Learning Landscapes: Outdoors Family Challenge

7-Day Outdoors Family Challenge

Want to get outside more, connect with your kids and enjoy some old-fashioned family time? Join in a fun 7-Day Outdoors Family Challenge that was created by Shannon Brescher Shea from We’ll Eat You Up We Love You So in support of the Children and Nature Network’s Vitamin N Challenge to encourage kids to get outside more. This is a 7-day nature challenge is intended to help families spend just a bit more time joyfully in nature and their community. Each challenge provides a simple challenge that can get you and your children (of any age) outside – observing and interacting more intentionally with self, family, community and Nature.

Challenge #1: Use your senses to take in nature.

Spend 15 minutes (or more) outside with your kids, just paying attention to what is going on around you. Encourage your kids to use all five senses. Sit on the ground, if possible.

Be silent for a few minutes and then ask them:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you hear?
  • What do you smell?
  • What do you feel?
  • What do you taste?

For small children, it may be helpful to play a couple different games to hold their attention. For example, you can play an expanded version of “I Spy.” Describe sights, sounds and smells and have them guess what you are describing.

For older kids, you can go a little more abstract. One idea I shared over on PERMIE KIDs is to play a game called “human camera.” In this game, two people sit back to back, with one as the human camera and the other as the investigator. The human camera describes an object without naming it or any part of it they are observing with as much detail as possible. The investigator then draws what (and only what) is described to them the way it is described.

For example, the human camera cannot say an object is a flower or has a stem. Instead, the human camera might say there is a long forest green rectangle about three inches long with three bumps on the right side. On the rectangle’s left side is a green oval with jagged edges. On the top of the rectangle, there is a bright yellow circle with five long, thin white ovals circling around it. See what “develops” as you draw!

Another tip I shared on PERMIE KIDs: Don’t forget to talk about what you don’t see, hear, and feel. Observing and becoming aware of what is not there can be just as, if not sometimes more, awe-inspiring and curiosity provoking. Observing what is not present is a critical piece for understanding the puzzle.

After you’ve taken some time to just take it in, take a photo, make a recording of unique sounds or simply write down your reflections on the experience.

What did my children and I do? We took this first challenge on a rainy day. It rained literally all day long. Most people might be tempted to just stay inside, but as an old Scandinavian saying goes:

“There is no bad weather, just bad clothes.”

We went outside and brought with us several different objects made of different materials to hold over our heads. Then, we squished together, laughing like crazy, as we then tried to quiet ourselves and listen to the different sounds that the rain made as we held the various objects over our heads. We heard the tip toe of the light rain on cardboard and the ear ringing “Piiiiing” of large droplets hitting the metal baking sheet. What fun we had and what a wonderful opportunity to more deeply observe and interact with Nature!

Here are some reflections from Shannon from We’ll Eat You Up We Love You So taking on the first Outdoors Family Challenge with her children.

“Mommy, come this way!” he yelled, so I did. We circled the house, tromping through the yard. I walked as quickly as I could while balancing a gloriously calm baby. “It’s a pinecone!” Sprout proclaimed, picking up a pinecone. He then promptly dropped it.

While running around like a ninny and yelling about trees may not seem very peaceful to most people, it was the most mindful I’ve been in ages.

Get social… online! I invite you to post to the We’ll Eat You Up We Love You So Facebook page, your Twitter account or your Instagram account with the hashtag #outdoorsfamilychallenge. Anything you post on the PERMIE KIDs Facebook page will also get tagged by so inspiration can grow!

What do you think? Want to join in the fun of the 7-Day Outdoors Family Challenge?! Learn more about the challenge in my PERMIE KIDs Podcast 333.


Jen MendezJen Mendez

Jen is a wife, mother of two joyous children, experiential education mentor, and founder of PERMIE KIDs. She has a M. Ed. in International Education and has worked with children in the U.S. and overseas from early childhood through the primary years, as well as parent-educators. She integrates an ethical, design science methodology with her love for education to help others learn to design a customized education with their children that honors themselves, others, and the earth.


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