Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wildflowers in Bloom!

This is the perfect time of year to find a large array of Ohio blooming fall wildflowers along trails. Identifying wildflowers help connect a hiker to nature and gives them a sense of belonging. If you're new to wildflower identification, pick up a book or pamphlet such as Wildflowers of Ohio by Robert L. Henn.

Or read about some of the most common ohio fall wildflowers to get your feet wet in flower identification.

Good places to look for wildflowers include open meadows, grassy regions, along streams, creeks and riverbeds as well as marshy or damp areas. Take a minute to slow down your hike and you might be surprised at what you find.

Camping with Toddlers

Camping with toddlers presents its own set of challenges and frustrations, but if careful planning is done it can be a rewarding and memorable experience for everyone. The key to taking toddlers camping is remembering the art of adaptability and slowing down.

We went camping with our young, extremely mobile toddler for 2 nights in the hills of Pennsylvania this past summer. We had a great time and learned some important lessons along the way too. Our next camping trip is scheduled for tomorrow night, so although we had some challenges with the first trip, it hasn't discouraged us from getting out again!

Here are some tips to remember when camping with toddlers for the first time:
  • Short attention spans - Make sure you plan plenty of activity so that you're not just doing the same thing for hours at a time. Toddlers need constant activity change and usually only have an attention span of 15 minutes for every year of age. Choose a camping spot near playgrounds or bring a stroller or bike to keep them busy. A baby carrier is a must for mobile toddlers who might otherwise try to get into fires or mud puddles while the parent is working on camp chores. Don't attempt long hiking trails unless your toddler is accustomed to the time spent in the pack. The limit for our little one seems to be about 1 hour before she gets cranky and wants down for a bit. If you can, let your toddler out of the pack to walk with you rather than riding in the pack the whole time. Sure, you will go slower, but they will love exploring the world around them and it will teach you to slow down and appreciate the little things.
  • Changing body temperatures- Toddlers, like all young children, get hot quickly and cold quickly. Camping does not provide a steady 70 degree environment, so bring lots and lots of clothing for layering. And remember they will get dirty, so bring more than one pair of pants! Make sure and bring appropriate clothing for the weather, and don't dress them entirely in cotton if it will be damp, rainy or cool. A properly dressed toddler is a happy toddler, and the last thing you want on a camping trip is a child complaining or crying over being too hot or too cold. Monitor their body signals and add or remove layers as needed. Don't wait until you are cold or hot to fix their clothing since little ones will likely be very uncomfortable by then. And note that if your toddler is not doing as much physical activity, such as riding in the back of a pack, they won't be hot like you are when hiking, so dress them appropriately.
  • Sleeping considerations- Because of the different temperatures, sounds and lighting, sleeping may be more of a challenge than you planned on. Expect toddlers to stay up later and skip or reduce their nap times while camping. Do try to keep their routine as consistent as possible, but be aware that it probably won't work out that great. Make adjustments as needed. We found out our daughter would not sleep in the tent unless it was dark out. Since we were camping in the summer, it didn't get dark until after 10pm! She ended up napping a bit in the car and not sleeping until much later.
  • The need for munchies- Toddlers are constantly growing and need lots of snacks to keep them fueled throughout the day. This is especially important while camping when they are likely to be exerting more energy than they would at home. Pack plenty of ready-to-eat snacks for munching on throughout the day.
  • Toys and Games- It's a good idea to bring a few favorite toys, but restrain yourself from bringing the entire toybox. Your toddler will likely have so much fun exploring your campsite and the outdoors that they won't be interested in them. However, keep a bag of small toys available for when they need them. Books in particular are essential for our daughter and help her wind down if needed. Plan simple games such as looking together for rocks or sticks and identifying animals together. Get them involved in nature. Preschool books have lots of ideas for structured outside play that can be implemented even for younger toddlers.
  • A safe place- Lastly, plan to bring a blanket, tarp and rain fly for a dry, safe playing area. This is crucial when the campsite might otherwise be wet and muddy or when it is raining. Teach your toddler to stay in the play area while doing essential camp chores. It's also a good place to set up the few toys you brought to keep them busy. Some toddlers might even prefer napping outside in this area instead of inside a tent!

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