I am delighted to introduce you to my friend, Liz at A Natural Nester. Liz has created a great resource for parents called the At-Home Summer Nature Camp curriculum which fits in perfectly with everything we do here at Skill It.
Liz and I got together for an interview to talk more about having fun this summer, slowing down with kids to notice the small things, and meeting nature with joy and gratitude…
Skill It ~ At A Natural Nester, you talk about living a mindful, simple, and natural lifestyle. Can you share a little about how that inspired you to create your At-Home Summer Nature Camp?
Liz ~ Yes, a big part of our family mission statement is to live simply, mindfully, and naturally. The At-Home Summer Nature Camp evolved out of my own efforts to create a simple summer rhythm for my family, in which my two girls could play in, learn about, and connect to the natural world around them. Over the past several years, “camp mom” has become a tradition with my family, and I realized others with similar values could benefit from the rhythm I’d created.
So I elaborated on it a bit, and called in some highly-creative bloggers to contribute their creative ideas as well. I’m so pleased to share the end product with people from all over the word, hopefully inspiring them to spend a simple and mindful summer with their families, celebrating the natural wonders of their own backyards!
Skill It ~ What is your own earliest memory of exploring in nature? Have you re-created that experience with your own family?
Liz ~ As a young girl, I fondly remember playing “house” in my backyard, as well as in friends’ yards , where we’d build entire worlds from found natural objects & materials. We’d bake mud pies in the sun, and do the wash in a creek or in collected rain water. My girls now love to play the same way! We created a very simple outdoor play space to encourage this experience (right in our suburban backyard), and leave the rest up to their imaginations.
Outside of backyard play, when I was a little older, my nature-loving parents took me and my sister camping all over my native state of Florida. We’d sleep in tents on the beach, collect shells, snorkel, canoe, night fish, build campfires, walk nature trails… you name it. My girls are just now getting to be the right ages for embarking on these types of family adventures, so we’re looking forward to sharing similar experiences with them more regularly over the coming years.
Skill It ~ For families with plans for travel this summer, how could they incorporate the Summer Nature Camp ideas and activities when they’re on the go?
Liz ~ The camp eCurriculum is broken down into simple activities that can be done almost anywhere with access to the outdoors! It offers a lot of flexibility for families’ unique schedules, because there’s no “right way” to implement it. There are 8 weekly themes – each containing 4 activities/projects, a field trip, and book/media suggestions. These can be done in any order or manner you like. So if you’re traveling, you could pick different activities from different weeks to enhance your trip, and maybe discover some things you might not have otherwise.
For example, explore the local & seasonal offerings of an out-of-town farmer’s market, with the “Farmer’s Market Photo Scavenger Hunt.” Or, seek out and “Take a Dip in a Swimming Hole” during your travels. Make “Family Beach Mandalas” and “Dig Your Own Sea Turtle Nests” while visiting the beach. Find a local park or forest and “Pack a Picnic” or try your hand at some “Simple Tent Making.” And just about anywhere in the summertime, you can “Go on a Wildflower Hunt” and discover new-to-you flowers that don’t grow where you live. Really, the camp eGuide can help you be creative in getting to know your vacation spot in a new, or different, way!
Skill It ~ So much about becoming more mindful happens in small baby steps. Do you have ideas to share here about the top 3 or so things we can do to notice all the small things in our lives?
Liz ~ Baby steps indeed! Cultivating mindfulness is a constant work in progress and I’m far from an expert… I try to focus on slowing down & being present, releasing what doesn’t serve me, and practicing gratitude. There is such a culture today of more, faster, better and it draws a lot of attention away from the joys and benefits of living simply and mindfully. I find I have to make a conscious effort to say no to things, to set boundaries, to lower unrealistic standards and expectations, to release the need for perfection, to count my blessings, and to become comfortable with accepting what is right here and right now.
For me, a great way to begin or enhance a journey into mindfulness, is to simply spend time in nature! I find when I’m outdoors, whether it’s gardening, beach-combing, or even just walking with my kids, I become mindful with very little effort. I engage in the present moment fully, experiencing its sights, sounds and smells. The mental chatter quiets, time slows down, and I’m filled with gratitude for the beauty around me. Try it! And if you can, start a nature journal too to record and reflect on your observations.
Liz’s At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum is packed with ideas and inspiration to keep your kids engaged and happy all summer long. The 8-Week curriculum was designed with kids of ages 5-11 in mind, but you can certainly adapt it for kids of all ages.
The beautiful, colorful pages come in a PDF file you can read on a computer screen or tablet or print out to keep in a lovely binder. The curriculum has kid-friendly lessons, outdoor activities, indoor projects, arts & crafts, recipes, field trip ideas, and book & media suggestions.
I want to let you know that as a proud contributor, I’m also an affiliate for the At-Home Nature Camp Curriculum! If you’d like to get your copy, just click on the button below to learn more and place your order….and get ready to add even more fun to your summer!