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. We like to go for a walk and collect rocks and flowers and different kind of leaves. We live near to a river and it’s a favorite place,too.

  2. My kids are still small, but we are outside everyday. We do some gardening and my 3 year old is really excited about his patch. There is also a lot of biking/triking(?) that goes on up and down our walk while I am weeding! My son really enjoys just puttering about in the yard and making up games using all the bits and pieces of twigs and stuff that he finds lying around. We have a nearby lake, which is also a big favourite. We collect pebbles on the way there and then just toss them in!

  3. My boys love playing in the dirt, playing with sticks, and going for nature walks. They love running, climbing trees, and finding “treasures.” Thank you for the opportunity. This book looks so good!

  4. my kids are 1, 3 & 4, so right now they love to just run around, ride bikes, and play imagination games. we also planted a vegetable garden together last week!!
    .-= laura´s last blog ..guard your health =-.

  5. My 2-yr old gal loves our daily nature walks!

  6. Danielle says:

    My almost 3 year old has been literally hugging trees since she was 18 months old (oh, and she once hugged a parking meter…)! She loves sticks and rocks, watching birds, and listening for owls.

  7. My 12yo has an herb garden (each herb has its own name) that she tends faithfully. The 10yo spends much of his outdoor in a tree. The 5 yo is just delighted by it all — clouds, rocks, flowers, butterflies, leaves, sticks, rain….

  8. Caroline says:

    I had read Last Child in the Woods, but hadn’t heard of Green Hour until this post. I have been trying to incorporate 1-2 hours outside before we come in for our afternoon nap and quiet time. It really makes a difference! We have gone to the playground for a picnic/play, gone for a walk and gone to the woods.

  9. We spend time playing at the park, on rocks, digging in dirt, riding bikes. I think having a scheduled time, like Caroline said, makes it easier to manage. We try to at least go out after school/before dinner.
    .-= Erin @ Letter Soup´s last blog ..Children Inspire Design =-.

  10. My daughter loves the swing and the slide the very most, but she’s also fascinated by worms on the pavement after the rain and picking the dandelions. (She’s 2.) We’d love more outdoor inspiration. Thanks for the giveaway!

  11. Deb Pederson says:

    We are gearing up for camping this summer where the kids enjoy finding all kinds of outdoor “treasures” to explore. We are also fortunate to live across the street (in town) from a nature conservatory, so we can go on great exploration hikes. My son just bought himself a bug vacuum so he could get a closer look at some of the bugs around us. We were looking forward to checking it out, but the rain is keeping the bugs from us and us from the bugs. We’ll have to settle for splashing in some puddles for now.

    Thanks for the opportunity for this give away. We’re always on the look out for new and exciting things to do outdoors.

  12. We play in the backyard every day. And even though it’s the same yard (same toys, same trees), it seems there’s something new to explore and enjoy!
    .-= Sandra´s last blog ..On Vacation =-.

  13. We need to strive to spend an hour outdoors every day. Every week, I do make a point to take my daughter to my parents’ dairy farm. She gets to help feed calves with Grammy. Growing up on the farm, I cherish the memories of learning to feed the calves, later feeding the calves myself, and then the muscles they gave me as a teen. 😉 Oh, how I miss those muscles. lol. With gardening time upon us now, I hope to get outdoors to maintain our garden every day.

  14. We are outside every day, launching rockets, weeding, swinging, walking to the park, checking on the tomatoes. But I’d love to read about how we could do more!
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Quick Meal Friday: Slow Cooker Veggie Chili =-.

  15. Christina W says:

    We try to get out as much as we can. My 3 year old son is in a better mood when we do. We like to go on adventure walks, sometimes just around the neighborhood & sometimes to the park. He also spends lots of time on his trike & he loves to chase birds & bubbles.

  16. My 9 year old LOVES to play Basketball, dig in the dirt, ride his bike, and look for bugs! Thank you for the giveaway! This book looks awesome and if I don’t win I look forward to checking it out of our neighborhood library!

  17. We live in the city. Maybe because of that, outside time is imperative for us. There is 30 minutes in the park at school every day and we play in the field at the same park or take a bike ride in the afternoon. Just discovered a nature center nearby with trails that are jus the right length for preschoolers. We will be visiting them regularly this summer.

  18. Kirsten Way says:

    My kids love to go outside, but i admit sometimes they do get a little bored with the same thing, i would love to look at this book and check out all the different ideas we could do apart from the local park and get us all out there more often!!!

  19. My boys received hand tools from Santa this year and spend many hours in the woods behind our house building a fort.

  20. I agree kids are more balanced when they are outside longer. We enjoy hikes in the open space by our house, gardening, and just playing. Thanks for the great article and giveaway.
    .-= shelle´s last blog ..Field trip with 5th graders =-.

  21. My two boys and I grow a garden together every year. They love seeing every stage of growth and finally eating the fruit of our hard work. It’s a great learning experience for all of us, together.

  22. My son loves to nature walk and look for deer with his green hours. My daughter is happy to kick back with her friends in a grassy spot showing off her cartwheels.

  23. My kids love to play old-fashioned games — tag, red light / green light, dodge ball… just give them an open, grassy field and they are happy kids.

  24. Sometimes I wish I still had my own mom around to tell me, “Go play outside!” Every now and then I need a little nudge/kick in the butt to remind me to get outdoors, no matter the season!
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..I happen to like Granola… =-.

  25. Catherine says:

    My two (3 yrs old) love to just sit down where they are and start exploring. Today they were cooking with leaves and bits of sticks and sand and pine needles–all kinds of dishes for everyone they could think of. They always inspire me with their imagination and enthusiasm when we play outside. Thanks!

  26. My three year old son loves playing in his sand box, digging for worms in our garden, chasing our dog around the yard and going on nature walks. My one year old is really into finding rocks to put into his mouth!
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Happy Earth Day! =-.

  27. We spend a lot of time outside-maybe not a full hour at once all the time, but more than an hour when the day is done. We milk the goats (OK, I milk the goats, he plays around), feed the chickens, let the rabbit run loose, ride the toy car down the hill, play in the creek, collect eggs, and as my 4 year old son likes to say “go outside to joy in the sun”. This book would be a wonderful addition to our daily adventures!
    .-= Kelly Cook´s last blog ..Udder Amazement =-.

  28. We love to spend time outdoors any chance we get! It varies from day to day what activites we do- walking, gardening, doing schoolwork outside, building a fort in the woods. Or even just sitting out on the porch listening to sounds. Anything done outside is better! I think on a daily basis there is always a lonely stick that needs a home…in ours! so my little boy says.

  29. My kids let ants crawl on them and do artsy/nature crafts…then there’s a lot of digging in the dirt and fairy talk!

  30. Our daughter turns one this week so we are looking forward to spending time outside with her. We do a work share at our local CSA and plan to have her experience that, as well as helping at home in the yard and garden. We also go on lots of walks with the dog and are looking forward to her head getting big enough to fit into a bike helmet so we can start family the family bike rides that were put on hold during my pregnancy. We figure that starting with a “Green Hour” lifestyle from birth, our children won’t know any different. 🙂
    .-= Melanie C´s last blog ..Hey there! =-.

  31. How do we spend our green hour???? How about spending hours in our sandbox, hooked up with the hose making rivers,dams volcanos, bridges and construction sites. Or hanging ropes from our trees on the tall hill in the back and swinging as far as they can. Or my boys building their own homemade zip line,carving a stick with a boyscout pocket knife for the handle. Or wading in the mountain streams just 10 minutes from our home…or traveling an hour to the ocean…our list goes on and on! Please…Please..Please pick US for the giveaway?!!!!

  32. Our green hour with our 16-month-old is almost always a long, rambling walk around the neighborhood, with her in the lead.

  33. Angela Sim-Laramee says:

    My 2 boys love to go outside and climb trees, ride their scooters and their bikes. We just planted a small garden, so I’m hoping they’ll help me in the garden weeding, then harvesting!

  34. My six year old daughter likes to identify footprints in the snow in the winter months and listen to bird song in the spring and fall during the migration. We have a squirrel living under our deck and she likes to leave different foods out for him to see what he takes and what he leaves behind.

  35. Kathy Stuart says:

    My girls (11, 9 and 5 ) have built teepees out of scrap poles and old towels.They like to
    read,have lunch and play in our backyard.They tend their own small gardens and observe birds and squirrels in our yard. We go for walks at our locale conservation area,
    camping and canoeing.
    During the winter monthes we cross country ski and play in the snow.

  36. My kids “green hour” is spent lately looking for signs of Spring 🙂 Watering the dandelions, discovering ladybugs, and watching magpies build a nest. I love seeing them drink in nature, even though we live (for now) in the suburbs!

  37. Awesome giveaway! My kids really like to walk around the block and hang out in all of the neighbors’ yards discovering the many trees, flowers, sticks and rocks. We get a good amount of wildlife to discover, tons of birds (including bald eagles, doves and hawks), monkeys, snakes, lizards, and all sorts of other critters and insects.

  38. My kids love to get outside. My son likes to make kites, slingshots, and forts. My one daughter loves plants (she is currently nurturing a baby apple tree she grew from a seed). My other daughter just loves being outside. Rocks and sticks are her current outside joy.

  39. We enjoy walks around the neighborhood looking for bugs, dirt, animal “tracks” in the cement sidewalk, and the peacocks that live around here.
    .-= Jenny Rebecca´s last blog ..The times they are a changin’ =-.

  40. My six year old son likes going to our community garden (where today he gave a five star tour to some surprised visitors). Tonight, he announced: “I love mother earth. She is our home away from home, and our home.” I’m so glad for the movement promoting outside time for kids and all the cool ideas being shared.

  41. Great giveaway! I actually put “outside play” on our daily checklist, otherwise it’s too easy to forget 🙂
    .-= Angela @ Homegrown Mom´s last blog ..I Don’t Believe in Athiests =-.

  42. la-la-lisa says:

    As far as what we do with our “green hours”, I’ve let my (now) 5 yr old just explore. Even our small backyard with all it’s plants, bugs, garden, etc is waiting laboratory for him. As far as what we do when we can’t go outside is we discuss nature, look at books and discuss things like recycling at an appropriate level of course.

  43. My 2.5 year old son loves golfing, running and exploring in our big backyard. I love just opening the door and letting him run loose!

  44. oh! I am so glad I just found this amazing perfect fit giveway! I just read “Last Child in the Woods” and we are loving what came out of it…..tons of hiking with the family, bug catching etc! I am all about this and have not seen this book you are giving away! I hope I win. This is something we are really working on as a family here. XO. amy

  45. Kimberly says:

    My twin 4 yr olds love to be outside. We spend on average 2-3 a day outside (until the temps get to high). They would rather be outside than anywhere. They just discovered how fun it is to bug hunt! We would love to have this book to enhance our outside fun!

    mom to dirty/muddy/smelly boys!

  46. My son (4 years old) visists a “nature kindergarten” where he plays and learns outside for five hours all years round. His little sister will join him in september.
    We all love to play outside especially when there is water included :o)
    Now I’m a bit afraid what it will be like when my son will visit a regular elemantary school in two years (even if there are a lot of studies that show that there a usually no problems with the change from “nature to class room”), so this book could really help us to plan our “after- kindergarten-life” :o)

  47. My little guy and I love taking daily walks, going hiking, gardening and just playing in the front and back yard. We play with sticks, rocks, acorns, seeds and any and everything imaginable! We love/need to play outside everyday. We also play outside with the dog. 🙂

  48. We keep it pretty simple–I take my 16 month old out into the backyard and she RUNS! We play in the water and with balls but primarily she runs. 🙂
    .-= Stacie@HobbitDoor´s last blog ..The Twilight Gospel =-.

  49. I am making an effort to get the kids outside everyday this spring. We haven’t been perfect, but we’re getting better. Their favorite activities are digging in the dirt or sand and pick violets from the yard for Mommy. We all feel better when we come back inside after a good dose of fresh air.


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