In Praise of Dirt and Sticks

Have you noticed all the great “summer fun” ideas floating around on blogs? There are some wonderful ideas, but a lot seem to involve quite a bit of time, materials, or preparation from the parent.

I’m not against any of that, but what would happen if we just let our kids play in nature?

Mine seem to think it’s pretty fun.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we need to entertain our kids. Often, some good dirt and a big stick will do. When we visited my sister in Texas (back in the cooler spring), we went a few mornings to the pond near their house. The kids found lots of ”fun activities” to do. Here are the things they came up with, with absolutely no adult interference.

  1. Throwing rocks into the pond.
  2. Throwing sticks into the pond.
  3. Gathering rocks.
  4. Gathering sticks.
  5. Having sword fights with sticks.
  6. Trying to find the frog we heard.
  7. Finding a tiny frog.
  8. Looking at butterflies.
  9. Looking at ducks.
  10. Digging with sticks in the dirt. (Making a river.)






12. Playing in the wildflowers
13. Pretending to be lost in the “Flower Forest” (those tall yellow ones)
14. Running and hiding and jumping out to scare the other kids.








It was a good reminder to me of how much they love being outside, how serene they are when they’re there, and how much learning can take place. We did several Nature Days in the spring, before it got too hot.

In the summer we tend to go outside in the mornings or evenings to beat the heat, or go swimming.

Some Nature activities we’ve done lately (some on cooler days):

-Blue Hole – a natural spring-fed swimming place, like playing in a creek. Awesome.
- Fed ducks at a nearby pond
- Went to a friend of a friend’s farm and fed the chickens, saw goats, and a donkey. This day was a huge hit.
- Went to a normal park in town, but the kids played down in the creek and tried to catch tiny minnows or crayfish.

Other Nature activities we’ve done in the past:
- Driven 45 minutes to a nearby lake with a state park for the day. Ate a snacky lunch and McDonald’s on the way, so I didn’t have to pack too much.
- a local museum is free for kids and has an incredible garden, some cultivated, some more wild. We just pay the adult fee, $8.50.
- gone to a sheep farm, Shepherd’s Cross sheep farm in Claremore (we go spring or fall)
- picked strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.

As I plan out this upcoming school year, I have every other Thursday planned as a Nature/Science day where I’d like to get the kids out of the city, go to a lake or other wild place, and hopefully play, then do a nature journal (we are studying birds this year so I’m hoping to have them make a bird journal).

As you plan your school year, think about where you’d like to take your kids. Are there state parks within an hour’s drive? Mountains? Lakes? Even a duck pond in town can be a nice lunchtime break on a school day. Is there a way to incorportate whatever science you’re studying? A Nature journal is a great way, or looking at field guides to find birds or animals, or making a Tree or Bird Book of whatever they observe!

September and October are perfect weather around here. (If you live in Alaska, now might be the perfect time!)

How do you like to get your kids out in Nature?

For more reading on this, I highly recommend Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder.


4 thoughts on “In Praise of Dirt and Sticks

  1. Just catching up on some blog reading. Where does the time go???

    I enjoyed reading your outdoor posts. Thanks for the tip about Blue Hole. That’s one of those places I have never heard of, but sounds fun. I will make a note of it. We took the kids on a day trip, Route 66 style. We took them to Pops in Arcadia, where they have a selection of 600 types of bubbly sugary wetness. (My daughter was very UNIMPRESSED, as she ONLY drinks water.) But it was a fun trip. We went to the big round barn (free), the Seaba Station and Motorcycle museum (free), and the Chandler Interpretative Center. Your kids may still be a little young, but it was so fun to see the OLD Hwy 66 and the quaint sights and beautiful countryside surrounding it. Did you know that there are still sections of the brick HWY 66 still in existence? Can you believe I didn’t take a camera??

  2. Totally agree! Space to think :-) Space to move. Great exercise! And it seems that exposure to the outdoors and dirt is good for our immunities too. Thanks for the book recommendation. It’s good for mums too. I can get perspective on life and plan better when I have taken the time over the summer holidays. It teaches children that they don’t need the latest gadget, what they need is imagination. It reminds me of the picture book about how a stick can be anything? But I can’t remember the title

    • Is it “Not a Stick?” That’s a very cute book, and “Not a box” is awesome too. That’s a good link on immunity boosting, and very true about the allergies. Before I diagnosed a gluten allergy I was sick ALL the time. Feeling much better now. Anyway, glad you liked the post. It’s finally cooling off enough here in Oklahoma we can get back outside again!