Celebrating the Season in Nature

Hit the outdoors for advent with eco-friendly surprises

You’ve heard about the Advent calendar — when children reach their little hands into a pocket-lined calendar celebrating the 25 days of Christmas. Sometimes there’s a treat tucked inside, other times, a dollar bill or small toy. What if you instead used this time to instill a love and respect for nature? Gather up your creativity and check out these 25 ways for adults and kids to make some meaningful memories that are also good for Mother Nature.

1.    Read some great books about winter. “Over and Under the Snow,” by Kate Messner, “Snowflake Bentley,” by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, “The Story of Snow,” by Mark Cassino, “Winter is Here,” by Kevin Henkes, “Winter Dance,” by Marion Dane Bauer and “Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter,” by Kenard Pal. 

2.    Take a walk around your yard or a nearby park and look at the beauty of trees and shrubs in winter.

3.    Make a winter-worthy bird feeders thanks to pinecones you can pick up on a walk. Coat the layers between the cone with peanut butter, then roll them in bird seed. Once set, simply tie to a branch in your yard.

4.    Once you’ve hung your pinecone feeder, start watching! Keep a list of birds and make sure you date each find. After a few years, you’ll be able to compare which species spent time near your home and when.

5.    Make a plan to plant native wildflowers and shrubs when the weather warms. Local nurseries can offer suggestions. Do you want to attract honeybees? Or, maybe butterflies? December is the perfect time to create a planting plan.

6.    Create some eco-friendly wrapping paper. Buy a big roll of brown kraft paper and release your inner artist by decking it out with stamps, paper snowflakes, even stickers. Make your own stamps by slicing a potato in half lengthwise and carving a winter design in the flat surface. Dress up your packages with your handiwork paired with bright fabric ribbons that can be used again for another project.

7.    Warm winter days are perfect for getting outside and picking up trash along fence lines in parks or athletic fields. Exercise and litter patrol go hand in hand.

8.    Build a bird house. Chickadees, finches, wrens and bluebirds readily use houses made by human friends. Purchase a pre-cut kit or find plans at your local library to cut and assemble your own.

9.    Make your own fire starters. Use cardboard egg cartons, cut a length of string for a wick and pour in melted beeswax or paraffin. You can also add small twigs, or pieces of pinecones.

10. Make sure at least one gift from everyone in your family is homemade. Reuse materials found in your house and repurpose them into a thoughtful gift.

11. Have a do-it-yourself home energy party. Turn out the lights, get a candle and hold it next to your doors and windows to see where drafts might be coming in then use weather sealant to close gaps.

12. Once a week during December, plan a lights-out party. Find out when sunset is and decide that from that time until bedtime, you’ll live like pioneers. No electricity, no phones, no games, no television. Plan a meal you don’t have to cook and use candles or solar lanterns to light the room.

13. Decorate a tree with natural materials. Gather sagebrush, rabbit brush, grasses and wildflower stalks to adorn a small Christmas tree in your house or yard. Add a little pop of color with painted pinecones.

14. Make natural decorations for inside your house. Some small twigs of conifer, snips of sagebrush and a few cranberries look great in mason jars filled with water. You can even place floating candles on top.

15. Create a “give back to the community” gift from your family. Find a charity, organization or place you enjoy visiting and make a pledge to volunteer there starting in January.

16. Try a “no-trash” day. See how little trash your family can make in one day, including food scraps.

17. Take a hike. The day after a snowstorm is the best time to find animal tracks. Make drawings of what you find. Try to guess the animal and what it was doing.

18. Gather up your nice, no-longer-used winter clothing to give away. Reuse, repurpose.

19. Take a night walk. Use solar lanterns or headlamps and head out after dark.

20. Make your own bug hotel. Simply Google bug hotel and hundreds of ideas will pop up on how to create one. It’s the perfect way to teach kids about nature’s biodiversity.

21. Use winter days to think ahead and plan a container vegetable garden. Carrots, lettuce, spinach and tomatoes will all grow in larger flower containers. Perfect to plant, grow, pick and eat!

22. Start seeds indoors for summer flowers and vegetables.

23. Learn to sew a button and mend a tear.

24. Plan one day to walk instead of drive.

25. Give someone a hug and tell them you love them. Kindness makes the world a better place.


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