Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The 2010 Holiday Gift Guide for Nature Explorers

Yosemite National Park, November, 2010
Last year’s gift list was such a hit that I thought I’d share it again this year, with a few revisions and upgrades, of course. Version 2010 features ideas for both little and big kids (playful parents, that is).

For what it’s worth, I think we as a society spend way too much effort on attaining things and way too little on sharing experiences. I hope these gift ideas will inspire you to get outdoors and spend time connecting with the people you love.

1. A shared family nature adventure
This one tops the list because I think it’s the most important gift we can give: our time. Spend a few hours with your family on a hike or at the beach, take a day trip to your local mountains or plan an entire weekend in nature. Even better? Make it a habit.
2. Hiking must-haves

The big explorer’s favorite tool hands-down is my dad’s old Boy Scout compass. (I’m ashamed to admit we have yet to show him how to use it, though he doesn’t seem to mind.) This is an invaluable tool on the trail, as is a whistle – provided your kids can manage restraint.

We also don’t venture too far without our water bottles. BPA-free kid-sized versions of adult favorites like Nalgene, Camelbak and SIGG are quality options. One of these years I’d like to make my own trail mix as a gift, too.

3. Beach in a bag
An all-in-one ready-to-go beach bag helps deter the anguish of prepping for a trek to the beach. Sand toys, a picnic blanket, flip-flops, hats and a camp chair are a must. Fellow Nature Rocks Ambassador  Michele wrote a great post on what to bring to the beach that’s worth a read.

4. Bug explorer kit
A kid-friendly magnifier and bug container are must haves for bug lovers.

We’ve also added an insect/butterfly net to our mix, which is great for capturing flying critters. Live insect kits that allow kids to raise ladybugs, ants and caterpillars are priceless in my book (and fairly inexpensive, too).

5. Rock collection
What little kid doesn’t love rocks? Starting a rock collection with kids just became easier thanks to Trailmix.Net’s Rock of the Month Club. It’ll help make learning about rocks fun for you and your kiddos alike, I promise!

6. Field gear
We are now the proud owners of multiple field guides (for trees, shore life, wildflowers and more) including my favorite, Peterson’s Guide to North American Birds. The best part is that the big explorer loves using them to help us identify our discoveries in the field. Our field gear also includes a pair of binoculars, a digital camera, and a nature journal with a favorite pen or pencil at the ready.

If you’ll be sharing these items with your kids, make sure their comfort and skill level is taken into account. Binoculars and digital cameras are big-ticket items, so do your homework before you purchase. And check out a few field guides from the library before choosing the right one for you.

7. Gardening essentials
Planting a garden is one of the simplest ways to connect kids with nature. All it takes are a few seeds and some soil. Choose seeds that are fast to grow or produce yummy foods so kids get excited about the process. Kid-friendly gardening tools and watering cans can also help inspire future gardeners.

8. Flashy fun
Exploring nature at night is a real treat in our house. We break out the flashlights and headlamps to encourage the explorers to brave the darkness. The promise of s’mores over a portable campfire pit sweetens the deal.

9. Cool weather clothing
Keeping kids (and adults, for that matter) warm and comfortable is key to continued outdoor fun as the temperatures drop. Invest in the pieces most appropriate to your climate (in SoCal that means quality rain coats and rain boots, for example).

Borrow or buy lower-cost items if you’re only traveling to the snow once a season.

10. Nature books, magazines & DVDs
Our list of favorite books about nature keeps growing and growing. We’re also big fans of the National Wildlife Federation’s children’s magazines. And this year has seen the big explorer’s interest in nature shows grow immensely. His faves include Blue Planet: Seas of Life and Gus Outdoors (which features 7-year-old host Gus exploring nature).

Other Helpful Resources 
  •, which has recently become my go-to spot for kid-inspired outdoor adventure gear, is a great place to shop for everything from snow gloves to bug kits. It's a great place to browse.
I hope you'll add your favorite gift ideas for exploring nature in the comments below.


  1. Lots of great ideas! We don't have a beach bag, but we keep a hot spring bag. That way we can go at a moment's notice and get our soak on!

    We'll have to try exploring at night in the house. Sounds fun!

  2. @Mel: A hot springs bag? Ah, life in Montana! :o)


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