Surfing the Net With Kids

By Barbara Feldman
July 15, 2011

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These websites are dedicated to inspiring you to push yourself away from the computer and get outside! Whether in your backyard, a city park, or a wilderness area, there are many discoveries to be made. Sharpen your senses and go meet nature.

Backyard Nature Start with Jim Conrad’s 3 Steps to Discovering Nature. Step One: Identify the plants and animals you find around you. Step Two: Learn something interesting about stuff you’ve identified. Step Three: Keep a Nature Notebook to record all the things you learn. Other sections deserving of a shout out are Names & Classification (with articles such as “On the Beauty of Scientific Names’’) and Tools for Backyard Naturalists (with both online and offline resources to help with species identification.)

eNature Field Guides to more than 5,500 species of animals and plants are the core content at eNature. Species are searchable by keyword, color, size, region, and even ZIP code! For kid stuff, mouse on over to Fun & Games, where you’ll find quizzes (Do you know scat?) and species flashcards to embed on your own website. These flashcards are snippets of code you can paste on your website or blog that will display a photo and a description of an animal. Great for online school reports or just for showing off your favorite animals.

Nature Explore: Family Activities With the Families’ Club kit, Nature Explore provides field-tested, research-based nature activities for families, clubs, and classrooms. Follow the link at the end of the introduction to download the kit free of charge, or order a low-cost CD if that is easier for you. The kit contains six printable color handouts (for a range of ages) and facilitator’s notes for each activity. The outdoor activities require simple supplies (such as crayons and measuring tape) and come with a short list of related children’s books and websites.

Nature Rocks “Nature turns frowns upside down. Studies indicate that children who play and explore outdoors are less stressed and may further benefit by learning confidence and social skills.’’ To inspire families to go outside, Nature Rocks hosts several tools on its front page. First is an Activity Finder. Enter your child’s age, how much time you have (30 minutes, an hour, all day?), and where you are (backyard, neighborhood) and you’ll be rewarded with a list of possible activities such as Listen for Bird Sounds or Keep a Flower Tally. The second tool finds outdoorsy events near you, searchable by ZIP code.