Children and the outdoors – a perfect mix, even in the winter | ISLAND WILDLIFE

I woke up this morning hopeful that I would look out the window to a yard full of snow.

No such luck.

One of my favorite winter memories was made last year when a big snow had fallen. We headed up to the Heritage Trail in Kingston with our special friends Wendy and Ari, along with all of our dogs, into a winter wonderland.

I remember the splendor of the ravine trail. The tree limbs were heavy with snow and the air was crisp above the valley.  The only sound we heard was the crunching of our steps, the jingling of the dogs’ tags as they bounded through the woods, and the giggles of the girls as they threw themselves into the fresh snow to

make the first snow angels of the day.

Though the temptation to stay inside in the winter months is always strong, it’s worth wrapping up and heading outdoors to see what winter delights you can find. From rainy days to snow and sunshine, there are plenty of innovative ways you can educate, entertain and inspire your family this winter.

Some of our favorite outdoor activities are simple:

1. Take a walk and look for animal tracks.

2. Go for a nature hike and be aware of one color at a time.  Spend two or three minutes looking for that color. Do it again for three more colors. How do different colors make you feel?

3. Find a comfortable spot to sit and relax. Consider a winter picnic lunch. Let your thoughts be still and allow yourself to be filled with the sounds around you. How many different animal sounds can you hear? How do you feel as you listen?

4. Look up at the clouds with a friend and take turns telling stories about what you see in the clouds.

5. Start a nature journal. Is there an animal you feel a special connection to? Do you remember a time when you saw something special in nature that you had never seen before? How did it make you feel? If you were an animal in the forest where would you build your home? By the water? High in a tree? Why?

6. Go for a neighborhood treasure hunt. Keep an eye out for special “treasures” – a smooth stone, a pinecone, a beautiful leaf. Choose one that appeals to you and bring it home to share with family and friends

7. Plan a monthly or weekly surprise outdoor adventure. Every weekend, plan a surprise outdoor trip with your kids. You could go to your local beach, forest, nature trail or park.  Planning surprise family fun time builds kids’ excitement for the next adventure, and helps demonstrate how you value your time with them.

Much of what makes the Pacific Northwest special is its environment: the deep, peaceful forests; the vibrant, beautiful shorelines; and the iconic, inspirational wild animals like eagles, cormorants, herons and owls.

West Sound Wildlife’s work focuses on these wild animals that grace our environment. Our core program is our wildlife hospital. We take in injured, orphaned and sick wild animals, then do everything we can to save them and send them back out to the wild for a second chance at life. This year we’ll have nearly 1,000 patients.

We also provide a powerful education program featuring two crows, two owls, and a red-tailed hawk, all of whom were injured and are unable to survive on their own.

Finally, we provide conflict resolution advice, helping people humanely resolve issues with wild animals.

Our goal is for the animals to survive and for our human lives to be enriched.

Our philosophy is simple: We believe that every wild life is a life worth saving, and we try as hard as we can to save each life either through direct care in our hospital or by teaching people how to co-exist with wildlife.

It is my hope that as you spend time outdoors this winter and happen to spot an eagle soaring high above or a squirrel scampering up the trunk of a tree in the woods, that you will remember the West Sound Wildlife Shelter and the important work being done every day.

Elsa Watson is the development coordinator for the West Sound Wildlife Shelter.

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