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

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  1. My two little guys love to go for walks and play in the water. We are loving spring!

  2. Now that the weather is warmer here, my two year old and I have been spending a lot of time outside. We’ve planted a vegetable garden and have been going for nature walks nearly every day, collecting treasures to bring home. He adores being outside, playing in the dirt and picking flowers.

    I love being outside with him, watching how his little mind develops as he discovers new and interesting things, he saw his first earthworm while we were digging the veggie garden, he pointed it out to me and then watched it slither away. We’ve been learning the colours of the flowers and all sorts of things.

  3. My almost two year old son loves to just run around in abandon when we go outside. He also loves to look for wildlife. Right now he loves the bird feeders I put outside that bring tons of birds into our back yard. He also loves to sit by the stream and throw sticks and twigs into the stream. He could sit there for hours. Mostly he just loves being outside in general.

  4. My two children love to head down the alley behind our home to their friends!
    There are two families that live in historic homes that have huge backyards!
    They play in a handmade fort and on a swing set! The group of kids also play
    croquet, football, wiffle ball, soccer and on the weekends, sometimes the parents
    put ups tents and have a camp out…..Thanks, Cindi

  5. My daughter loves to just run…and sometimes scooter. And about two weeks ago, we tracked a creek near the park to see if we could find where it started or ended.

  6. My girl is young and we live downtown, so for most days we just walk around our neighborhood or wander in our backyard looking at “things.” And she loves to slide while I hang out laundry.
    .-= Melodie´s last blog ..Conundrum =-.

  7. My kids love being outside – collecting things, playing in the sandbox, drawing with sidewalk chalk, and just running together are their favorite “green hours” activities.

  8. My boys love to make construction sites with their trucks in their sandbox or the dirt. They also love to get sticks and pretend they are sword fighting or weed eating! 🙂

  9. Our favorite green hour activity is hiking a new trail.
    .-= Wendy´s last blog ..Green =-.

  10. My little one is only 10-months-old, but we spend at least an hour outside everyday. We walk around the block; he looks at things, I pick up litter. I put him in the grass to play while I tend to our vegetable garden. I give him fallen leaves and flowers to explore. I show him squirrels, birds, rabbits, butterflies, lizards — anything that crosses our path. Of course, most of the time he tries to put all of nature in his mouth, but he’s learning! 🙂
    .-= Toni’s Treehouse´s last blog ..RECIPE OF THE WEEK : Simple Bread Making with Plain and Joyful Living =-.

  11. We have an arboretum just a few minutes away from our house. My two-year-old son and I love to take nature walks there together. Just this morning we brought an old cardboard egg carton with us and filled each egg seat with some “treasure” he found. We now have a combination of pine cones, thistles, sticks, rocks, leaves and dandelion heads as a special collection he was able to bring home.

  12. I recently bought rain boots so I can join my kids in the mud and explore the frog pong nearby. We are looking forward to adding to our bird nature journal as well.

  13. maridyth says:

    Several days a week, my almost-two year old and I spend most of the day in the backyard. Living in Texas, we get a lot of sunny, warm days a year… and we’ve been taking advantage of it. My son is modeling everything I do… watering the plants, digging in the dirt, watching the birds. I love that he would rather be outside than inside most of the time. We don’t let him watch TV much, maybe one DVD a week… and it’s paying off already. I see him learning with every minute he spends out of doors.

  14. Presently, my 4 year old son is in the backyard digging a huge hole in the garden. He loves to dig as far as he can (with child-sized shovel and hoe found at our local hardware store) and then fill it up with water from the hose. Can you guess what he then likes to do? You got it… jump on in and muck around until his boots get stuck and he has to yell for help before the mud fills the insides of his boots. I love it, as it brings back fond memories of my childhood.

  15. I have a hard time with this because I don’t really like being outside myself. And I feel like when I suggest things like a bug safari that they go over like a lead balloon. I would love to see the suggestions in this book to see if they would help.
    .-= nopinkhere´s last blog ..Veer Right =-.

  16. When we’re home, my three-year-old son likes to run around the backyard with the pup and build castles in his sandbox. He’s also a very big help with watering the garden. Much of the water from the rain barrel ends up on him though! 🙂

    On the weekends, we often go out to my parents’ place, where he is absolutely in heaven … currently, there is a 9 week old puppy, a new litter of adventurous kittens, several baby calves, and an ol’ mama dog who rides herd on them all. He could easily spend the entire day outside.
    .-= Trina´s last blog ..Fiesta!: Empanadas =-.

  17. My boys (4 and 2) love playing with any sports balls and using their water bottles to spray our plants and trees to “give them drinks!” I feel strongly in getting them outside–especially in our spring and fall seasons. Down south, the summer melts us!!

  18. During their green hour(s) my kids love to explore small places, climb trees, draw what they see, and pick strawberries, cherry tomatoes, or peas (depending on the season) from our garden.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..What I love :: the public library =-.

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

    They love exploring the flowers, weeds and birds in our yard or going on walks in the neighborhood.

  20. Each of my kidlets are different in their interaction with nature. Today, my oldest,who is 8 and a boy, is reading a favorite book outside. My 6 yo girl will sit and watch small bugs work or plant seed in her flower bed. The preschooler & toddler roam the field with mama close by. We talk about anything we find.
    .-= Deven´s last blog ..Knitting: my 2nd scarf =-.

  21. My toddler son loves playing in the back yard. He currently enjoys digging in his ‘dirt pit’, watering the plants, “washing” our patio window and driving his ‘truck’ around the yard. Last year he enjoyed eating basil and tomatoes from the plants. Since then he has an aversion to tomatoes and basil. I’m hoping to re-cultivate that love as our tomato and basil grow again 🙂

  22. Thankfully, my children love to play outside. They are usually busy creating an imaginary *world* in the backyard or riding their bikes with their friends. We’re looking forward to getting our garden started in May, too, they love working with plants and flowers!
    .-= Lora´s last blog ..I {heart} Road Trips =-.

  23. I think this book sounds amazing! What a great giveaway! My 2 1/2 year old can’t get enough of the outdoors! He loves to play in the sandbox, go to the park, and just explore his surroundings. I’m trying to get outside for a little while each and every day, which is sometimes a struggle for this homebody-mommy. This week we discovered a new and amazing park nearby, planted a vegetable garden, and we’re going to the zoo tomorrow!
    .-= Cara´s last blog ..Painting with Golf Balls =-.

  24. We just moved from a house in North Carolina to an apartment in Japan – where finding “green” is more difficult. We’ve had to make more of an effort to find parks in our area, but my daughters day is so much better when she does have a “green hour”. We try and use the same time every day, so it will become a part of a routine. Also, when choosing her preschool here we prioritized a school that had the kids outside for a large portion of the day.

  25. We have been very busy outside lately 🙂 We go for a Nature Walk each day and look for flowers, trees, insects etc. My son Z has been getting his Curious George garden ready, this is where he plants carrots 🙂 He also helps in the family garden, he LOVES to garden. The rest of our outdoor time is spent looking for bugs, playing Extreme Hopscotch, swinging on the swings, bird watching and playing baseball 🙂 He is an outdoor kid!
    .-= RaisingZ´s last blog ..An Earth Day Party for Lil’ C’s 1/2 Birthday =-.

  26. our outside time is great. we planted a garden and learn about the things we planted and how to take care of them. we do a lot of races in the grass digging in the dirt. lots of sports and pretend play in the yard/park. we need our sunshine and love being out there.
    .-= april kitchell´s last blog ..Catch’s Way of Thinking =-.

  27. My two and a half year old son loves playing with all the bugs he finds hidden in and under things. He especially loves earthworms and thinks they’re “soooo cute, Mommy!”

  28. Jenna C. says:

    My oldest son (almost 3) loves to be outside. I try very hard not to say no to him when he is outside, unless it is something that could really hurt him or someone else. Even though I would rather he didn’t whack at the dandelions as if they were golf balls, I want him to feel like outside is his place to be free. He loves helping in the garden and bringing things to the compost pile and making offerings to the birds and squirrels. I am sure that this book would help with more ideas.

  29. My almost four year old son, one year old daughter, and me love to take a stroll around our housing area, then go to a park nearby. We planted mung bean seeds in little plastic containers a week ago, my son loves to check on them daily. In the morning, usually we had a blast watering the little garden. We love to spot butterflies too! 🙂

  30. We love outdoors, minus the bugs. We like to play in the sandbox, plant flowers, I’ll pick weeds, go visit and take care of our garden plot, swing, read stories at our table, and kick around a ball. I’m so inspired to do more that involves exploring the outdoor elements, though. This book would be great to give us ideas.

  31. My son is only 9 months old, but we go for walks and sit in the grass and look at the flowers and trees and listen to the birds. He has just discovered dirt while my husband and I started our garden and he would rake it with his fingers. I would love to learn more about ways to helps my son love the outdoors. I think too many kids today don’t get enough time to play on their own without someone or something structuring their play or entertainment.

  32. We love going on bug or bird walks. My daughter can also spend hours playing in her sandbox.

  33. My two boys and I love to look for bugs and take walks and play outside.

  34. My three kids and I like to take daily walks to a little pond a block away. My 2yo son loves to throw sticks into the water and watch the ripples while my 4yo daughter enjoys picking “flowers” even if most would consider them weeds. They are beautiful to us. 😉

  35. My kids just love running around or playing in the melting streams of snow or helping wash the cars. We haven’t been out much yet because it’s still cold here but we definitely need to make it a priority come warmer weather.
    .-= Sam´s last blog ..Stay tuned =-.

  36. My two year old daughter loves exploring the world. She’s learning to blow the dandelion seeds, and loves visiting with our neighbors’ dogs.

  37. Hi, we live in Turin, a big town in northern Italy, but we have a big public green zone nearby. This are my child’s favorites in their green hours:
    1. Caterina, nine years, likes to meet some friends, go on rollerblades and skip the rope;
    2. Giorgio, eight years, likes to play soccer, and soccer and soccer… with every child he meets!
    3. Marco, six years, likes to go by bike, explore everything and a little soccer too.
    4. Benedetta, four years, likes to meet other child, especially female, and doing role games, she loves digging with her hands.
    I like reading under a tree… but I have no time for this!
    .-= d.´s last blog ..San Giorgio =-.

  38. My kiddos love drawing with chalk or exploring the “woods” nearby!

  39. Our three girls (5, 3, 1) love to just putter around outside. We found a “clubhouse” under some bushes for them, they help garden, ride bikes, explore the creek in our backyard. They just love being out there. It’s interesting to see that since we’ve made the decision to cancel our television provider we’ve all spent much more time outside and it’s wonderful! Thanks for the giveaway!

  40. My kids’ favourite outdoor activities include digging in the dirt and going for puddle walks. As spring slowly unfolds here in western Canada, we’ve been delighting in the buds bursting open on the trees, the green grass pushing through last year’s brown, and the multitude of bird songs around us. I would love to use the ideas in this book to make our outdoor time even more meaningful!

  41. I LOVE this book.

    My son is fanatical about sticks… always has been. He mostly does pretend play of all kinds while he is outside. It seems to be freeing for him.
    .-= Amy´s last blog =-.

  42. Love to play out in the backyard – ball, sandbox, forts in the bushes…

  43. My daughter gets really curious and becomes a detective to search out every plant species and bug in our backyard, then she asks ME what EVERYTHING is! I need a nature guide just to try and keep up with her!

  44. My 6 year old daughter reminds me everyday to walk a little slower and to look all around a little bit more. She will notice things that I would not see. It is a special thing to have a constant reminder to slow down and to notice the ants on the ground.

  45. My 8 y/o daughter loves playing outside and most days she is outside for 1-2 hrs. A lot of time is spend on make believe adventures with friends in backyards, or riding bikes or drawing with chalk in the drive way. She does have an unusual fascination with rocks though.

  46. the kids and I love to watch the chickens pecking in the yard and listen to their neat sounds.

  47. My son loves hunting around for bugs with his magnifying glass, collecting “treasures,” and looking for clues to what animals live nearby. He also loves playing ball, drawing with sidewalk chalk, or just running around!

  48. We often go out to the green belt near our house and spend the day just on adventure. Our neighborhood park has a creek and small wooded area as well. My boys would rather play there than on the playscape. We love going there in the afternoons.
    .-= Tammi´s last blog ..Happy Earth Day! =-.

  49. What a GREAT book! I hope my library gets a copy if I don’t win this. Or actually, even if I do, it sounds excellent!

    With spring happening we’ve been doing some gardening. While I work the kids sometimes help and sometimes just play. The other day they filled a bucket with water and started adding all sorts of ingredients to their “soup.” They found a stick to stir with, etc. They also often help me weed!

  50. We are trying to have a “Green Hour”, but aren’t fully there yet. We love to take walks, play underneath a willow tree in our yard, and hit the trails near our home.