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  • Rebecca P. Cohen

10 Ways to #OptOutside During the Holidays

Whether you choose to #OptOutside on Black Friday or want to unplug any day from the holiday rush, Rebecca P. Cohen, author of Fifteen Minutes Outside and PJ’s Backyard Adventures, has 10 ways to reconnect with nature and create memorable family moments from her website,

  1. Take a walk. Something so simple may just be what the doctor ordered. A stroll (I like to take one after a meal) can allow everyone to go at their own pace to explore and notice the sights and sounds of nature around them. Find the tallest tree, cross a log, or look for animal tracks.

  2. Summer games in fall. An egg-in-spoon race, leap frog, or two-team race where each person puts on an oversized hat, shirt, necktie, and sunglasses, then removes them for the next person to put on come to mind (the team that gets through each player putting on and taking off the four pieces of clothing first wins!). Ask the kids for more ideas from field day at school.

  3. Sketch in plein-air. Whether in pencil or in color, have each person take a sheet of paper with a book or sketch pad for support and walk out the door for fifteen minutes outside to sketch what they see. When brought back in, exchange sketches at the table as place cards for others.

  4. Make a scavenger hunt. Find items in the neighborhood (e.g. a pinecone, acorn, fallen holly or magnolia branches, faded blooms) to make a wreath. Or, make a list of fun things to find while walking around town (e.g. a statue, building, bridge, playground, type of tree), and end the search with a place to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate.

  5. Do a group sport. Sign everyone up for a fun walk/run, have a family game of football, soccer, or baseball, go fishing, kayaking, take the bikes out on a path, find an outdoor ice skating rink, or make up your own game and see how long you can collectively do something, whether jumping rope or running a relay race around the yard.

  6. Forced Family Fun. It can be difficult for a group to agree on something to do. Give your family and guests two choices of activities and have them write down their preference on a piece of paper and count the votes. Not everyone may like what you end up doing, but you’ll have great stories to tell!

  7. Stargaze and Play Tag. Early sunsets also mean that little ones don’t have to stay up late to watch the stars. When you are done watching the stars, pull out some battery operated glow sticks (available at big box stores) for each person for a fun game of tag in the dark. Say goodnight to the moon when you are done.

  8. Have a Warm Up Contest. Depending on where you live, the holidays can be cold! Make it a game to see who can step outside and warm up the fastest. Laugh at the creative ways your family decides to warm up, from jumping jacks and dancing, to running around the house and hopping like a frog.

  9. Decorate for the Birds. Select a tree seen from your window, then make bird feeders. Try cheerios strung on pipe cleaners, pinecones spread with peanut butter (or shortening) and rolled in popcorn, and bagels spread with shortening and dipped in birdseed, sunflower seeds, or chopped nuts.

  10. Build with Empty Boxes. So much ordering is done online. Collect boxes from delivered packages and head outside to see what you can build. There is nothing to worry about destroying; the kids can have fun for hours until the boxes are ready to go into the recycling!

Did you know? If you are looking for outdoor gift ideas for the holidays, all four of Rebecca P. Cohen and Be Outside and Grow's meaningful gifts are eligible for Amazon Prime: 15 Minutes Outside, Curiosity Cards, and PJ's Backyard Adventures Books 1 and 2.

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