overnight trip. It was hard but worth it, particularly as a teamwork exercise.

The family had to prepare, eat, and clean up dinner before dark, so the kids helped look for sticks to make the fire and toast marshmallows while the grown-ups prepped the food.

"The kids learned to be creative and patient and realized they don't need a lot to have fun," says Chen. "They felt proud that they were helping out, and it was a great way to bond as a family."

 19 Tips for Camping With Kids

Lead yourself to water

Aquatic environments can reveal a whole host of creatures your child may have never seen before, not to mention textures, sounds, and scents.

"My girls love to explore tide pools," says Veilleux. "They look for sea shells and other ocean treasures, then use them to deck out their sand castles."

Little wonder the water has such a good effect—research from Michigan State University found that people who live with a view of an ocean or a lake are generally happier.

 20 Fun Backyard Water Games for Kids

Plan some nature travel

You might want to plan a trip to an outdoor adventure travel destination where you can go hiking, rock climbing, rafting, or check out hot springs.

Depending on where you live, the terrain for these activities could be right in your backyard, or you might do well to check out one of the destinations touted by U.S. News & World Report's best adventure vacations, such as the Grand Canyon (which made #1 on the list), Yellowstone (which offers 3,000-plus square miles of mountains, canyons, geysers, and waterfalls), or the Adirondacks (where you can go skiing, snowshoeing, or bobsledding in the winter and biking, fishing, hiking, canoeing, and whitewater rafting in the summer).

 Family Trips to National Parks

"Monitoring screen time can be difficult for parents -- especially at the moment when many children have transitioned to online learning due to COVID-19 lockdowns," Oswald said.

"Trying to encourage a balance of activities is good -- so if a child spends an hour on a video game, encourage them to get outside for an hour."

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Create your own natural playground; Design your Gardenscape for You!



Originally posted August 2020, Updated January 2022

Let me start off by saying, “good job!” You’ve made it to August. Holy moly, 2020 has been a long year already and it’s not over yet. As I have said before, I am so thankful that I have a garden. It has provided us with so much fresh air, food, and entertainment. We have been taking social distancing seriously, so we have been spending a LOT of time at home.

You might remember from a previous post, that we had our while front yard scraped away to start fresh. That was before the pandemic turned our lives upside down. Since the first days that I stared at that blank slate, my garden design has evolved. I have strongly held the belief that gardens should have something to offer; they are not just pretty things to look at. They should provide food, places to play, wildlife habitats, feed the birds, or feed the bees. I am not one to envy a prim and proper rose garden. Concerns about food security prompted me to incorporate a vegetable patch and foodscaping elements. We added a beautiful rustic split rail fence to give our yard a park-like feel and to help contain our 2- and 4-year old kids.

This new garden gets much more midday shade, so we have found ourselves playing out front much more often. Inspired by our local park excursions, I decided to incorporated natural play elements in the garden to make it more fun, interactive, and inviting for the kids. So I set to work.


  1. Create a garden for the kids to play within.

  2. Create a space where the kids can read a book, surrounded by the garden.

  3. Use natural elements to encourage play and exploration.

  4. Not buy anything new.

​Let me begin by saying that I am not a landscaper, landscape designer, landscape architect, or even a horticulturalist. I am a gardening enthusiast. So please excuse my rudimentary illustrations and non-technical terms.


 The above illustration represents the front-most portion of my garden bed. It is large; approximately 26’x10’. First of all I needed to determine the trail through the bed that the kids would use to move through the space. I used some dusty old soil to mark the path they would use. Then I let them play in the partially planted bed to see where they tried to enter and exit the garden naturally, and marked those paths as well. I also wanted a circular element which would allow them to run circuits within the bed without exiting (i.e. the trail around the large tree). I ended up with five entrance and exit points. I cleared the routes of this paths and entrance/exit points of any plantings (don’t worry, I transplanted them elsewhere).

Next step I needed to determine the elements of play on the trail. I’ll describe them sequentially by number according to the illustration above. I've also included some photos if your scroll down.

  1. This is a rope swing jump off a stump. The stump is only about 12” high and the rope hangs from a small Japanese maple tree, marked by the tree graphic. The grey circles indicate large rocks for stepping/climbing on. The kids step up onto the rock and stump, hold onto the rope, and jump off. It’s super fun for them, and it is low enough that it is safe. This exit point is where the reading nook is found.

  2. This area is underneath a small, but old Japanese maple tree. It is obviously a bonus if you have an established tree that you can incorporate into your natural playground. The area under our tree is clear and mulched. This is the kids’ ‘clubhouse’ where they can do free play. They have a lot of second hand figurines and animal toys which they can take out to the garden and play with here. There is also a small single rope swing with a 2x4 seat that is only a few inches off the ground for them to get on and off of easily, and it is low enough that it is safe in the event that they fall. Under this tree, they also have a section of tree stump that my Dad lovingly carved into a seat for them. This also provides a place for them to dig to their heart’s content since it is clear of plantings.

  3. The dark brown circles in the illustration represent horizontal slices of tree trunk, cut into steppers to mark the trail. The kids can hop from one polka dot to the next, encouraging them to stay on the path rather than venture off and trample the plantings; however, I am well aware that they will probably do this as well. These slices were cut from free scrap firewood.

  4. This is a larger stump off which the kids can jump in one direction, and down to lower/shorter stumps in the other direction. This is an old stump we saved from a tree cut down in our neighbourhood.

  5. These are three large rocks that I repurposed from our garden bed hardscaping. They are increasing in height, like steps.

  6. This is a balance beam created from spare lengths of wood from our split rail fence. At both end points and in the joint are short posts for stepping onto.

  7. This is a “troll bridge” (as named by my kids) that was created from spare 2x4s, 2x2s, and broken-down pallets. It is used as an entrance/exit point.

  8. This is a trail of stumps of increasing and decreasing heights. Again, this is made from free scrap firewood collect from felled neighbourhood trees.

Stump steps up to another "stump jump."



These hardscaping features were installed quickly and easily. Since this was a relatively new bed, I completed this projected over the course of a week. I am pleased that all of the features that I added were free and created from found and discarded materials. You may use the same concepts as I have but with other materials. This little garden trail has already provided the kids with HOURS of garden play. Being outdoors is important to me and I want to foster an appreciation for nature in my kids. This feels like another way to encourage this.

While you are creating your new landscape design, there are other things that you may want to take into consideration:

  1. Encouraging birds. You can add bird feeders to attract hummingbirds or local songbirds. Plant annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees which provide habitat for birds. Birdwatching itself can provide endless entertainment for kids and families.

  2. Attracting beneficial insects. Add plants in the bed which will attract bees and butterflies. I have written about the importance of using your garden to feed the bees. Amidst the pandemic, we should have more empathy for bees which are facing a crisis of their own.

  3. Create a sensory garden. Select plants for their varied textures, colours, and scents. Encourage kids to explore the difference in these plants.

  4. Have your kids select plants and seeds! Let them choose, plant, and nurture their plant of choice so that they can feel pride and ownership of their garden space. It is also great for teaching life cycles and responsibility.

  5. Choose kid-safe plants!!! This one is important. For example, I planted a wildflower seed mix which included foxglove which is toxic. Obviously, I ripped it out right away. Other plants like sweet peas are toxic. Make sure you do your homework.

  6. Plant some tasty treats. My kids LOVE peas straight from the garden. I’ve planted some dwarf/bush peas for them to pick and snack on while they are in the garden. Because I have also created the surrounding garden as an edible foodscape, they also help with picking the green bush beans that I have planted around the border.

  7. It goes without saying (but I would be remiss without mentioning) that your natural playground should be in a safe location. Ours is surrounded by a fence to contain the kiddies.

  8. Get the kids involved with decorating your garden! There are so many arts, crafts, and activities which you can incorporate into this play area. I have been loving an almost-free craft - rock decorating! So much learning can be done outdoors in a hands-on environment. So many schools and daycares are looking for outdoor education opportunities right now because it is less conducive to transmission of coronavirus. You can achieve physical distancing and excellent air circulation outdoors. Look for my future posts on recommended activities.

And there you have it! That was a lot of ground to cover, but this is a fun project that you will find evolves as your needs and the seasons change. You may also get inspired to make additions and changes as you go. Now get outside into the garden, and dig in!





Welcome to my Play Garden! I believe that gardens should be for everyone, and this space is intended to be inviting and interesting, welcoming adults, children, and furry friends alike. Children love gardens just as much as adults do and a long-lasting appreciation for flora and fauna comes from sharing your garden space with them.

Tour a play garden - a whimsical space meant to invite in all ages to enjoy the garden

Today, I’m happy to show some photos of the backyard play space that I have been building for my family and friends to enjoy. Keep in mind that growing gardens is a long-term project and this tour begins when the garden is in its infancy. The elements have been created and the plants chosen, but it will continue to grow and develop over the season and subsequent years.

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (3)

I have five gardens that I am currently working on:

  • the backyard play garden,

  • the front yard shade garden,

  • the perennial herb garden,

  • the vertical vegetable beds,

  • and the ornamental shade garden and quarry.

Rosemary Lemon Soap Two Ways in One Recipe

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Today the tour begins with the newly created play garden space in the backyard. 

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour

When I moved into the house, all of the structure of the garden spaces and was finished and it was just the plants that needed an update. The trees were planned out well around the property to bloom in succession, bringing interest to the garden from early spring into summer. But the garden beds were full of 5-foot tall raspberries and roses and other thorny, green things that created a visual barrier as well as an unwelcoming feeling.

The worst thing I encountered, however, was that the soil was dead. Not a worm or microbe to be found. The plants had plenty of disease and struggled to thrive in this unhealthy soil. Even worse, the home renovators buried literally tons of construction material in the soil. I worked hard over the last three years to rebuild the soil (see how to do that here) and this year, finally, I was ready to plant!

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (26)

The back garden bed, just off the main lawn in the back yard is 5 feet wide and 20 feet long. A plain rectangle that had two large trees flanking either side and an awkward vegetable garden strip. My goal for the space was to retain the current structure of the center lawn with three surrounding beds but remove the tall plantings, basal prune the trees and shrubs and remove any unhealthy or crowded plants. With the heaviness of the trees and shrubs lifted there was room for new perennials, annuals and vegetables down below. The new structure created visual room around the garden, expanding the overall living space.

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (16)

I wanted to integrate play structures for my toddler so that the yard would be usable but also beautiful and educational. Creating elements like a table and chairs made out of found wood stumps, a hopscotch pathway through the middle of the garden, and low plantings (18″ and under) that are decorative, sensory, and occasionally edible, makes for an interactive garden space that becomes an extension of the lawn.

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (2)

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (9)

These hopscotch stepping stones were created by using this method and laid in the garden forming a path that goes by bleeding hearts, blueberries, and bunny tail grasses until it reaches the table and chairs made out of wood stumps.

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (15)

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (1)

Hopscotch in the garden with DIY concrete stepping stones

Rustic children's garden table and chairs with a teapot planted with succulents

Above the table and chairs is a solar light chandelier which you can see how to make here.

DIY Solar Light Chandelier hanging over rustic tree stump table and chairs

On the table, a tea kettle planted with succulents leads you to believe it is the perfect spot for a tea party.

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (19)

More stepping stones were created throughout the garden beyond the hopscotch stones, using prints from leaves found around the garden. See how to make these stepping stones here.

In addition, a leaf from the large rhubarb that grows at the west side of the garden was used as a mold to create the stepping stone that sits at the base of the table and chairs. See how to make stepping stones from large leaves here.

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (24)

Upon exiting the play space, there is a pot for digging with a wall of golden raspberries in behind for snacking.

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (18)

Coming out of the garden you approach two bright red Adirondack chairs, beside the Japanese maple “Bloodgood” that is planted in a large pot filled with alpine strawberry plants. I plant strawberries wherever I have a free container. More on strawberries in containers here and here and here.

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (14)

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (25)

My favorite place to relax is the hammock swing. Built off the deck with an arbor structure, this hammock swing is the perfect spot to enjoy the garden. The arbor is currently growing an evergreen clematis, although it can’t be seen yet. In time it will cover the arbor providing some shade and beautiful fragrance when in bloom.

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (1)

Behind the swing, growing on the side of the deck is an espaliered apple tree with five different apple varieties grafted on. The espalier tree is only two years old, yet it is producing a few apples this year! In future years, I will continue to prune and train it to produce an abundance of apples in a small space. The branches will thicken and create more buds for more apples as the years go by, but the overall height, width, and shape will remain the same.

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (13)

The stairs go up to the deck which overlooks the garden. Beside the deck you’ll find the perennial herb garden which makes for easy access for zipping down from the kitchen to get some fresh herbs. The herb garden contains rosemary, sage, thyme, mint, nodding onion, chives, a large fig tree, and even a small yuzu tree I was given as a gift. (See the perennial herb garden from my last house here). There are also a few hanging baskets with Tiny Tim Tomatoes and annuals sent to me from Proven Winners as part of their 2016 collection.

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (3)

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (2)

Garden Therapy Back Yard Play Garden Tour (4)

All of this in a small city backyard and I haven’t even shown you HALF of the gardens! You can see many of the projects that I have done around the space in the Garden Projects Gallery.

The Genius of Tinkering with Your Kids

The brilliance of using the word “tinker” to describe play is nothing less than genius. We can do a little tinkering in the middle of any other kind of play. And the process of tinkering can also include any other forms of play.  It also includes art, technology, math, and science as the subject matter. Nature is another topic to be explored and discovered. It’s one word that covers a lot of child's play in the manner of investigating, and coming up with innovative ideas that arouse the curiosity of the little minds and those that dare to be at their side.

Personally,I also hope it will be the end of putting so many distinctive titles for the same play techniques that have been around for years. 

I can say that because... in 1982 I was the first female to graduate college with my area of expertise. By 1984 I was training YMCA staff all over the nation in new games and open-ended art techniques. Did you catch the year that I graduated? I am old and have been around for a while. If I was a new mom now, I would feel like I needed a college degree to study all the types of play there are today. Or you can just grab some toys and simply play with your kids as we did. I guarantee, that if you give them your undivided attention, it will be a hit!

You don’t need to teach them techniques or teach them anything at all. You will make warm and mushy memories for your children just for devoting some time to tinker around with them…The word tinkering kind of sets the tone that you are a team listening to each other and trying different ways to have fun with whatever you are exploring or whatever you have set aside to create something from. It also makes parents remember how to imagine and think creatively and innovatively, as well as tinkering together teaching the same thinking skills to the newer generation. Hey I just invented a new word: inventively. But I like the word inventive to describe tinkering, so I will keep it in this post. Spell check can go crazy!!!

Why Tinker?
Play is the work of childhood. ~ Jean Piaget

Even the royal family tinkers and explores together. in their family play garden. 

Prince Louis even collects sticks and rocks and George and Charlotte enjoy making music and exploring everything for its instrumental and creative value.

Tinkering allows kids to explore their world through whatever interests them, then create and innovate with real tools and known and unknown materials. TinkerSpace experiences are open-ended and interactive. We create these experiences to better prepare children for a world that is constantly changing, particularly in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. It is more important than ever to teach children how to think rather than simply teach solutions to specific problems.

Tinkering helps children to understand you have to fail a few times, sometimes many times, in order to get the right answer.

It is a safe way for children to go through the process of trial and error – which is an experience that children need, to develop the kind of higher-order thinking skills necessary in our rapidly changing world.

My goal for our tinkerers is to have them deeply engaged in the experience and display personal motivation and investment in the activities. 

As they get older, my tinkerers will be able to set their own goals and persist to achieve them independently. My Little Makers and Explorers programs provide the foundational skills of building options for your children to learn how to face a STEM challenge and create projects that demonstrate their own creativity and ingenuity, as well as showing what their skill levels are at the time of starting the project. 

Even if their project or exploration didn’t turn out the way they hoped it would, they have gained experience with the components and materials of that particular combination. We can alter the project by providing different options or chalk it up as an experience they learned from, or start a new project altogether. 

14 Family Rituals to Make You Feel Closer

By AuthorIvana Davies

Posted onLast updated: February 8, 2023

14 Family Rituals to Make You Feel Closer

happy family mother, father, child daughter at home

14 Family Rituals to Make You Feel Closer

One of my deepest desires is for us to be a close-knit family. And not just to be close now when the kids are young…but I truly want us to be close later in life, too.

Whether the kids are teenagers or grown and gone, I want us to be close-knit.

I know that if I want our family to be close in the long-term, we must take action now to make sure my dream becomes a reality. But what?

How do you become a close-knit family?

Does positive parenting really help with that?

In a 50-year research study review, scholars looked at family rituals and routines to see how this affected relationships.

The review of more than 30 studies found that “family routines and rituals are alive and well and are associated with marital satisfaction, adolescents’ sense of personal identity, children’s health, academic achievement, and stronger family relationships.”


What’s the difference between family rituals and family traditions?

There are many similarities between rituals and family traditions.

Personally, I tend to think of family traditions as something you do less often. (Such as baking Christmas cookies on December 24 or going to an Independence Day parade.)

In my mind, family traditions usually occur annually.

On the other hand, I view family rituals as something that happens very often, usually daily or weekly.

family sitting on a sofa watching tv

14 Family Rituals To Start

In our family, we have LOTS of rituals and traditions.

Here are some of our rituals and how we use them to help us stay close as a family.

1. The pit and the peak

Every night at dinner, we take turns doing the “pit and the peak.”

We go around the table and each person shares their “pit” (the worst part of their day) and their “peak” (the best part of their day).

Not only does this help us get an idea for what’s on our kids’ hearts, but it also helps everyone to understand that not every part of every day is going to be good or happy.

There are good moments and there are bad moments, and that’s okay.

Family Eating Meal In Kitchen

2. We hold hands when we offer the mealtime blessing

My youngest daughter INSISTS that we hold hands when we say grace before meals.

3. After-dinner walks

Weather permitting, our family loves to take a stroll around the neighborhood right after dinner.

Sometimes we ride bikes, but mostly we just walk.

Not only is this good for exercise, but it also helps us to spend quality time together.

family walking down the road outside in green nature

4. Evening car rides

At least once per week, we pile in the car and go for a drive.

This is how my husband and I find time to talk together without getting interrupted a million times.

It’s also fun to turn up the music and have an impromptu sing-along.

man and woman in the car listening to radio

5. Morning hugs

The first thing I do every morning is to give each child a long squeeze.

(Let’s be honest, I did miss their cute faces overnight!)

I think it’s a great way to connect and a great start to our day.

Mother hugging child in the kitchen

6. Family supper night

On Wednesday nights, we have “family supper night.”

It’s not the only night of the week we eat dinner together, of course, but it’s a special supper.

We eat whatever the kids want (usually pizza).

That’s it! It sounds so simple, but every single week the kids look forward to Wednesdays.

Family Sitting At Table Eating Meal Together

7. Family movie night

I’ll be honest, we don’t do family movie nights as often as we’d like.

But we try to have them at least once every other month.

The kids take turns picking out the movie, and of course, there’s plenty of popcorn and snacks.

family watching TV on sofa at night

8. Family game night

If you know me, you know I LOVE playing games.

I’m SO excited that my big kids are finally old enough to play games now.

Thankfully, my kids love playing games just as much as I do, so we try to do this at least once a month or so.

Family playing a game game

9. One-on-one time

I’m a strong believer in the importance of one-on-one time with each child.

Every single day I try to be a better mom and spend a few minutes with each kiddo, giving them my undivided attention.

My oldest likes to watch Fixer Upper with me. My middle likes to read or learn about extinct animals. And my youngest likes to play Peppa Pig.

We also use this time to read devotionals, Bible stories, or chapter books.

Spending quality time with them individually is a big part of how I stay close to them.

woman and her little children reading books at home

10. Parent-child dates

In addition to one-on-one time at home, we try to take our kids on mommy-daughter or daddy-son dates once a month or so.

Last week my son took me out for lunch at a local hot dog place.

It was so nice to have a meal with him one-on-one and talk about our favorite extinct animals.

mother and child in summer outdoors cafe

11. Doing art together

I’ll be honest, I’m not very artistic, but my kids LOVE to draw and create.

Recently we’ve started a new ritual where we draw a picture together and color it after lunchtime.

For me, coloring is such a nice stress reliever. We have so much fun together.

(This is the book we use. It teaches you how to draw the pictures step-by-step and it’s awesome!)

Draw Write Now Book: On the Farm

  • A drawing and handwriting course for kids that is challenging, motivating, and fun!

  • This book contains a collection of beginning drawing lessons and text for practicing handwriting based on the philosophy of author Marie Hablitzel.

$14.97 View on Amazon

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on: 4/27/2023 12:51 PM

12. Cooking with mom

Even though cooking with kids can be messy, baking lemon cookies or making dinner together is a fun way to connect with each other.

mother and child daughter baking

13. The “I love you squeeze”

Whenever I’m walking and holding hands with one of my kids, I try to remember to squeeze their hand three times as a secret “I love you” reminder.

mother and daughter hugging

14. Telling jokes

Our family loves to laugh and goof off.

We are all constantly making up new jokes and coming up with new ways to make each other smile. Laughing is a great way to bond.

(How did the bee get to school? On the school buzz! Haha!)

family laughing while they lie on bed

Does your family have any rituals?

Please leave me a comment and let me know what they are!


The Genius of Tinkering with Your Kids

The brilliance of using the word “tinker” to describe play is nothing less than genius. We can do a little tinkering in the middle of any other kind of play. And the process of tinkering can also include any other forms of play.  It also includes art, technology, math, and science as the subject matter. Nature is another topic to be explored and discovered. It’s one word that covers a lot of child's play in the manner of investigating, and coming up with innovative ideas that arouse the curiosity of the little minds and those that dare to be at their side.

Personally,I also hope it will be the end of putting so many distinctive titles for the same play techniques that have been around for years. 

I can say that because... in 1982 I was the first female to graduate college with my area of expertise. By 1984 I was training YMCA staff all over the nation in new games and open-ended art techniques. Did you catch the year that I graduated? I am old and have been around for a while. If I was a new mom now, I would feel like I needed a college degree to study all the types of play there are today. Or you can just grab some toys and simply play with your kids as we did. I guarantee, that if you give them your undivided attention, it will be a hit!

You don’t need to teach them techniques or teach them anything at all. You will make warm and mushy memories for your children just for devoting some time to tinker around with them…The word tinkering kind of sets the tone that you are a team listening to each other and trying different ways to have fun with whatever you are exploring or whatever you have set aside to create something from. It also makes parents remember how to imagine and think creatively and innovatively, as well as tinkering together teaching the same thinking skills to the newer generation. Hey I just invented a new word: inventively. But I like the word inventive to describe tinkering, so I will keep it in this post. Spell check can go crazy!!!

Why Tinker?
Play is the work of childhood. ~ Jean Piaget

Even the royal family tinkers and explores together. in their family play garden. 

Prince Louis even collects sticks and rocks and George and Charlotte enjoy making music and exploring everything for its instrumental and creative value.

Tinkering allows kids to explore their world through whatever interests them, then create and innovate with real tools and known and unknown materials. TinkerSpace experiences are open-ended and interactive. We create these experiences to better prepare children for a world that is constantly changing, particularly in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. It is more important than ever to teach children how to think rather than simply teach solutions to specific problems.

Tinkering helps children to understand you have to fail a few times, sometimes many times, in order to get the right answer.

It is a safe way for children to go through the process of trial and error – which is an experience that children need, to develop the kind of higher-order thinking skills necessary in our rapidly changing world.

My goal for our tinkerers is to have them deeply engaged in the experience and display personal motivation and investment in the activities. 

As they get older, my tinkerers will be able to set their own goals and persist to achieve them independently. My Little Makers and Explorers programs provide the foundational skills of building options for your children to learn how to face a STEM challenge and create projects that demonstrate their own creativity and ingenuity, as well as showing what their skill levels are at the time of starting the project. 

Even if their project or exploration didn’t turn out the way they hoped it would, they have gained experience with the components and materials of that particular combination. We can alter the project by providing different options or chalk it up as an experience they learned from, or start a new project altogether. 

Creating our TinkerSpace came about through collaborating with my family about many events and builds, but one of my earliest realizations that led me down this path was that...

Tinker Space is Two Spaces in One.

Makerspace (or tinkerspace) is to provide a designated area for young people with "hands on" opportunities to explore Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM / STEM)


A makerspace (or tinker space) is a place to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials.

Many makerspaces and fab-labs for adults have high tech tools such as CNC routers and 3D printers. A children's maker space is lower-tech. Children need to hold things to experience them.

By making constructions out of cardboard and scissors or modeling with air-dry clay children are allowed to experiment and repeat the process enough that, maybe, they get frustrated with the lack of technology and then see that there is a better way. In this process, the technology is not plopped down in front of them

Through play, children learn about their world and synthesize their understanding.

Play takes many forms through the years of childhood and the play of early teenagers looks quite different from that of younger children.

TinkerSpace provides activities that can be engaged with on different levels to appeal to many ages.

Play requires user involvement and experimentation (tinkering) and provides a frame of reference to call up when learning about science, engineering, and other technical topics.

At their earliest ages, children learn about their world through their mouths. Babies will put new food in their mouths, make a horrible face, and then try another bite. That horrible face was not distasting. It was simply an expression of learning and exploring ... of differentness if you will. So, they try it again.

As they get older, they must touch. Have you ever taken a 6-year-old into a store and tell them they can look but, please, do not touch? This is fine if they are familiar with everything they see. But as soon as they encounter something new, they must touch it.

As they get even older, children see something done and they want to try it. They see you struggling to remove a tough lid from a jar and they want to see if they can do it. They watch a gymnast at the Olympics on television and suddenly your couch is a vault.

Hopefully, our children find occasions every day to explore and learn about their world.

TinkerSpace provides opportunities children might not typically encounter or are too messy to allow at home. Our supplies for making are in the open, in sight, and ready to use. While we ask for help in keeping our space neat, we expect messes to happen and are set up for that eventuality (unlike your dining room table, perhaps).

Tinkering encourages children to use their hands, senses, tools, and skills to investigate, understand, and even change their world. It builds children's capacity and enthusiasm for using their own ingenuity to create, use tools, and make.

Tinkering is a popular term used in many early learning circles to describe a kind of open-ended learning and play. This article explains the benefits of incorporating tinkering into an early learning classroom and offers ideas that you might want to try with the children in your classroom or program. 

Rachelle Doorley, educator, author, and founder of TinkerLab, shares her definition of a tinkerer: “one who experiments with materials and ideas to fully understand their capacities, and who further iterates on their learning to find better solutions to current problems.
Tinkering is about hands-on experiences, learning from the challenges and the failures, and unstructured time to explore and invent.”

There are many definitions of tinkering that float around the world of early childhood education. But, generally speaking, tinkering refers to the kind of open-ended, hands-on, focused exploration of a variety of different materials that often leads to new ideas and discoveries. 

AnNAEYC article explains, “Children initially use their senses to explore the physical properties of materials. They tinker as they take things apart, put things together, figure out how things work, and attempt to build and make creations using tools.” 

Tinkering and Early Learning

One of the cornerstones of tinkering is an emphasis on process over product. The end result is less important than the children’s experiences. Tinkering often looks like children making and creating new things, or exploring different parts to investigate how they work together.  

To enhance the tinkering experience, early childhood educators will want to offer a variety of materials for exploration. Tinkering can be supported by asking children open-ended questions like “I wonder what would happen if…?”, by encouraging children to try a variety of approaches, and by reinforcing the satisfaction children can experience when they learn how things work. 

For older children, tinkering can be done in a group setting. This offers an opportunity for children to work together and learn important skills in teamwork, problem-solving, collaboration, experimentation, and perseverance. 

Tinkering, Making & STEM

Screen Shot 2021-06-17 at 4.54.13 PM.png

Often, you will hear the word tinkering in conversations related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning,  specifically the engineering component of STEM. According to NAEYC,  “tinkering is the more playful relative of the more serious activity of engineering...Engineers solve problems by making things that work or by making things work better.” 

The work of an engineer follows a process of brainstorming, building, testing, revising, and sharing. Children can follow similar steps as they work with different materials while tinkering. This facilitates a rich, hands-on learning-by-exploring experience that is full of real-world applications. 

While tinkering, making, and engineering are similar terms, they describe unique approaches.  To better understand the differences, check out the diagram above from the NAEYC article, which explains that, “Tinkering and making are often used interchangeably, but making lies somewhere in between tinkering and engineering. Tinkering is using stuff. Making is using stuff to make stuff (that sometimes does stuff, but sometimes is just cool). Engineering is using stuff to make stuff that does stuff.” 

Creating a Makerspace

A “makerspace” is a term used to describe a dedicated space for tinkering and creating. The space is shared by all children, with opportunities for both individual and group projects. Whether you have a small makerspace area in your classroom or an entire makerspace room in your program, children will enjoy an opportunity for creativity and project-based learning. 

One presenter, Peter Wardrip of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, shared his process of creating a maker space in the museum, where children from about 18 months to 8 years old, with their families, could explore tinkering and making. In this “makershop” he brings in several elements:

  •  Exploring the uses of materials and tools

  •  Hacking and repurposing found objects

  •  Making connections to home

So, for example, he proposed that museum visitors could help make a miniature city in the maker space. Recycled cardboard, tape, scissors, and other art materials were provided on low tables. On the floor were tiny cardboard houses, trees, and cars—all made by visitors to the space. 

While the very young participants might join in the fun by simply painting on cardboard with a paintbrush (tool) or by feeling the stickiness of the tape, older children were cutting, taping, and investigating ways to attach wheels. . . .  This project was chosen because cardboard is easy to acquire, making it reasonable for children to continue tinkering and making when they left the museum.

Making and Tinkering at Home

In the late 80s, I may have been tempted to toss some of our recyclables, keep the tape off-limits except when needed, and avoid the mess of paint. But If I did that, I deny them an opportunity to tinker and learn about how these things work. By providing opportunities for my child to tinker with a range of materials that are age-appropriate, such as paint, cardboard, and tape, I can get a sense of what she can make, and I can see how it benefits her. 

As she handles a brush, I can watch her refine her grip on the tool and thus modify the kinds of marks she makes. Covering cardboard with pieces of masking tape, I can watch her learn about cause and effect, solve problems around stickiness, and practice hand-eye coordination. If I add in a cardboard box and yogurt squeeze-pouch lids, I can watch her come up with a complex creation—a rocket ship with buttons!

How do you create a maker space?

  •  Gather resources such as tape, wire, small parts, tubes, fabric, paper, toothpicks, yarn or ribbons, glue, and cutting tools

  •  Display materials where they can be viewed by the makers

  •  Locate tinkering trays such as muffin tins, where children can sort materials and organize them

  •  Create a work-in-progress shelf

In our home, it was a whole family process; in fact, it took a community. “Create a tinkering habit,” the presenters urged, “and tinker yourself.”  The concept of the make space delighted family and friends, who brought materials, a table, a lifetime supply of masking tape, and a circuit board.

We, adults, found that it was hard to remember that tinkering is simply exploring the materials and should be an internal process for the child. When we introduced the tools or materials, talking a bit about how to use them safely and how to support your child in their use, we sometimes ended up taking over. This led to my daughter disliking the whole idea of tinkering; it was too hard and too adult-led.  When we backed off and let her lead, her focus on the art materials, tape, and the many uses for pipe cleaners were very different from the circuitry we had introduced.

While we created a tinkering space separate from the rest of the house, you do not need a makerspace to tinker and make: it is a habit of thinking—a creative, open-ended state of being.

I leave one table set up and encourage my kids to tinker, create and use their imaginations whenever inspiration strikes. There are really no rules and the kids have a lot of control over what is in that space. I will rotate through various items, often tying into a certain unit study we are doing at the time, but the kids are also welcome to add their own activities, or request certain items.

I store a lot of stuff in bins under the tinker table so if inspiration strikes the kids will have the materials they need at hand but it also helps to control clutter and mess.


One of the things I love about STEM Subscription Kits is that every month we get new projects and activities we can do, but also that they often have extra supplies we can add to our Tinkerspace. For example, our Groovy Lab In A Box subscription gives us new items to add to our tinker box each month.

Learn about all our favorite STEM kits to add to your tinker space.

Raid the Pantry

Don’t forget to bring out things from your pantry sometimes for some food-inspired tinkering. Marshmallows make great connectors for an engineering project. And licorice can inspire many an amazing creation! Tonic water adds a glow effect and all kids love a good vinegar and baking soda reaction. Your pantry can be a great source for a tinkering session.

Portable STEM

One of the great things about a tinker space is that it can be portable. You can fill anything from a small zip lock bag to a large Tupperware with various supplies, then let the kids create on the move. This is a great idea when you are traveling!


Another fun thing for tinker spaces is to take things like old electronics, watches, phones, etc. and take them apart to see how they work. You can also reuse parts to create new inventions! Check out our Christmas ornaments made from a keyboard!

Tinker spaces don’t need to cost anything. Start small with items you have around the house. Set them in a dedicated space. Slowly build up over time.

The power of tinker spaces is amazing. Build it, play with it yourself, and even your most reluctant child will start to explore and tinker. Tinkering really is about playing and learning through play is an amazing thing! I hope you enjoy your tinker space as much as we enjoy ours.

The Power of Tinkering

One of the most powerful things I have seen from using a Tinkerspace with my kids over the years is that they are growing into young adults who are confident in their ability to tackle problems. Something is broken? They will figure out how to fix it. We need something built, they figure out how to build it and will grab the supplies and tools to build it themselves. They have confidence in their own abilities that will serve them well throughout their lifetime. Especially as they become adults, owning their own homes and cars that will require care and maintenance. I love that they are becoming self-sufficient adults, thanks to the power of tinkering!

Tinkering, for babies of this generation, provides crucial skills for bonding with their families. The process of tinkering will become what trains them and gives them life skills that they will carry with them through life. If we allow technology to entertain them when they are small, it will limit their ability to be able to relate to others and to be resourceful and innovative as adults in their world.  

I do believe that my daughters' children will be raised in a world far different from my generation. She hasn’t had them yet, but I fear that I won’t be able to lean on any of my education or experience at all. I think that people will label their time on this planet as the “Screen Age” as the dependency on technology worsens. The whole robot nanny thought is terrifying to me. The process of inquiry, innovation, and creation… and tinkering will become a thing of the past. It will also be hard to find people that problem solve and create inventive strategies without technology will become rare jewels. I am already planning and preparing their play area to be something that they will love to be in, a place where they can be creative and think for themselves. And a place to just cut loose and play freely so they can become those rare jewels with qualities that allow them to become leaders.

Hope is a free spirited being as an adult. She still enjoys being able to be inventive in her work and relationships. As a young child, Hope was much more creative and resourceful than other children her age. Because she was tinkering with playdough and creating with anything she found didn’t understand the difference between science materials and art materials. And all the tools she had, she used for both art and science.

One of Hope’s first words was “art”. She quickly learned that we got her what she needed for her "art" and making projects. But everything had the potential of becoming a tool for her art or a part of one of her projects. She used office supplies, kitchen gadgets, tools of her father’s, and anything she could get her little hands on to “change” the surfaces of what she worked on. She loved to add paint to change the color of something. And if she had glue, playdough, contact paper, or stickers she would change the structure of something or put things together differently just because she could. She asked the produce man to get her a green bean and said “art” when she threw it in the cart. When she got home she ran in and got her flower-shaped sponge for painting and put it on her art table…with the bean. That little girl was so CLEVER using the bean like a stamp for the stem because she couldn't draw a straight line yet. This little one was playing with Rokenboc construction sets at age four. She loved felt before she talked in more than one word, she made felt scenes for what she wanted to tell her dad when he got home.

She always, always, always had a story to tell.
That’s magic that you can create, and they will remember no matter what age. Tinkering, imagining, exploring, creating, and being innovative are lifelong skills that will be needed for Hope’s kids and their generation. 
(Her babies will be climbers, and curious about everything.) 

If you spend undivided time with your child tinkering, exploring, creating, inventing a new way to do something- or inventing something new: you will give them a story to tell their dads and friends every day.



If you want a thriving organic garden, you will need wildlife. I’m not talking deer, mice, and bears here, I’m talking bees, butterflies, ladybugs, birds, and other gardening pals, some that aren’t even wild!

To attract them, you will need backyard wildlife habitat. A backyard habitat provides food, water, safe shelter, and nesting spaces for wildlife. Essentially, you need to ensure your garden meets all their basic needs!

Why Create a Backyard Wildlife Habitat?

Creating a backyard wildlife habitat is essential as we continue to expand our cities. We need to create urban sanctuaries that are safe, healthy, and abundant for little critters to seek refuge. As we take away resources for bees, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife, it’s important that we also add it back. 

As wildlife habitats are in decline it’s more important than ever to make space for wildlife in our gardens or around our homes. You can find a whole range of simple and easy ideas for making a home for wildlife in your garden below. Even if you don’t have a garden you can make use of a window box or doorstep plant pots to plant wildflowers or hang insect, bird or bat boxes from a wall, fence or window.


One of the simplest things you can do is let areas of grass grow long and wild in your garden. Long grass provides shelter and food to a whole host of wildlife. We’ve already found that leaving areas of long uncut grass growing in the garden has massively increased the variety and amount of insects and wildlife we find. May in particular is an important time to leave the lawn to grow and flourish as this is often when any wild flower plants that have been hiding in the grass begin to flourish and flower.


Insects and amphibians will enjoy the cool shade and moisture the long grass retains, and any wildflowers that flourish amongst uncut grass will bring an increased numbers of bees, beetles and butterflies. Birds and small mammals will also feed on the grass seed and hedgehogs, bats and predators like owls, frogs and foxes will all benefit from the increased number and diversity of mini beasts.


How about leaving a border of long grass all around the edges of your garden to provide a safe corridor for wildlife to move through. You could even sow wildflower meadow mix into the grass or even plant mini meadows in pots or a window boxes.


Did you know that a third of the food we eat comes from plants that rely on pollination? Even medicines and materials like morphine, aspirin and cotton are derived from pollinated plants? Yet pollinator species across the world are in drastic decline due to widespread pesticide use and the loss of habitats.


This is why its so important to help pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths, hover flies and beetles by providing food and egg laying spaces for them. You can easily do this by growing as many wildflowers and pollinator friendly plants and flowers as you can, thereby provide a source of food for all year round as well as giving them the plants they need to lay their eggs on.


You can find a handy list of plants that provide a source of food for butterfly caterpillars here.  And a list of nectar rich plants and flowers that butterflies can to feed on here. And a list of nectar rich night scented plants and flowers that Moths can feed on here. And a list of nectar rich plants and flowers that Moths can feed on here.


It’s a shame that so many important wildflowers and plants are considered unwanted “weeds” that are often pulled up or killed off by chemicals. Up until the 1800’s it was common for people to plant edible and medicinal wild flowers in their gardens like dandelions, fennel and sorrel.


Dandelions are beautiful wildflowers that provide an important source of food for pollinators. They flower early in the year long before any other plants. Bees, butterflies, and many other insects feed on the pollen and nectar, and caterpillars of butterflies and moths feed on the plants. Some species of bird even feed on the seeds. The entire plant is also edible for humans, you can eat the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots of dandelions.


Stinging nettles also provide an important source of food for wildlife. The caterpillars of several species of butterfly and moth rely on the plants for food, ladybirds lay their eggs on the leaves, bees and other pollinators feed on the nectar from the flowers and some species of bird even feed on the seeds. Humans throughout history have also relied on nettles for food, clothing, dye and rope.

Ivy is also a vital source of food late in the year for many pollinators long after the last flower has bloomed. Over 140 species of insect and 17 species of bird feed on ivy pollen, nectar, plants and seeds, many other species also use it for shelter. Resist the urge to cut back Ivy in the autumn or winter as this is when it flowers.


Digging a small ditch in your garden will create a whole new micro habit for wildlife to thrive in. Ditches are naturally more sheltered, shaded, cooler and moist. They provide safe corridors for wildlife like hedgehogs to move in and give amphibians, mammals and insects a much needed cool habitat to shelter in during hot weather.


All you need to do is dig a long hole along the border of your garden, it can be as deep or as shallow as you like but do remember to make the sides sloping so wildlife can get in and out. You also want to make sure its not somewhere where it will be a trip or fall hazard for humans. We added some wild flower seeds to our ditch to provide extra food and shelter when they grow.


February is often the beginning of nesting season for most birds but the nesting period can actually last till August and some birds like wood pigeons will actually nest all year round. It’s very important not to cut back hedges or trees or disturb potential nesting sites during nesting seasons.

Different types of bird will choose and use different materials and methods to build their nests. Many birds use twigs, grass and feathers to build them, some use mud, moss and fur and others like Chaffinches even use spider webs.

You can help nesting birds by putting up bird boxes before or after the nesting season.  You could also leave out natural fibres and pieces of plant materials for birds to collect. Just please don’t leave out human or pet hair as both can be contaminated with chemicals and birds can become entangled in them.



Creating shelters for insects is a great way to increase the diversity of wildlife in your garden. Many insects benefit from having shelter and a healthy population of insects will also provide a ready source of food for other wildlife such as hedgehogs, frogs, toads, slow worms, bats and birds. They can be made using just recycled and found natural materials and you don’t have the room or a garden for a big insect shelter you could always make a mini one to place in a window box or hang from a wall or fence.


An insect shelter can be as simple as a pile of logs or a plant pot full of sticks or as grand as a multi layered bug hotel. Collecting the materials to make an insect shelter is an enjoyable activity in itself. How about looking around in the garden or on a nature walk to find materials you need to use.

Hollow bamboo canes, small clusters of tubing, bricks with holes in and wood with natural or drilled holes are all brilliant materials that create nesting sites for solitary bees. Unlike Honey bees solitary bees do not live in hives. As the name suggests they mostly live alone making solitary little nests in the ground or holes in walls and trees.


Old wood like logs, branches, planks, wood, pallets, crates and sticks create the perfect conditions as they rot down for insects that like damp, dark places, like ground beetles, woodlice, centipedes and earwigs. Just make sure any wood you use is paint free and doesn’t have any loose or sharp nails or staples sticking out. Layered rocks, stones, pebbles, bricks, paving slabs and plant pots close to the ground all help create cool shady nooks and hiding places for creatures like frogs, toads, slow worms, lizards, snakes and spiders.


You can pack plant pots and the larger spaces in your insect house with other smaller natural materials like pine cones, cut grass, leaves, old dried ivy stem clusters, straw, hay, moss, twigs, old bunches of flowers and a sprinkling of loose earth to encourage the smaller insects. Remember to leave lots of spaces and gaps at the bottom for larger wildlife to hide in and under.


To make a smaller insect house that you can place on a window box, wall, fence or hang from a tree you will need an old tin, mug or a flower pot. You can have fun decorating the outside with paint and pens on the outside and then fill them with natural materials like sticks, pine cones, cut grass, leaves, moss and hollow bamboo canes. There are also many commercial varieties you can buy as well if you prefer which you can also have fun painting and decorating.


If you don’t have a garden or only have a small outdoor area like a doorstep, porch or side alley you can still create micro habitats and mini gardens using planters, pant pots window boxes. You can also create a variety of mini habitats in a garden in the same way. You can easily grow a mix of wildflowers, wild grasses with a mini shrubs in each planter to provide food and shelter for variety visiting insects, birds and wildlife.


Did you know that soil is alive? A single teaspoon of healthy soil can contain over 100 million microorganisms and a quarter of all Earth’s species exist in soil.. Healthy soil also prevents flooding and stores vast volumes of carbon preventing it from escaping into the atmosphere. Amazingly there is more carbon captured in the earths soil alone than in all the atmosphere and the world’s trees and plants combined.

We take soil for granted yet 95% of our food production relies on it, especially top soil which takes an incredibly long time to form. Just 2cms of top soil can take over 500-1000 years to form and yet we are destroying it 10-40 times faster than it can be replenished. Soil that is not covered by vegetation is particularly vulnerable to pollution, erosion and flooding which kills the organisms living within it making the soil itself essentially dead.

You can easily enrich and protect the soil in your garden by making your own home compost (see below), not using pesticides and chemicals and by planting plants that help put nitrogen and carbon back into the soil. Clover (white and yellow trefoil) is a great plant to introduce into lawns as it improves the soil and also provides a source of food for pollinators.

Peas and beans (legumes in general) are also brilliant plants to grow because the are deep rooted and draw up nutrients from deeper in the soil as well as putting nitrogen and carbon into the soil improving the fertility. Trees really help as well as they are deep rooted, add carbon and nitrogen to the soil and improve drainage and soil structure as well as providing a source of food and shelter to a vast variety of wildlife.


Did you know earthworms play a vital role in our environment and eco system? They decompose organic matter by feeding on it and recycling the nutrients back into the soil as food for plants. Worm poo (or castings) can contain up to 5 times more nitrogen, 7 times more phosphorus, and 1000 times more beneficial bacteria than regular soil. As they move and burrow through the earth the worms also help to loosen, mix and aerate the soil around them. This improves the structure of the soil allowing water to drain through more easily and circulating oxygen through the soil which is vital for soil microorganisms as well as plants.

To start a composting wormery you will need a large plastic container or tub as well as soil, stones and or sand, vegetable peelings and grass or leaves. First you need to drill holes into the base of the container and then place it on bricks to allow any liquid to drain off. Next line the bottom of the wormery with stones and then covered it with a small layer of stones or sand. This layer of stones and sand is to absorb any excess liquid from the rotting plant material as it breaks down. Now fill the rest of the wormery with soil making sure to leave enough room at the top for a layer of food for the worms.

Now you can have fun going on a worm hunt in the garden to find earthworms hiding under logs, stones or plant pots. Pretty please remind children to be very gentle with the worms and try not to handle them too much. As soon as you find a worm place it in your wormery and sprinkle over a fine layer of soil to keep them cool and moist. Next you need to place a source of food for the worm’s in the wormery. Most types of plant matter and vegetables can go into the wormery to be composted. However the worms do not like acidity so avoid putting in onions and citrus fruits. And finally cover your wormery with cardboard or newspapers to keep the flies out but allow air in. Now you can sit back and let your worms turn your garden and vegetable waste into compost.


Trees are such an important part the worlds ecosystem, they create oxygen, soak up carbon dioxide, prevent soil erosion, retain nutrients in the soil and provide food and shelter for wildlife. Thousands of different species depend on trees from birds, mammals and invertebrates to reptiles, fungi, mosses and lichens. Even when a tree dies it still plays a vital role in the ecosystem. The dead wood creates nitrogen for the soil and provides habitats for a variety of animals.


It is so easy to buy and plant a tree sapling, You can also try growing a tree from seed like we did with acorns, conkers (photo below) and pines, this take a little patience to grow but it is incredibly rewarding when you manage to grow a little seed into a tree sapling.  You may never see the fully grown tree yourself as you will have probably moved house long before then. But there is a wonderful quote that says  “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”


Hedges also provide fantastic shelter, homes, food, nesting sites for a variety of wildlife from birds and mammals to insects, amphibians and reptiles. The best kinds of hedges are the ones that are made up of a variety of native trees and shrubs as they provide a wider variety of habitats and food sources. Hazel, hawthorn, crab apple, blackthorn, alder, spindle and field maple all make great hedge environments. You can also add in climbing plants like ivy, clematis or bramble to create additional sources of food and egg laying habitats for pollinating insects.


You can easily create simple shelters for amphibians and reptiles to hide in from predators using recycled garden materials. Layering piles of rocks, stones, pebbles, bricks, paving slabs and plant pots close to the ground all help create cool shady nooks and hiding places for amphibians and reptiles like frogs, toads, slow worms, lizards, newts and snakes.


Old terracotta plant pots also make perfect amphibian and reptile shelters. You can either break them in half or half bury them in the ground to create a shady cool hideaway. Just make sure they aren’t places anywhere were they might become a trip hazard.


You can also create an underground den for amphibians to hibernate in during the winter. Amphibians like to hibernate in dark, damp safe spaces underground. You can easily dig a hole in the ground that’s roughly 30-40cm deep. Line the hole carefully with logs, sticks and stones to create a series of mini spaces and holes for them to hide in. You want it to be stable so it doesn’t fall on any creatures but you also want to leave space for them to move about in.


Next partially cover over the top of the hole using half of an old flower pot or a plank of wood. You want to cover it enough to keep the worst of the weather and predators out whilst also leaving room for smaller animals to enter. If you are using a flower pot you could loosely line it with long grass to provide extra shelter. Finally cover over the top (leaving the entrance hole) with soil and sprinkle on some grass or wild flower seeds.

Bring Light and Movement to the Garden with a DIY Wind Spinner


Ponds are important source of food, water and shelter for many animals and insects. From amphibians like frogs and newts, to aquatic mini beasts and insects like dragon flies (which begun their lives as underwater nymphs) and bats and birds that eat some of the insects. Making a small wildlife pond is very simple, all you need is a watertight container (or waterproof sheeting). Pond plants, rain water, soil, stones rubble and bricks.

Safety note: Open water of any kind can present a drowning risk for small children and pets. Please make sure your pond is secured in some way (with netting or barriers) so children and pets are prevented from accessing the water.

The first thing you need to do is dig a hole big enough to fit your container in. You then need to put a base of soil into the container to provide nutrients for the pond plants to grow in, and somewhere for water insects to burrow.


Next you need to make sure there is a basic staircase at one end to create an easy escape route for any wildlife that may fall in the pond. (To prevent accidental drowning). You could also add in some rubble, stones and old small terracotta plant pots to provide hiding places for aquatic minibeasts.


Now you can fill the pond with rain water or water from a natural local source (that you can safely collect in buckets ) It’s best use natural water as it won’t contain any of the fluoride or other chemicals may be present in tap water.


The final and most important thing to put in your pond are aquatic plants that will create oxygen in the water and provide a source of food and shelter for pond creatures and insects. We used duck weed as our tadpoles love it and it creates a nice cover over the pond to give them lots of shelter.

Another way to provide shelter is to layer piles of rocks, stones, pebbles, bricks, paving slabs and plant pots close to the edge of the pond to help create cool shady nooks and hiding places for amphibians and other wildlife to shelter in and hide from predators. You could also plant wild flowers and flowering shrubs round the pond to encourage pollinating insects and provide additional shelter for wildlife.

Now you can leave your pond to flourish and grow. Just keep an eye on it throughout the seasons to see what wildlife has moved in or is stopping by to visit your pond.


You can also get creative and make an owl nesting site or shelter using just an old wellington boot and a handful of sawdust, wood shavings or dried grass or straw. Did you know the reason owls fly silently is the same reason they don’t have waterproof feathers? Most birds coat their feathers in oil to make them waterproof (they do this by rubbing their beaks along a gland near their tails and then preen along the feathers to coat them). However this makes the feathers stiffer and catch the air when they fly, which is why ducks flap so noisily. By not coating their wings in oil owls can fly silently which makes them much more successful hunters, unfortunately it also means they get very soggy when it rains!

To make an owl nesting site first take an old welly boot and drill or poke small holes in the sole of the boot. These holes will allow rainwater and any other liquids to drain from the bottom of the boot. Next place a small layer or handful of sawdust, wood shavings or dried grass or straw into the bottom of the boot to provide nesting material. Finally Find a suitable sheltered nearly horizontal tree branch to tie the boot to securely using strong string or wire.

If you are lucky enough to get wild birds nesting in your garden or birdbox then please don’t disturb the nest just please just quietly observe them it from a distance. Disturbing the nest might cause the parents to abandon the eggs. You can clean out the nesting site once the chicks have fledged and fully left the nest but please wait a month or two first to make sure there isn’t a second brood. The Woodland Trust have a great free guide to identifying wild bird eggs here.


There are over 1100 species of bat in the world, 18 of which you can spot in the UK. Bats use up a tremendous amount of energy flying about so they need to consume a huge amount of insects each night, a common Pipistrelle bat for example can eat over 3000 small insects in one night. They do a fantastic job of keeping down populations of pest insects such as mosquitos.


You can help bats by providing night scented plants that attract pollinating insects like moths, putting up bat nesting boxes or by creating a bog garden which creates the perfect habitat for insects bats like to eat. You either create a bat bog garden using planters or by creating a boggy area directly in the garden.

To make a boggy garden or planter you will need to line the base of the planter or a dig a wide large hole in the garden and then line it with an old paddling pool or a plastic liner for a pond. Make sure the lining has a few tiny holes for drainage. The idea is to retain moisture and create damp boggy ground but not let it become over flooded. Next cover the liner with soil and water it with rainwater to make it nice and damp. Finally plant some marshy plants like Marsh-marigold, Yellow Iris, Creeping Jenny, Meadowsweet, Snake’s-head-fritillary, Plaintain Lily, Water Avons or Hemp-agrimony.


It’s important to provide water for wildlife on hot days and during droughts and freezing winters by putting out bowls or dishes of water. Just remember to clean them regularly and change the water if it becomes fouled or dirty.


You can also create a water station for pollinators. All you need is a shallow dish or tub lined with pebbles to give the insects something to stand on so they don’t drown and enough water to fill the base of the dish/tub without covering the pebbles. It’s important not to put sugar solution in the water station as this can spread disease and also prevent bees and butterflies from properly gathering nectar.


During the cold winter months food can be much harder to find for birds. You can help get them through the winter by providing food, water and shelter in your garden. One of the ways we like to help is by making pine cone bird feeders. You can collect pine cones on a woodland walk or by looking in your local park. You will also need wild bird seed and string and a source of fat which can be either peanut butter, lard or a vegetarian lard substitute like Trex or Crisco.


Birds need high levels of saturated fat to sustain them during the winter months which is why bird feeders are often made from suet or peanut butter as they are all great sources of saturated fat for birds. Simply cover the pine cones in the fat source and then roll them in the wild bird seed until they are fully covered. Next securely tie a piece of string to the top of your pine cones so you can hang them from a tree for the birds to enjoy.

Making a wildlife-friendly garden may be easier than you think!

Backyard Birding

Have you ever spotted a visiting bird from your window? It’s exciting to see these birds up close, especially if they are a rarity to your area. We can do bird watching from our own backyards! It’s fun to have these silly and songful visitors, acting as free backyard entertainment with their music, antics, and even pest control! Invite them in with these ideas and you won’t be disappointed.


We take our natural environment and gardens for granted they are actually an incredibly delicate ecosystems. Pesticides and chemicals kill wildlife as well as plants and the organisms living within soil making the soil itself essentially dead. Contaminated and dead soil takes 100’s of years to recover and there are already places in the world where the soil has died and turned into huge dust desserts where nothing lives or grows. By not using pesticides and chemicals in the garden you are protecting the soil, wildlife and ecosystem as a whole.

Plastic also poses a great risk to wildlife as they often mistake for food. To date plastics have been found in over 220 species, They can cause starvation and death for some animals as well as transferring toxic chemicals into the food chain. Worryingly enough micro plastics are already being found in human beings. If we all reduced the use of plastic in our daily lives we would greatly decrease the amount of plastic pollution in the environment.


Single use plastics are one of the biggest contributors to plastic pollution. By switching to environmentally alternatives you can avoid them entirely. For example using bamboo toothbrushes or cutlery rather than plastic ones or by wrapping food in beeswax wraps rather than clingfilm. There is now a whole world of environmentally friendly plastic free products and alternatives you can buy and use. It just takes a few minutes to search online and find helpful advice, guidance and groups to guide you in the right direction.

  • For Day 1 of 30 Days Wild 2022 we planted trees, made an owl nesting boot, sowed wildflower seeds, explored a country park and found minibeasts.

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Controlling Backyard Pests

While there may be some pests in your garden, it’s important to remember that all bugs exist for a reason. The anthill that has taken over your hostas may actually be helping to aerate the soil and clean up garden debris. That nasty cabbage worm that has taken a liking to your leafy vegetables is the same white butterfly that is pollinating all your blooms. I don’t recommend getting rid of all pests, because if we did that, what would the wildlife have to eat? Here are some ideas to naturally control the populations of pests while you attract predators to control them for you.

If you’re thinking to buckle down and get crafty, get out your tools and build these projects. These projects are aimed at making your backyard a more bug-friendly place, because, who doesn’t want as many bees and butterflies as possible, right? Incorporate them right into your garden or make them a new centerpiece. Try one of these projects and your local wildlife will thank you.

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Old Versus Modern Parenting: Was It Better Then Than It Is Now?

By AuthorIvana Davies

Posted onLast updated: August 11, 2020

Old Versus Modern Parenting: Was It Better Then Than It Is Now?

When it comes to comparing the two archetypes of parenting, everyone always knows how it was when they were kids – back in the old days – and just how strict things were.

But, nobody really knows how to define modern parenting properly. What is it really?

Modern parenting is a more involved style of parenting that requires a lot more attention to child care from the parent’s side and one that focuses on the child’s well-being and overall mental health.

A style that looks to nurture the child’s talents while still enforcing some rules in a healthy way, while also taking the child’s own views into consideration.

happy family mother, father, child daughter at home

It takes a lot more effort on the parent’s behalf to actually maintain this style and keep it from evolving into something different.

The old style of parenting is a tad stricter, focusing more on tradition and limitations, and enforcing a lot of rules through heavy discipline, akin to an army boot camp.

It’s a style where the parent is always right and a belief that your own children’s opinions on the matter are a moot point.

It’s a rather cruel and archaic style if you ask me, but one that is still rather prevalent in the families of the United States – and the rest of the world too.

But which one is better?

Old Versus Modern

If we’re taking a look at these two from the perspective of the four existing parenting styles, the main category that modern parenting would fall under would be authoritative parenting, while the old parenting method would be authoritarian, with their extremes spilling over into permissive (or indulgent) and uninvolved, respectfully.

Parents today were usually raised on the older, more archaic method of parenting and some will pick either style depending on how they were raised, although more and more are choosing a more modern style of parenting.

At least at first – until most of them sadly dip into one of the more extreme styles.

Modern parenting

When someone treads the modern parenting route, often they tend to misunderstand the part of being involved in their kids’ lives, and end up either smothering them by being too involved and codependent, or just not employing enough discipline.

This leads to it turning into a rather permissive parenting style, which means your kids are less likely to learn any discipline.

This usually happens because one or both of the parents were raised in a rather strict environment when they were young children and they vowed not to do the same for theirs, instead going to the other extreme and allowing theirs everything.

This ends up creating children who are rather spoiled and unable to deal with a scenario where they’re denied something.

This in turn can often lead to tantrums and the parents becoming slaves to the child in a sense, where the child is the one in control rather than the parents.

Happy smiling parents enjoy weekend play with small children doing bakery cooking in kitchen

You can see how that’s bad, and, more often than not, people will unknowingly slip into this state and not realize it until it’s too late.

I myself was guilty of being a more permissive parent with my daughter initially, always letting her do whatever she wanted whenever she wanted because I was an inexperienced working mom, trying to juggle family and career at the same time.

I figured that if I allowed her everything I would get more time to myself.

Thankfully, a few of my friends pointed out how dangerous parenting like that really was and what the right method of going about it would be – so I managed to course correct in time.

But what about the old and archaic parenting method? Surely it’s bad, right?

Well, maybe when looking at it from a certain perspective. That’s what I thought myself initially, but it does have some merits as well.

Old parenting style

While the old style of parenting means your kid gets little say in the matter, it is still excellent for developing a strong sense of discipline and work ethic in a child.

The downside is that said child is more likely to either become timid in situations where they should stand up for themselves or be unable to develop proper social skills because they lack a sense of self and their own character.

It tends to get under their skin a lot and affect their self-esteem levels.

Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be this way, many kids ended up turning out just fine being raised on this parenting method.

We wouldn’t be here otherwise, right? The archaic and authoritarian style of parenting still values the child’s needs despite being harsh in the way discipline is handed out.

The big problem about the old style of parenting is that it has a very high chance to turn into an uninvolved parenting style.

One where the child’s needs are so unmet that it just seems like the parents do not care.

Usually that’s not the case – a parent often does care for their child, but they might be overwhelmed with work to the point that they can’t be there for their kids, leading to this awful situation.

Strict mom scolding stubborn sulky kid girl in living room at home while she doesn't want to talk

When it gets to this point, the kids don’t really have a solid role model to rely on in their lives and end up being less motivated in their endeavors, a lot unhappier, and they tend to perform a lot worse in their daily tasks.

And it’s not just the old parenting style that’s at risk here.

Even modern parenting can devolve into this dismissive and uninvolved style if the parent chooses to take on multiple jobs to support the family and their kids never really get to see them.

The other main cause tends to be parents who have severe physical and mental health issues, or issues with some sort of addiction to the point where they simply cannot find enough time to devote to their kids because they’re occupied fixing themselves.

But which one is better?

Well, the easiest way to determine that is by going through the motions of parenting throughout the entire cycle of your children’s lives, personal experience and all.

So let’s begin.

The Old And New Style Throughout Life


The beginning always starts off the same.

Expectant mothers and fathers are always excited to see their little ones emerge from their mother’s womb and into the light and are eager to welcome them into their family with loving arms.

There’s very little difference here as the newborn is too young at the time to even understand the parents even if they’re trying to talk to them, responding to their sense of touch and their basic urges over anything.

mom holding her baby at home and smiling

Being fed at the mother’s breast or staying next to her is of paramount importance to them at that age and that’s something a parent will do regardless of parenting style, since that too is a basic instinct.

The real challenge starts when the mom and the child are out of the hospital and back home.

It’s when family life becomes relevant and starts to have an effect. It’s at that time when one starts noticing more clearly the divergences in the different paths the two styles take.

RELATED: 9 Best Ways To Improve An Unhappy Marriage After Baby


Here’s where things start to get interesting – when the child no longer needs to be held in the parent’s arms and when they get to start exploring a bit.

When they get to start playing with their toys and paying attention to tv or tablet screens, or when they start interacting with their toys and surroundings.

Old parenting style

Now, with the old style of parenting, this is where the discipline starts.

If the little one isn’t eating their baby formula or their solid foods (depending on the age), they lose out on their playtime or screentime privileges.

No cartoons, no toys, no nothing.

This often leads to them throwing a tantrum and/or crying, but in this form of parenting, the parent is the one who is right – or at least they think they are– and thus this does not impact them.

They stand firmly by their decision no matter how hard it may be at times and, in time, the child learns what the necessary steps are in order to get said privileges back.

The way older parenting style parents discipline their children also tends to involve bouts of spanking or similar.

Upset and crying little girl wants to hug her mom

You know, what you usually find as the stereotype on last centuries’ TV shows for strict mothers and fathers.

Not the healthiest way of going about it, leading to a whole slough of problems down the line and one of the main reasons why I tend to disagree with the methods this parenting style involves.

Again, maybe not the best approach, but it’s still a good one, despite me not agreeing with it.

Rules are established quite early and are strictly enforced, allowing the parents to take control at an early age and cement themselves as the de facto role model and law in the family hierarchy.

Modern parenting

But what about modern parenting? Well, the modern style differs in the fact that they take a more relaxed approach to the whole thing.

They set themselves above the child similarly to the older style, but they don’t hold all the power in their hands.

They leave a healthy portion of it in the child’s hands to encourage them to explore and develop their sense of self.

This is because they think it’s important for their little one to have freedom in their own development – looser screws on the control seal, as it were.

When it comes to discipline, it’s still there, but instead of saying their privileges are revoked, modern parents let their kids earn their privileges by doing positive things.

It’s a different spin on how the more authoritarian old style does it, but ends up being somewhat similar in this area.

So, instead of giving the child screen time privileges to begin with, they’ll start off by not letting them have any until they’ve learned to eat their veggies/food and then giving it as a reward for a certain amount of time instead of doling it out like a punishment.

happy smiling young mother holding her little baby at home

This way, they get to control the bad influence that too much of something may inflict upon the toddler (too much screen time in this case) without making it sound bad for not having it around in the first place.

Think of it as some sort of marketing method in a sense – giving them a sample for doing good and motivating them to do the same to earn it back.

The difference is that not everything is restricted.

Kids will still get to enjoy regular playtime and visits to their grandma and grandpa, but the more optional things will be excluded and treated as a special treat for being good, simple as that.

And when it comes to disciplining the child when they do something wrong, the furthest modern parents are going to go is a stern talk with their child, but they’ll never raise a hand against them.

This is because recent studies have shown that all physical violence does is cause more physical violence down the line, turning your kids into potential bullies when they get older.

Young kids (Age 4-12)

This is the period when things start to diverge and clear lines in the sand are drawn by both sides.

Why? Because the start of this period is when kids usually start going to kindergarten or preschool.

At least it’s the most ideal period, now that the parent’s have spent a few years playing the main actor in their child’s life.

Old parenting style

In this case, the older style parents are going to leave their child at kindergarten while they head out to work, but not before choosing one that employs similar methods to those that they’ve utilized thus far.

This period of early childhood is also the riskiest when it comes to this older parenting style, as the kids of these parents could start showing their self-esteem issues with their new friends if their parents were too strict.

Two young boys in baseball caps fighting over a scooter in a skate park

Or, it could go a completely different route and they might just end up being the bully on the playground, pulling people by the hair or ruining sandcastles because they see other kids not behaving in the way they are made to at home.

They try to imitate how their parents react to them doing similar things and project it onto other kids, leading to a handful of parent-teacher conferences – something that will become the norm if things stay the same.

Kids are at their most impressionable at this stage as well so this could be the last point where the parents will get the chance to set the record straight or risk the child retaining a number of nasty habits that’ll follow them through the rest of their life.

It’s still fixable later down the line, but it becomes progressively more difficult as their kids grow into young adults and into parents themselves, when no amount of parenting advice will help them.

Modern parenting

Now, modern parents can take a similar approach as far as kindergarten goes if both parents are working.

It’s an unavoidable fact that most American parents and households in general tend to live from one paycheck to another, sadly forced to limit the time they have with their kids and having to rely on others to keep their kids safe.

That’s not to say they don’t get the necessary bonding time with them, but it becomes a lot more difficult when maternal leave expires.

Luckily for them, their child will reflect what they learned at home as well, but in their case they won’t be as aggressive or closed off as those raised through an archaic style of parenting.

There’s still a risk of the latter depending on the way their toddler years were handled, but it’s less common.

Group of happy children playing outdoors and smiling

What usually ends up happening, though, is that their kids have a lot more confidence in themselves and end up making a lot of new friends, unafraid of approaching strangers their age and greeting them warmly, playing with them, and sharing their toys.

But, kindergarten isn’t the only solution to the dilemma.

Some parents manage their work around their kids so that at least one parent is always present around the household and around their child.

This is usually done by them taking separate shifts.

This does mean that parents see a lot less of each other now, but there’s always some risk or detriment to any strategy.

It might cause friction in the marriage or a great sense of longing for the partner, but luckily technology has advanced enough to let us see our significant other from anywhere in the world, so it’s not as bad as it used to be.

The benefits of this are that the parents get to save money by not paying for kindergarten and remain a big part of their children’s life by continuing to be their main role model.

Plus, it leaves the kids in a familiar and more comfortable setting.

The other alternative, which is the one I’m doing, though not many people may have the privilege to, is to be a stay at home mother or father.

This speaks for itself, one person is out being the breadwinner of the family while the other stays at home full time to take care of their child/children.

More often than not this role falls to the mother.

Now, this isn’t because of any discrimination agenda, but because we’re more suited toward nurture and care, plus we’re the ones who give birth so maternal leave won’t have to be an object of discussion and argument in the workplace.

happy excited kids having fun together on playground

Plus, you don’t have to just linger around the house doing housework.

Some stay at home mothers, like me, end up finding hobbies or work online so they can stay at home with their kids and earn an income for the household.

This way we get to feel like we’re contributing to easing the burden of household expenses again, allowing us to feel accomplished.

When school starts though, it’s a whole different topic of discussion.

Sure, home schooling is a thing, but it’s a tough cookie to digest since it will require a lot of effort on the parents part.

This is something that will strip a whole lot of time away from them and leave them dissatisfied more often than not. Leaving it to professional educators is the right call.

And not only that, the child is in a period where they will start craving social interaction a whole lot more and school is the best place to sate this hunger and a good place for them to start building their social circle on top of getting educated about the world.

This part isn’t really a question between these two parenting styles, but rather the preferred path the parents are willing to take their child on.

Don’t get me wrong, the way parents raise their kids will still be reflected in their behavior at school and might get them into trouble or leave them sheltered and forming a social buffer rather than a social circle.

 young mom and her little daughter are using a smartphone and smiling while sitting on sofa at home

That, or their school performance might end up being poor if the parents slid into the pitfall of the extremes of parenting and ended up becoming too permissive or too uninvolved, leading to a lot of parent-teacher conferences.

Every parent dreads that call or the envelope where they’re called to discuss something bad their child might have done while at school.

Especially since their mistakes or misguided ways will come to light by a trained professional as they question their methods of parenting.

I’m not saying that it’s bad for someone to give you parenting tips and advice, but finding that out at this age instead of earlier tends to come as a rather big shock for most of us, especially if the child ends up being the class bully.

It means that there was either too much discipline or simply not enough and it’s up to the parents to sit and reflect on their methods and consult with other parents or a parenting expert to get more input and change their parenting style accordingly.

Hopefully it will lead them to fix their mistakes in the process and change their child’s upbringing for the better.

Teenage years (12-18)

This is where things start getting hectic for both the old and modern styles of parenting.

When puberty hits, your son or daughter tend to start craving their individuality, seeking what makes them them, and generally wanting to try a lot of new things out – good and bad.

It’s a parents duty to guide their kids in making the right decision along this journey of theirs.

Old parenting style

Now, what old-fashioned parents tend to do in this case is stick to the tried and tested grounding method and dictate specifically what they are and aren’t allowed to do.

Remember, in this form of parenting, the parents have set themselves up as the person who knows best for their child and will not let the so-called “experimentation” phase commence.

Instead, the parents rely on their own knowledge to tell their kids right from wrong, even though times have changed since they were at this stage.

This, in turn, leads to a lot of arguing within the household – some healthy, some less so – while making the child feel miserable, potentially further reducing their self-esteem since they’re not allowed to be themselves.

teenage girl feeling sad turned back to angry strict mother scolding lecturing difficult kid for bad behavior

No child wants to be some off-brand copy of their parents, they want to be unique in every sense of the word. That’s the one constant that never changes with time.

Depending on the type of parent, things may not be too bad, but, more often than not, it will lead to the child detesting their parents and acting out in potentially dangerous ways just to get noticed.

It’s a teenage tantrum, with consequences that may end up being a lot worse than when they were a toddler.

The one thing old-fashioned parents realize during these years is that they might not have as strong of a hold on their kids as they once did and there is little they can do about it unless they beat their self-esteem into the ground – but would you really call it parenting at that point?

Modern parenting

Now, modern parenting doesn’t make it any easier, since this is a period where it’s tough to communicate with your teens even if everything so far has seemed neat and tidy.

The fact is that there’s a lot of peer pressure during the teenage years and often it’s not cool to hang with your parents.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re still looking for your input and approval, they just won’t show it openly.

When modern parents have to approach their kids, they make sure it’s at their home, not in front of their friends because they understand their child needs some alone time.

Some don’t, of course, which tends to be annoying for the teen and ends up creating an even larger gap when their parents don’t know how to behave in front of younger people.

Happy young mother and cute daughter teenager in city park eating ice cream, talking and laughing

In any case, the modern parent will sit down with their child and ask them about their day and if anything is troubling them.

They will need to be persistent, as their kids will not open up to them as they did before as a lot of the topics that they want to discuss are a bit sensitive to discuss with anyone.

Remember, this is a period where they’re exploring so things can end up being very confusing for them and they might come to the wrong conclusion if they just ask around.

They trust their parents most of all as they’ve been there for them most of their lives, although whether they like them or not is up to the kids.

In any case, in modern parenting it’s common for the parent to be patient and understanding, drawing lines from their past and how it was for them as a teen and trying to adapt to teenage life today.


Another facet that’s sadly growing to be a rather common part of childhood is bullying, something I touched on in the early childhood parts, but feel the need to expand upon here.

This is because the teenage years are the period where bullying hits a high point.

High school in the United States can be hell for some students, especially the more introverted ones, the ones who have low self-esteem, or the ones who don’t follow the latest trends.

Bullying is the leading cause of depression in younger kids – and could potentially lead to worse complications, to put it lightly.

And it’s not just the other kids who are the bullies, teachers are prone to bullying their students whether they’re aware of it or not.

Boy student getting bullied in school while he is sitting on the floor

This only tends to lead kids into further isolation from the rest of their peers and is a very difficult problem to overcome.

A lot of the bullies aren’t bothered by the consequences since it doesn’t concern them, although if they ended up on the same road, they wouldn’t feel as comfortable about it.

In any case, the reason why it’s tough is that fighting fire with fire will only lead to a vicious cycle of bullying – not really solving the problem, just transferring it over to someone else.

And again, you don’t want your child being branded a bully either – it’s not a pleasant thing to live with.

Dealing with it silently also isn’t the solution and the best thing that the teen can do is stand up for themselves in a manner that skirts between the other two options.

The first option is to report the incident to a higher authority (this includes their parents) and let them issue the proper disciplinary measures.

The second option is simply not giving the bully any attention, which is often the reason why the bullying begins in the first place.

This is the way modern parents deal with it and the first method should be taught to all kids in case they witness bullying.

Instead of trying to fight the bully, they should just report it to a higher authority and provide comfort to the bullied person, so they know they have a friend.

Now, old fashioned parents on the other hand come from a household that has a rather crude way of “dealing” with this that, unfortunately, has a very low success rate of doing much of anything.

School friends bullying a sad girl in corridor at school

The most common thing you’ll hear them say when their teenage son or daughter says they’re being bullied is to “bully them right back” or to “man up”, regardless of their kids’ gender.

Now, this might have worked before, but we live in a modern society where children have a much more developed emotional spectrum and they’re more prone to taking things poorly.

This is why modern parenting evolved into what it is in the first place, so the child can have a friend in their parent and someone they can confide in while enjoying their childhood.

Parenting should not be a military boot camp, it should be a place of guidance and advice instead.

I realize I may be getting a bit personal here, but the fact of the matter is that I used to be a teacher and it always broke my heart to see a child coming in sad, uncomfortable, or even crying in school.

I just could not understand why some of them were treated the way they were.

Young adults/Adults (19 and onward)

The final stage of parenthood comes when your kids finish high school and become young adults, ready to take on the responsibilities of adult life, have a career, and live their dreams.

Maybe even start their own family so they too can become parents if that’s something they want.

But first, they have other hurdles to cross.

Many of them will stay the same as many problems do, maybe evolving in complexity, but still the same.

And now that they’re a bit more mature, they’ll have a better understanding of these problems and a better capacity to deal with them without the need to ask someone else for advice.

They will still need guidance, mind you. It’s human nature to be curious about things you don’t know and they’ll look it up where they find it appropriate, so don’t feel too bad if you’re not their first go to anymore.

Their circle of friends might have evolved to the point that it houses professionals in a given field, people who will undoubtedly know more about certain aspects of life than their parents.

Parents with their adult children having fun and smiling outdoors

It’s just them wanting more than one opinion so they can come to their own informed conclusions rather than relying on others to think for them.

They’re becoming independent and one should be ready to accept this change. They’re not little kids anymore.

There isn’t much difference here between the old way of parenting and the modern parenting style.

Both types of parents will still be there for their kids, though the relationship that was built up to this point may vary greatly based on how it was in the past.

Modern parents tend to have a healthier relationship with their kids than old-fashioned ones do.

Sure, kids will still love their parents, but it can either be the healthy sort of love, or the unhealthy codependent relationship because they felt too pressured while growing up.

Things To Consider

Phew, who would’ve thought there was so much to go through when looking at parenting, but it is something that lasts a lifetime (your child’s life anyway).

If you’re still having trouble figuring out whether modern parenting is the right way to go, or if you’re having problems figuring out how to go about certain things, here are a few tips to take from all of this.

1. Look back on your past

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to do in a certain situation, my most solid piece of advice is to always try remembering how you were raised as a child and which approach worked for you and which didn’t.

Mom talking to her daughter at home

Chances are that your child will react in a similar manner to you or your partner, thus potentially making it the best solution to the problem at hand.

Do consult with your partner as well since you might have been raised differently, and who knows whose genes the child inherited.

2. You’re not alone

A child usually has two parents around and you’re not the sole parent in charge.

If you and your partner have a healthy relationship, you should both have an equal say in the matter and you should always consult one another before making any drastic decisions that will affect your kids.

3. Don’t make decisions for your kids

Not the arbitrary ones at least.

By this I mean, no unnecessary extracurricular activities that they don’t want to participate in and no planning a trip that they might not even enjoy without their input.

All you’re doing is making them miserable or wasting money on something they will be forced to like just to appease you.

Again, kids may carry their parents’ genes, but they’re not them and if the parents liked dancing it doesn’t mean that their kids will too.

4. Let them have a say in the matter

When they get old enough to properly converse with you and voice their opinion, don’t stifle them, let them speak.

happy smiling mother hugging daughter over green natural background

The best piece of advice you can get on governing your own child is from the child itself.

They know what they like and don’t like. While you might push for some specific things – like when you need to get them out of their comfort zone – you don’t have to do it all the time and you should respect their boundaries as best you can.

In Conclusion

From this sizable writeup you can see that today’s parents lean to one of two definitive ways of parenting their kids – usually depending on how they were raised.

While modern parenting might look like the clear winner in a vacuum, it’s a lot easier to dip into an extreme within it since you loosen the hold you have on your child.

While this is healthier in the long run, a level of discipline is still required as kids still need to be taught about responsibility and that their actions have consequences – some of them lasting.

This is why, despite being biased against old-fashioned parenting, in part because I was raised on it and it wasn’t always pleasant, I recognize it also still helped me learn many life skills.

It helped me be more organized and prepared me for the harsher periods of my life.

It steeled my resolve. But again, that was me, that was twenty to thirty odd years ago. Times change and I don’t think that way can work anymore, personally.

One thing is for certain though, this is just my personal opinion and there is really no right way on how to raise your own child.

There are guidelines, sure, but every child is unique and requires a unique parenting approach.

Kids aren’t some ready-made products that are sprung from a mold, nor do they come with a manual. They’re our kids and if anyone is going to figure out how to raise them, it’s their own parents.

I hope all of this has helped give you some insight and clarity into what goes on through a child’s life cycle within modern parenting, and the potential pitfalls one can get into when practicing it.

I myself haven’t reached a few of these stages yet as my oldest is 7, nearing 8 but I’m hoping it’s not as bad as other parents make it out to be.

Until next time, mamas, happy parenting.

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Ways to Reconnect With Nature as a Family


the importance of reconnecting with nature for families in uncertain times 1

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I survive the initial pandemic waves on pure adrenalin, coffee, and dark chocolate. But it isn’t long before sleep deprivation and exhaustion set in…and that is when my emotional state deteriorates. My organized, well-planned life is unraveling.

reconnecting with nature to overcome stress

The healing power of nature

Disappointment, sadness, anxiety, anger and stress begin to predominate my mental state. And then I feel nothing at all.

After weeks, why can’t I remember how to rescue myself and reach for a sense of calm?

I don’t know, but I can say this: nature’s infinite beauty calls me. The power in her waterfalls, the melody of her twilight crickets, and the hum of her honeybees. Nature’s unparalleled ability to persevere is astounding.

So I do what speaks to my soul: I reach out to the natural world and find myself embraced by her seasonal rhythms. I reconnect with nature to heal and soothe.

The moon continues to scroll through phases, wildflowers bloom on cue, fruit hangs low on the vine, and rivers flow. It is how it always has been…recurring, stunningly beautiful, and healing.

ways to help your family reconnect with nature and heal

Ways to reconnect with nature and heal as a family

Now, reconnected to something greater than myself, I feel my perception of the world begin to shift. I begin to experience positive emotions in abundance: calm, peace, focus, happiness, optimism, motivation and inspiration. This is what it feels like to come alive!

Time outside is sooo good for our brain. Not surprisingly, it also improves our physical health. A staggering amount of research supports the following:

  • Time spent surrounded by nature improves vitamin D levels and reduces obesity.

  • It lowers cholesterol and decreases our lifelong risk of heart disease.

  • Nature calms ADHD and anxiety; it alleviates depression and makes us more creative.

As a mom, we know internal journeys are rarely afforded personal space in which to grow. 


 So, let me tell you about some of the family-friendly nature adventures that helped pull me…and all of us…back to center. Here are a few ways you can reconnect with nature as a family and help heal your spirit, minds, and bodies. 

reconnect with nature to heal as a family

Daily interaction with green spaces

I love the Scandinavian phrase “there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing”. It’s an expression I quote as my kids complain of being sent outside in the rain or heat. The same phrase we say before hiking…we walk through the woods in all kinds of weather; except of course during lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes. (10 out of 10 do NOT recommend.) 

In her book, The Nature Fix, Florence Williams promotes a concept called the nature pyramid as a recommended guide for ensuring adequate doses of nature to all humankind. It is comprised of gradually increasing time in nature…and it works along a dose curve. Meaning, the more time we spend in nature the more beneficial returns we are afforded. 

Williams says daily interaction with green spaces in the form of a park bench or water fountain “help us destress, find focus and lighten our mental fatigue.” This has been our daily routine for the last 7 years: breakfast followed by outside free play. It is during this time when my kids make mud pies, dig trenches and collect acorns. This is so beneficial but according to the nature dose curve, we can do better.

The next level of the pyramid is similar to the Finnish model of weekly, hour-long outings in quieter spaces. This is when we visit a regional park with a natural water source. We pack lunch, sit by the river and enjoy time away from responsibility. By frequenting the same natural space we are able to observe seasonal rhythms in the plants and animals where we play.

Moving further up the nature pyramid we find monthly excursions to natural areas, time here is measured in hours. Scientists who study interactions between our immune system and forest immersions like this are completely inundated by positive research. The results are astounding and cannot be replicated by streaming a babbling brook on your big screen TV.

the benefits of spending time outdoors in nature

the importance of getting outside with your kids during stressful times

Hike near water

At the very top of Williams’ research-based nature pyramid are the rare but essential multi-day bursts of wildness we need once a year. Intense bursts of immersion in nature, near a natural water source, will “rearrange our very core, catalyze our hopes and dreams, fill us with awe and offer reassurance of our place in the universe.”

This is our brain on nature and it’s breathtakingly amazing.

As scientists quantify nature’s effects on our mood, well-being, and ability to think we are reminded of the numerous aspects of life a hefty dose of nature can help. These include memory, planning, ability to create, daydream, and focus.

It is no surprise that my self-prescribed intense nature therapy is transformational to my outlook on life. I have been pulled to a happier, healthier, more content mental space after spending time outdoors. 

Of all the places my family wanders, acorn collecting and backyard mud pits are the most common. However, hikes near water remain our favorite! Hiking is so incredibly beneficial to your physical and mental well-being. It’s the perfect way to immerse yourself in your environment and reconnect with nature. Add some water, whether it’s a babbling brook, a little pond, a beautiful lake or a river and it elevates the experience for you and the kids.

Slippery rocks and uneven surfaces provide massive stimuli to a growing brain while the sound of running water soothes us all. Throwing rocks is a blast for the kids and can provide endless fun. Plants and animals that live in and near the water add to the excitement and provide opportunities to learn. 

how nature heals and the benefits of spending time outside

reconnect with nature through food and outdoor dining

Connect outside with food

Some of my most compelling childhood memories exist at the intersection of food and emotion. These moments of consciousness are packed with incredible detail. Each given $1 a week, my brother and I bought chocolate coins and bubblegum cigars; very rarely, we saved the money. Sometimes we were able to snag our favorite treats…those sold in frozen form.

My memory of the Pink Panther ice cream is inexplicably linked to grass-stained feet and mosquito-bitten legs. We chased the unforgettable sound of an ice cream truck, muddy arms waving enthusiastically over our heads, a wrinkled dollar bill clutched in our fist.

That incredibly delicious frozen bar tasted more like cough syrup than cherry, but it was all I ever wanted. Round ears set atop a light pink face with not one, BUT TWO gumball eyes. I tried in vain to make that purchase last all night; I even licked the drips running down my arm.

This is the junction of food and emotion; it is what scientists refer to as “the strongest associative memories you can make”. These food memories are not just an illustration of intersectionality they represent a critical juncture that invokes powerful memories of lived experience.

It is my hope that some of our outdoor family adventures will converge with our time in the kitchen to create some of the most intense memories my children’s subconscious will ever establish. One way we help our kids understand seasonality is with a backyard garden. Growing your own food in an incredibly powerful way to reconnect with nature. 

reconnect with nature through outdoor food experiences

Though small, we care for this space with great responsibility. We tend the soil, plant the seeds and all the tiny sprouts then we wait with great anticipation for harvest to begin. We reconnect with nature through growing a garden and caring for the earth. It is here we find that kids are more willing to try new fruits and veggies if they have established a connection before it lands on their plate.

We watch cucumber plants unfurl their vines and attach tendrils for support. We celebrate the first yellow flower and pollinator arrival. Because of this connection, my kids now love cucumbers in all shapes and forms…munching them fresh off the vine, as an acidic pickle or sprinkled with sea salt and eaten as a snack.

Our nature walks remind us that the first honeysuckle drenched breeze of early summer means blackberry vines are flowering too. It won’t be long before we will walk, buckets in hand, along a path covered in wild berries. We taste as we go and learn to look for ripe fruit that has turned from tart red to sweet purple.

Through berry stuffed mouths I hear my Little People ask: “Mama, can we make kid-sized pies with some of these?”

Yes, we certainly can! Back in the kitchen, we work together. As flour and butter combine, somehow ingredients find themselves everywhere. How does that even happen?! Again, we taste as we go and talk about the importance of keeping this dough cold…heat from the oven hits ice-cold pockets of butter and creates steam.

This is the science that magically creates flaky layers in our pie crust. Before long we pull delectable little pockets of summertime goodness out of the oven. Handpicked blackberries tucked inside crisp little shells. These hand pies practically dance on the pan…glittered with demerara sugar you might start dancing too!

Perhaps one day when my kids are fully grown they will pick fresh berries alongside honeysuckle flowers, bite into a crisp pastry shell, taste blueberry cheesecake or drink sumac-ade and acquire some serious gastronomic déjà vu.

homemade blackberry hand pies for kids

Remember your why

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as the world gets busy again. In those weeks where I existed mainly in the blue, the pressure was mounting and I had to withdraw from nonessential tasks. What started as an innocent attempt to learn from groups with great ideas quickly became something larger than myself.

I was no longer forming my own thoughts so I hit pause and removed social media platforms from my phone. During my social media fast, I worked on listening to myself think and on cultivating real relationships. What a wild thought!

These incredible people supported me, held me accountable, felt my loss, and celebrated victories. Rather than stare at a screen, I strengthened bonds with my family. We immersed ourselves in nature, became allies with the land and the food it provides.

We visited farmers’ markets, walked in rivers, danced in the rain, enjoyed an isolated beach, picked tomatoes, read tons of books and we played. Golly jeepers, we played; never before has fun been so important. We reconnected to nature and the physical beautiful world around us. The best part…I began to feel again.

Throughout this time of reflection, I was able to sort through my emotions and remember my why, my raison d’être, my reason for existence.

As it turns out my heart was there all along; but as I increased the noise in my life I lost touch with her voice.

I returned to the world of social media, not surprisingly my first action was to delete anything toxic: people, groups, organizations. I even deleted entire social platforms. But I added so much more.

The people, food, locations and ideas on my feed are more colorful now than ever before. I follow more National Parks and organizations committed to preserving these incredible spaces. I follow mamas who are getting it right: those who share real stories…real images…demonstrate life balance…and immerse their families in nature. 

Importantly, I share an authentic version of myself. 

All of these changes have given me a new way to reconnect with nature in a way that feels genuine and refreshing.

how to reconnect with nature on social media

The beginning of a new opportunity

Just as the moon moves across the sky in phases, so too was this walk with emotions in my life. Tonight is a New Moon; a dark sky, perhaps symbolic of the season from which I just emerged.

But this is a sky filled with incredible promise. Tonight will be dark but the stars will shine brightly in celebration of a full moon to come. My family and I have been given a new beginning; an opportunity to reimagine the framework of our life. A chance to reconnect with nature in new ways and fully appreciate and understand the significance of the world around us.

The future will have uncertainties but one thing is sure: we will remain connected to nature and each other. These wild spaces and the food memories it provides deliver energy to our soul; for that wellspring of life, we are incredibly thankful.

These are the elements that sustain us, maintain our focus, and fill our hearts with contentment.

healing power of nature and benefits to kids

So now the real questions…


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