Activities For The Whole Family
If it's gray and gloomy where you live, you can banish the blues -- at least for an hour or two -- with a look at nature. Even if you're citybound and convinced there's nothing but bricks and cement within walking distance, use a nature guide like WoodsWalk: Peepers, Porcupines & Exploding Puffballs (Henry W. Art and Michael W. Robbins, North Adams, Mass.: Storey Publishing, 2003) to help turn even the most urbanized kids (and parents) into budding naturalists.
If you're going farther than the park a few blocks away, prepare: consider taking a map, wear sturdy shoes, long pants and an appropriate jacket, and bring water, a small flashlight and binoculars.
Got a bug box? Take it along, too. If you're heading for a longer trail, a nature preserve or a national park, make sure you've checked the weather, packed an emergency snack and foul-weather clothing and told someone where you're going.
Once you're on the "trail," even if it's a sidewalk or a well-traveled path in a city park, slow down. The more slowly you move, the more you will see, hear and smell. Here's some examples of what to look for:
For example, paper birches have purplish brown buds and white bark. Red maple flowers look like red popcorn. Poplars have greenish bark and yellow-green catkins.
At the first sense of danger, they roll themselves into tight balls. If you're carrying a bug box, drop in a pillbug for a closer look at the head and "armor" before you release it.