Simple as That: Connect With Nature in an Hour a Day – A Green Hour Giveaway

If you could design the perfect learning environment for children, what would it be like?” asks Todd Christopher, co-founder of the National Wildlife Federation’s  Green Hour campaign and author of the new book The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids (Trumpeter – March 2010).

My vision of the perfect learning environment for my own kids is much like what Christopher goes on to describe:

“Certainly, it would need to be engaging – stoking the fires of fascination while at the same time extinguishing boredom.  It would invigorate not just the intellect but the whole child – mind, body, and spirit.  It would activate all of the senses and reward a child’s curiosity with discovery and wonder.  And it would instruct intimately while conveying lessons at a grand scale.”

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Such a place exists,” Christopher assures us, “and it can be found in a nearby park, on a local trail, or even in your own backyard.  The tuition is quite reasonable – even free.”

The natural world is available to us as the ultimate learning environment. With more and more children becoming increasingly “plugged in” to technology and  the idea of of children spending time  outdoors becoming an archaic novelty of childhoods gone by, we can’t afford not to send our kids outdoors.

In his book,  Mr. Christopher discusses star gazing, exploring ponds, rivers, and seashores, going on a “bug safari” and other ideas for taking advantage of all the lessons nature has to offer us.  Getting started is as easy as stepping into your own backyard.

Catching fireflies, making wishes on dandelion clocks, leaf collecting, and chasing summer bugs are in danger of becoming lost arts.  The Green Hour shows parents how to save those skills and introduce a new generation of kids to the wonders that stem from a childhood spent outdoors.

The Green Hour

The National Wildlife Federation recommends that kids have one “green hour” every day. This is a time of unstructured play and interaction with the natural world around them.

The Green Hour’s aim is to get this generation of children away from their computer screens and mp3 players.  Kids and their parents are encouraged to spend time learning about and appreciating the bugs, birds, butterflies, trees, and even the dirt of the natural world around them.

At the National Wildlife Federation website families can:

Simple Kids is happy to join with Todd Christopher and The Green Hour in encouraging families to spend time outdoors together every day.

Turn off the TV, back away from the computer, “unplug” and get out there!

Green Hour Giveaway

My kids and I have been using our copy of The Green Hour this Spring to take full advantage of the perfect learning environment that lies right outside our back door.  This book is like a lesson planner, activity book, and field guide rolled into one – and it is easy to stuff in your backpack, too.  I know you’re going to love it!

I am so excited to announce that in honor of TV Free Week and Earth DayShambhala is very generously giving away a copy of  The Green Hour to TWO Simple Kids Readers!

To enter, leave a comment below and answer one of the following questions: What do  your kids like to do with their “green hours”?  If you aren’t currently getting outside every day, how do you plan to incorporate a daily “green hour” time for your kids into your routine?

This giveaway will be open until Sunday, April 25th at midnight EST. Two winners will be chosen by and the winners will be announced on Monday, April 26th.  Good luck!  This giveaway is now closed.  Thank you.

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

Online Knitting Class
Delightful kids' crafts delivered to your door!  See sample crates>>


  1. What do your kids like to do with their “green hours”?

    Mine is happy as can be with a bucket of sidewalk chalk and a soccer ball!
    .-= Cynthia´s last blog ..Wild and crazy no longer =-.

  2. Bikes are our big thing so far this spring, since my almost 5 year old is almost off his training wheels. And his little sister is just starting with her other trained-wheeled big-girl bike. That and watching the flowers pop up in our garden, starting our seeds for the vegetable garden, and watching a robin start her nest in the front of our house. Yay Spring!

  3. What do your kids like to do with their “green hours”? Growing veggies is the big one around here, as well as bike riding and tree climing.

  4. With their green hours, my kids love to collect stuff, pick through stuff, and listen to birds :).
    .-= Jaimie´s last blog ..Our Nature Bowl =-.

  5. We love playing in the sandbox, chasing bugs, building fairy houses, playing pirates, and just good old hide-n-seek. 🙂

  6. Stephanie says:

    My 21 month old loves to dig in her garden- I set aside one of my smaller beds purely for her use. Sort of like a sandbox, but cheaper 🙂

  7. Our green hour is usually out on the driveway after I get home from work. My 2 year old loves to move from balls to sidewalk chalk to his bike to a walk and back again. I’m looking forward to a longer attention span where we can do some more exploring! 🙂
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..2nd Pregnancy… It’s just not the same =-.

  8. That book looks like a wealth of great ideas! We do spend a fair amount of time at local parks exploring nature, but our daily dose usually comes in the form of backyard time. Both little ones help me with the garden daily, and each child has their own space in the yard where they are free to dig, plant weeds, whatever they like. Our yard is also a certified wildlife habitat, so we have quite a number of visitors to observe. I frequently step outside to find the five-year-old sprawled on her stomach, studying a procession of ants, or the water-striders on the surface of the pond.
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Collaboration =-.

  9. My 7-year-old would ride her bike for hours on end, and that is what she usually does for the time between school and dinner. My toddler loves his balance bike, too, but his real love right now is digging. We just built him a large sandbox and I’m sure he’ll spend many a green hour digging and making mud pies.
    .-= Angie @ Just Like The Number´s last blog ..All That NPR for Nothing =-.

  10. My kids go outside everyday. They like to swing in the backyard and make displays of collections and climb trees.

  11. We try to go outside everyday. My son just loves playing in the dirt! And I give my 5 month old a nice massage while enjoying the breeze.

  12. My k ids help in the garden, and are now using scrap pieces of wood for their “construction zone” or to play “x marks the spot.” This coming weekend we’re going to set up the “digging zone” where they can just dig and play in the dirt. We’ve been inspired by play trail at Boxerwood in Lexington, Virginia, where the Rules include getting dirty!

  13. My kids love digging in the dirt and climbing trees. We also love inviting friends over and building a campfire. And then there’s plain old hiking in the woods that everybody loves.

  14. My son absolutely loves the outdoors. He can spend outdoors playing ball with our dogs, finding bugs, and stealing all the baby strawberries out of the container garden as soon as they turn red!

  15. My 12-month-old isn’t quite old enough to spend an unstructured hour outside all at once, but she loves going out! When the front door is open and she can see outside, she’s very insistent that we go out! We try to take walks or bike rides when the weather is nice. It’d be great to have this book to grow into as she gets older.
    .-= Jessie´s last blog ..Birthday Garland =-.

  16. Jennifer says:

    After a long, cold winter, we have become accustomed to staying busy inside the house. Now that spring is here, we are all antsy to get outside and play. I would love some new ideas of things we can do to enjoy our time in the great outdoors.

  17. My girls love to play in the dirt under our deck. Good clean (or not) fun!
    .-= Marci´s last blog ..TV Turnoff Week =-.

  18. My little one likes to help water our flowers, pull at the leaves on our trees and swing! (she is only 1)

  19. Ben plays on the swings, digs in the dirt, build with the branches that have fallen from the trees and works in his garden. Right now, Katie doesn’t play outside because the grass and stuff bother her (sensory issues).

  20. I think the best time for our family to institute a green hour is right after school. To have a snack packed and head outdoors the minute my little ones are released from being good & mostly still all day. I think it’ll be the best for all of us to shift gears, loosen up, and help us have a fresh perspective on those nasty witching hours that follow.

  21. Jamie W. says:

    I plan on spending the summer with my newborn, listening to birds and avoiding the bees:)

  22. Lately they’ve been using their outside time to build a giant “town” in our front yard. Unfortunately for our neighbours this has involved gathering all the sand and leaves out of the gutters and making it into a pile in our front door, as well as wedging old two-by-fours in between the branches of our tree to make ramps and decorating the tree with sidewalk chalk.
    .-= jill´s last blog ..I take it back =-.

  23. Kimberly Hagler says:

    All of my boys (even my 10yo still) are definite “bug hunters”. They can spend hours in the backyard looking under rocks, digging in the dirt, finding a new home/food for their critters. It’s fun to watch how excited they get!

  24. Herbwifemama says:

    We go outside almost every day, and I lay on a blanket (34 weeks pregnant), and she runs around, blowing dandelions, digging for earthworms, looking at ants… and the sun gets hot, and we shelter inside. Last summer, and something I hope to replicate again this summer, we laid in the hammock, and watched the bats come out.

  25. At 19 months, my daughter is perfectly happy simply walking (esp. barefoot – one of our favorite sensory activities) or looking at bugs, but at this age, our green hour usually involves a walk/bike ride and time at the park, in our sandbox, in a small pool if the weather is nice… I’d say about 4 days a week we go outside for at least 2 hours a day, but I’d like to get better about incorporating more time even on the other three days – even if it’s just 20 minutes of something other than in and out for chores and errands. I love the idea of having a “Green hour” – spending an hour of being focused on the outdoor world, rather than just passing through the outdoor world.

  26. I take my little monkey (2 years old) outside to play several times a week. His favorite thing to do is play with the little red rocks by the neighbor’s porch. Simple things, I guess. 🙂
    .-= Sheena´s last blog ..Home Is… My Christmas Apron =-.

  27. My kids LOVE being outside! Lately my daughter has been picking dandelions. My boys love gathering rocks, “sword fighting” with sticks, finding worms. Of course they all love nature walks, jumping on the trampoline, and riding their bikes 🙂
    .-= emily´s last blog ..a beach scene =-.

  28. Ashley F says:

    Sadly we don’t get a “green hour” everyday, but I am going to work on that starting now. Normally when we get out, I just let the kids go nuts. They run around, play soccer or catch, ride bikes and play with sidewalk chalk. On the weekends when it’s nice we like to go for a short hike to a river and they splash in the shallow part. It’s still a little too icy to do that, but it should be ok in a few weeks.

  29. We NEED this book. I’m not naturally outdoorsy, but my two sons would LOVE to be out there. I need to know what to do to make it happen and what to do once we get there.

  30. Our green hours involve lots of play in the backyard, looking for bugs, seeing which flowers have bloomed, planting and watering our flowers and veggies and hiking and walking in the neighborhood. They are precious

  31. My kids (as well as the neighbor kids) love to play on the rope swing my husband put up when we moved into our house seven years ago. It hangs from a limb 40 feet up. Even the high-schoolers come over once in a while to swing on it! My boys also like to play in a large tree in the front yard. It is their fort/school/work/house/etc. There’s also a creek at the back of our lot that they will play by if we go down with them. Many hours of enjoyment in our yard!

  32. We’ve finally started a garden this spring, so I know we’ll be spending a lot of time with that. My girls also love drawing nature. Sometimes we take nature walks in a nearby park; other times we just throw a blanket on the ground and use our senses to observe what’s going on around us. We don’t get outside as much as we should, but we sure have fun when we do!

  33. My baby girl loves to find dandelions and work on her stick collection. 🙂

  34. My boy loves his time outdoors. No matter the weather. He loves to pick flowers, play golf or football, help in the garden, or just go on walks and bike rides. We’re lucky to live in the Black Hills and have abundant access to nature in all it’s forms. We’re campers and hikers as well. I’m sure our baby girl will grow up loving the outdoors just as much.
    .-= bdaiss´s last blog ..Spring! =-.

  35. my kids love to be outside (but admittedly they also are techie junkies too!) We are out every day as long as the weather is bearable. With my youngest, its a time to explore, play on his ride on toys, throw sticks or a bucket on a rope into our stream, or simply swing. The older kids ride bikes, scooters, play on a zip line they rigged, or their absolute fave, swing on a vine that is in the woods (unfortunately there are very few vines here so we are dreading the time this one breaks – our fave broke a couple years back and the kids still miss it!). They love to go on walks in the woods – one of my boys has to have outside time or else he just becomes unsettled – and since he was kindergarten age, he has entertained himself in various ways, building things, using ropes for various obstacles, and many other things that he makes up. I don’t use this time for teaching or engaging – I usually just let the kids be to explore as they want. In the summer, we enjoy many many outdoor hours at the lake swimming, fishing, picnic-ing.

  36. My kids are 1 and 3, so they don’t have too much freedom to range outdoors yet. So far, both of them mostly seem to enjoy touching stuff outside– throwing dead leaves, pushing around dirt, finding good sticks to swing around and old seed pods to pick at. They listen, too, though; it made me so proud last summer when my oldest, then 2, heard a chickadee singing in the woods and said, “Chickadee!”

  37. My son loves to run around our backyard with his shoes off and visit with the worms in our vermicomposter, now moved out to the garden for the spring. He names them all Box–no idea why!

  38. My daughter loves to dig for earthworms, pick flowers, and ride her bike. My 11-month old son loves to explore, picking up anything within reach and inspecting it.

  39. Anne Marie says:

    My son is only 10 months old so he loves to just watch leaves blow and the birds flying around. My step daughter is a huge fan of sidewalk chalk and helping in the garden. Also, for her, nothing beats just chasing the dog around in circles in the yard. Thank God for a patient dog! 🙂

  40. Rose in Ohio says:

    My son spends hours on the soccer pitch, and my daughter goes roller-blading with her friends!

  41. The green hour campaign is a powerful one, I’m not there yet, but I always think about it. We are lucky that my son goes to a Waldorf-inspired public school, so he’s been supported in playing creatively outside. So much so I can literally just open the door and invite outside play. We especially like to sail leaves down the hill when it rains. Or play tag.

  42. My kids and I love going on walks. Just enjoying being outside and seeing the beauty that God has created for us

  43. Wow what a great opportunity! I hope I win!

  44. Sand box. digging in the garden and bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!

  45. We have green hours all the time–I try to get the kids outside as much as possible every single day. On rainy days we play on our porch or splash in mud puddles; sunny days we take the art easel out on the porch and paint, or draw with chalk. Sometimes we slide down our bank on sleds (even when there’s no snow!) or help my dad (Grandpa) in the garden, or run through the sprinkler or go for an exploring walk. These warm days, my front door is a revolving door with kids running into to grab something and running right back out. I love it!

  46. when we do get outside (which isn’t regularly) my 4 ad 2-year old girls love to follow bugs around or chase each other. i hope that this lovely weather will help us carve regular time outdoors (cuz i LOVE being outside).
    .-= April Emery´s last blog ..Happy Earth Day! =-.

  47. Now that the snow is gone, we have really been enjoying getting outside for a “green hour” every day. This is the first summer my daughter can walk, so we are truly just exploring our own yard and having the best time doing it. Rocks and sticks never go out of style with a toddler! We also love to take our dog for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner.

  48. My girls (5 and 2-years-old) absolutely love being outside. We try to get outside every afternoon, where we ride bikes, play with chalk, go on walks, etc. But after reading your post about this book and with the summer coming up, I think I am going to try and work in a morning “green hour” as well. I’ve already started writing down a summer green hour to-do list: build fairy houses, make giant bubbles out of dish soap & string, fly kites, have a breakfast picnic at the park, lay in a field and spot cloud shapes, set up a “car wash” for our bikes and scooters…I can’t wait! Would love to win this book!

  49. My daughter is only 10 months but loves stroller rides outside! She does NOT like to be put down to crawl in grass – too prickly! : ) But we will work on learning to love the outdoors. ; ) This book would be perfect to give me good ideas to try as she gets older. Thanks!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Susan Heid. Susan Heid said: RT @simplekids Simple as That: Connect With Nature in an Hour a Day – A Green Hour Giveaway […]