This post is by children's book author and public health professional Lauren Ranalli.
“When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.”-A.A. Milne
I see one problem with bedtime stories. They happen at bedtime. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of winding down and sending a child off to sleep with a good story in their head. But I also love the idea that books can spark a sense of adventure and enthusiasm, which often can’t wait until the next day. As a children’s book author, I am a firm believer in the ability of a picture books to inspire young minds. And as mother of two highly active children, I am constantly on the lookout for a good adventure (preferably one that will burn off steam and help everyone fall fast asleep at night).
Over the past year I have tried to be intentional about combining reading with outdoor play. After all, both inspire creativity and imagination, as well as foster cognitive and emotional development. Why not try to mix them together and magnify the effect? And while not every attempt has been successful, we’ve landed on two favorites that have been easy to integrate into our rotation of evening or weekend activities.
Story Book Scavenger Hunt: My children will each select a picture book for us to read together. As we read, we make a list of items from the book to find outside. Then we head out into our neighborhood for a scavenger hunt. For example, can we find: a school, a tall building, tree roots, a bridge, a stream, and a group of kids (Can you guess the book?*). It’s a great way to explore our community with a new lens.
Hide and Go Read: One of my favorite outdoor activities is to set up a cozy reading blanket and some throw pillows outside. We select books to hide all around our yard (bonus points if you can get a few neighbors involved for an expanded yard). My kids run around to find one book at time, snuggle up on the blanket to read the story together, and then sprint off to find the next book. More often than not, we go back in to grab a second stack of books to hide when the first ones have all been found. This activity also works really well on a living room floor during extreme rain or cold!
Finding opportunities for adventure can be a great way to engage children across an age span, as well as inspire adults to get out of our own ruts. Looking for a few books to spark creative outdoor play? Click through the slide show below for some recommendations:
Lauren Ranalli is a children’s book author and public health professional. Her books include “The Great Latke Cook Off” and the forthcoming “Snow Day at the Zoo”, “Places We Have Never Been”, and “Tap Dance Ninja”. You can learn more about her work at www.laurenranalli.com
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