February 14, 2017
By Diane Rudholm
Photo at right: This six-year-old proudly holds his greatest find from a recent nature walk. Photo by Diane Rudholm
Sometimes it can feel like the great outdoors are far from home but city-dwellers always have adventure nearby. Check out these five excursions to explore your urban terrain this winter.
Find Surprises in the Seattle Rain
Rainworks, a Seattle-based company, makes rainy days delightful with sidewalk art that hides on sunny days and appears when it’s wet. There are plenty of surprise art pieces on sidewalks throughout Seattle. Many have been mapped for you at www.rain.works/where
Your family can create Rainworks art using Rainworks Invisible Spray. Add your art to the Rainworks map for other treasure hunters to find. Invisible Spray: 2 ounces, $19
Portland’s 4T Trail
The Ts in Portland’s 4T Trail stand for Trail, Tram, Trolley (a.k.a. the Portland Streetcar) and Train, and those are the modes you can expect to use as you travel this loop through the city. Start your journey west of the Oregon Zoo on the woodsy Marquam Trail. Hike toward Council Crest (the highest point in the city with an elevation of 1,073 feet).
Next, walk to Oregon Health and Science University to catch a ride on the free Tram (www.gobytram.com) that will take you to the South Waterfront District. Enjoy views of the Willamette River and hop aboard the Trolley (www.portlandstreetcar.org), and head downtown where you will find many scrumptious lunch options. Once you’ve had your fill, it’s time for the Train that will take you right back to the beginning! (www.trimet.org)
For more information, visit www.4T-Trail.org
Local Park Excursions
Bundle up, then walk or ride bikes to a nearby park. On the way, check out the scenery and play games. Younger kids love to look and listen for animals. Ask little ones to count how many different birds and the number of squirrels they can see. Can they find any rhinoceroses? Maybe not, but I bet you will see some cute pups along the way.
Youngsters new to reading might enjoy taking turns finding objects that start with certain letters in the alphabet, or finding rhymes for objects found or observed on the walk. When you arrive at the park, it’s play-time!
Art Inspired by Nature
Fill a thermos with a warm drink and bring snacks to share, layer for warmth and get ready to explore your neighborhood. Collect interesting sticks, rocks, pinecones or fallen leaves from the sidewalk.
Once you and your young ones have found your natural treasures, arrange them into sculptures, or glue them to paper in a pleasing design, or stick them in a journal with some jottings about your walk together.
Bonus: Art walks can also be an opportunity to teach children about what kinds of plants (especially berries) are and are not okay to eat.
Warm Up with a Winter Potluck
Invite friends to a winter potluck in your backyard or at your favorite park.
Build a bonfire (check rules before you go to a park!) or fire up the grill for kabobs and s’mores. Fill a thermos with hot chocolate or apple cider beverage and have heat-resistant cups at the ready.
Tell tall tales about winters’ past while you watch your breath float through the air. The more fantastical the stories, the better! Sing songs together, or make up skits to perform that conjure up frosty winter adventure.
Diane is a writer and illustrator living in Seattle. She loves finding creative ways to play outside with her kids. Tweet @DianeBikes