Traveling with kids this summer? Here are 5 nature-themed workbooks to keep them off their screens
While the advent of the iPad may have revolutionized travel for many, the idea of getting kids away from home only to see them absorb themselves in the screens from which you’re fleeing isn’t very appealing.
Oftentimes, the motivation to broaden the minds of youngsters through travel comes with a barrage of the blue light and buzzing which only serves to defeat the purpose.
If you’re trying to introduce your kids to the restorative effects of nature, but also want to keep them occupied in a screen-free fashion while traveling, an old-fashioned workbook can do the job.
But during summer, the typical workbook may feel just a bit too much like school to appeal to some kids.
Here are five suggestions for workbooks that avoid the reading, writing and arithmetic lessons in favor of nature, science and sustainability.
Healthy Earth Coloring Workbook About Sustainability
We all know the reduce, reuse recycle mantra, but in the “Healthy Earth” workbook, kids are also introduced to two other concepts within that framework – refusing and repurposing.
Kids are asked to refuse plastic straws, refuse plastic bottles, refuse plastic toothbrushes and repurpose the ones they do use into things that aid in habitat creation like bee houses and bird feeders.
Some lessons are very simple and will make perfect sense to kids – like always opting for the waffle cone rather than taking their ice cream in a dish.
Others are more complex but are simplified for the younger audience, like the clever crafting of an “Air Bee and Bee” outside your home to help provide nesting areas for native bee populations.
Accompanying the lessons are posters that kids can color and hang up in their bedrooms or classrooms containing facts and reminders about best practices in nature.
Most of the interesting information shared, like the fact that a single toothbrush takes 400 years to decompose – therefore every toothbrush ever created is likely still in existence somewhere, in some form – are made easy for kids to understand.
And in one of the most important lessons kids growing up in the West will need to heed as they get older – water conservation – “Healthy Earth” has several tips like reusing bath water for plants and collecting rainwater to wash your bike.
Something as simple as developing a preference for bar soap at a young age can go a long way in reducing the demand for the elaborately packaged liquid soaps which have a large carbon footprint and use much more water in their production.
“Even the way you wash your hands can have a positive impact on animals and plants,” one of the posters in the book reminds kids.
Find the “Healthy Earth Coloring Workbook About Sustainability” online at HelloHealthyEarth.com.
Backyard Science & Discovery Workbook Southwest
While we may differ on our interpretation of what constitutes the “Southwest,” (the rigid state lines used to define the region’s boundaries often exclude southwest Colorado), George Oxford Miller’s 2021 activity book is a perfect companion for those camping trips to the Mesa Verde area your family may be planning for this summer and fall.
The activity book pulls no punches on the ecological issues this especially sensitive region is facing, telling kids how the grasslands of the West have rapidly disappeared in recent decades.
“Before cattle and timber cutting arrived in the Southwest, grass was one of the main features of the desert scrublands, prairie grasslands, and mixed-forest biomes,” Miller tells kids. “Cattle overgrazed the grasses, and too many trees in the forests were cut. Removing the plants covering the ground allowed wind and water to erode the top layers of soil. The only moisture left was deeper underground. Shallow-rooted grasses couldn’t compete for moisture with deep-rooted shrubs like mesquite, and grasslands became scrublands. Now very few grasslands are left.”
Matching and fill-in-the-blank sections of the workbook help kids get to know the basic groups of plants, animals, insects and rocks they’ll find when exploring the southwest.
And there is one math section for parents nervous that their kids will forget how to add and subtract over the summer, called “Cricket Math,” in which kids can learn how to tell the approximate temperature outside by counting the numbers of chirps from the local crickets.
Find “Backyard Science & Discovery Workbook Southwest” on AdventurePublications.net
Nature Smarts Workbook for kids ages 4-6
The “Nature Smarts Workbook” series from Mass Audubon comes in two varieties, one for younger kids just learning to read, and one for slightly older kids who don’t need their lessons overly simplified.
The “Nature Smarts Workbook” for kids 4-6 starts with one of the most important lessons kids who love animals might not yet fully realize: Loving animals also means loving their habitats.
The book starts by defining that word, habitat, and explains how protecting animals means protecting the places where those animals live.
Before you know it, your kids will want to analyze soil samples and make casts of animal tracks, all part of the activities described in the workbook.
And the activities within the book’s pages are fun for kids as well, like a flying maze that leads a mother bird to her babies, or a trace-the-path puzzle that shows how seeds can travel animals’ stomaches to hitch a ride to their final destination.
Available at Shop.MassAudubon.org.
Nature Smarts Workbook for kids ages 7-9
A step-up from the younger kids edition, the “Nature Smarts Workbook” for kids ages 7-9 gets into some of the more technical aspects of studying nature, like creating maps and journaling observations.
Kids learn the difference between vertebrates and invertebrates and learn how animals can adapt to changing environments. Activities include more advanced work like identifying what parts of a feather aid its function and drawing those features.
Kids learn how to aid in animal habitat creation by making nest boxes, making bird feeders and planting pollinator plants.
Now familiar with habitat loss and how it relates to extinction, kids are also shown how to write letters to their legislators.
Available at Shop.MassAudubon.org.
Brain Boosters Nature Puzzles
The old concept of a brain teaser can also be applied to nature, and it’s done well in Vicky Barker and Ste Johnson’s “Nature Puzzles.”
Some of those puzzles are what you’d expect, like true or false questions and matching schools of fish, but others are more in-depth, getting into the etymology of words like “cephalopod” by creatively explaining its root meaning of “head-feet.”
Kids learn that animal tracks don’t just reveal what kind of animal made them, but how big that animal was and how fast it was traveling.
The book also assumes the truth behind the ways that many kids are getting out into nature, by first traveling in a car.
If you, as a parent, are already successful in getting your kids off a screen and into a workbook, you may be inclined to attempt the final frontier – getting kids to enjoy the road trip by looking out their windows, observing and remembering what they see.
In one activity in particular, kids are asked to draw what they see out their car window, leaving the window itself in the drawing frame. It’s a nice, realistic touch that parents can work into their road trip goals if they’ve already reached the stage where they’re trying to get their kids’ eyes off their workbooks and on their new surroundings.
“Brain Boosters Nature Puzzles” is available at the Bookworm in Edwards.