November 29, 2014

Rustic Stick Stars

The snow is falling and we are making our way 
through Thanksgiving leftovers.  
We had such a wonderful time with family and I hope you did too!


Here is a simple star craft that your child can make to help move into the Christmas season!


You need to find 5 sticks about the same length.  As the snow is covering the ground finally (happy dance), you can break sticks off any one of the many downed trees in the parks.  I suggest sticks a little thicker than a pencil and a little longer. 


Have your child count out five sticks and lay them into a star shape.  You can assist them in securing each corner with a 1/2 length of pipe cleaner.  If you star is wobbly, use other pipe cleaners where the sticks cross. 


Hang them on your tree inside or decorate a tree outside!

November 21, 2014

10 Easy Gifts (Outdoor Version)


If you are not an outdoor adventurer, shopping for one on your list might be intimidating.  Never fear!  Here is a list of 10 items that would be great for adults, children, boys, girls, women and men!  Your recipient could be a skier, hiker, camper or boater and love to unwrap any of these items.  Another great thing is that you can pick these all up at your local outdoor store.  They are useful and fun to receive!

1.  Socks.  Anyone who plays outside on a regular basis loves socks.  I suggest something wicking (not cotton) and with wool.  There are times people want tall socks and sometimes shorter are good, so either one is fine!

On a yurt trip, we had a million water bottles.  We used each one!
2.  Water bottles.  A nice water bottle is always needed.  You can go with a BPA free plastic version or something in stainless steel.  It is nice to have small sizes and a big one, so grab which ever one strikes your fancy.  A couple of companies now make a growler size as well!
Two different head lamps at a night orienteering meet.
3.  Lights.  Flashlights, headlamps or lanterns.  I have a headlamp in every backpack and one in my car.  Children love to have their own headlamp and flashlights.  I suggest a three pack for kiddos and write their name on them.

This is a fleece neck gator, but I love my Buff 1/2 band for covering my ears.
4.  Buff or neck gaiter.  You can get a buff in every color, half sized, fleece lined, camo and everything in between.  No one ever wants a cold neck or sweat in the eyes!  They are also great for kiddos who have trouble sleeping in a light tent (comfy eye cover).
Children love guide books too!

5.  Book.  At your outdoor store, head to the bookshelf.  You don't need to know if they are a biker or boater, adverturers love reading about adventure!  You could buy a guidebook for their hometown or somewhere they would love to travel.  I suggest a track identification book for children as they can easily match up the track to the animal.
On a camping trip, we used stuff sacks to keep each person's clothing and gear separate.

6.  Stuff sacks or packing bags.  These are multipurpose items perfect for camping, backpacking or just everyday to keep yourself organized.  Compression sacks can squeeze down your gear or sleeping bag into a compact little ball.  Stuff sacks or packing cubes can help keep your clean clothes away from your dirties or your first aid kit at the ready!
Carabiners are great for hooking up pups!

7.  Carabiners.  These are not just for climbers!  They are great to hang up a hammock, attach gear together for carrying or for lashing a camera to your life vest.  Grab 4 or 5 and your recipient will thank you!

8.  Silicone glass or stainless steel mug.  I love the new silicone cups hitting the market.  You can squish it into your backpack for a drink at the summit without noticing the weight.  The stainless steel mugs are also nice as they are light and unbreakable (perfect for kiddos).

A survival blanket being used to stay warm at a summit lunch!
9.  Survival Gear.  No one can (or should) say to no to extra survival gear.  Outdoor stores have waterproof matches, survival blankets, whistles and first aid gear.  These make great gifts or stocking stuffers.  Children especially love to have their own safety whistle, compass and blanket. 

10.  Blanket.  I have a small fleece blanket that I stuff into my hiking pack for a comfy lunch spot, toss it into the car for picnics and even bring it fishing so the kids can rest on boat ride upriver.  The fleece can be machine washed, but often the wool blankets need a little more care (though is a bit warmer).  You can also get the fancy type with a waterproof material on the back.


If you need some more suggestions, many of my Outdoor Blogger friends have created their own lists.  There are a bunch offering giveaways as well!

November 11, 2014

Sunset Hill (not sledding)

Sunset Park, November 12, 2013

What a difference a year makes!  Last year we were wading through knee deep snow and this year we had the sand toys out for digging!

Sunset Park, November 11, 2014

November 5, 2014

The Great Mitten Battle of 2014

Climbing rather well without mittens...
 We had a wonderful sunny skedaddle at the Polar Bear Park on Tuesday.   It was decidedly winter though with a chill in the air.  The littlest kiddos were the cutest little bundles.  The older children were another story as one child refused a hat and mine would not leave the car with any type of hand coverings.

 Instead of ending in yet another screaming fit of wills, I am letting him make a choice about his mittens.  I bring options (three types of hand coverings) in case he wants them.  I also tell him that we will be staying for at least 30 minutes.  Thus far, he has lasted with his hands pulled up in his too big coat (thank goodness for that!).  I am hoping that when the weather gets colder he will want something to keep his hands warm!

Flying his father in the cute little airplane
My son's major complaints about mittens and gloves is that they are 'too fat' and 'don't touch his fingers'.  I have tried thin gloves, his old mittens from last year and some with a character he likes.  The only thing that he will accept on his hands when he really needs some warmth are his water proof mittens.

Have you had a battle of wills over mittens?  hats? boots?  Do you have an amazing solution to share with us? (Please!)

October 7, 2014

Geocaching for Families

What is Geocaching?

The recreational activity of hunting for and finding a hidden object by means of GPS coordinates posted on a website (from google).




(Ammo can with treasure and children trying to retrieve a cache from a downed log)


Getting Started

1.  Visit Geocaching.com and watch their amusing and helpful videos.  GeocacheAlaska is also a good resource once you are familiar with the sport.
2.  Dowload the geocaching App.  I use the free App from Geocaching and it works well for us, but you can buy the $9.99 version that apparently has more features.
3.  Get outside and open the app to find the closest caches to your location.  Tap on the one you want to visit and head out. Remember that your GPS has some variability in accuracy.
4.  The app gives you information about the difficulty of finding the cache, the terrain difficulty and the size (micro=film canister to large=ammo can).  It also tells you how close you are to the cache and which direction to go.  (I suggest playing around with it before setting off with the family.)
5.  Locate the box, bottle, rubbermaid, or other container and write your name (most geocachers have clever names, but you can just write your given name!).  Often, there are treasures in the box and it is customary for you to leave something in the box as well.  I carry a bag of glow in the dark bugs and a friend always has necklaces, but you can leave gift cards, foreign money or anything else that you might like to find.
6.  Replace the cache in the same place you found it and hide it again.
7.  On the app, mark that you found that cache and move onto the next one!

 (Ammo can that was clipped to a tree and my son's tromping off after a cache)

Tips

1.  When you are hot on the trail of the cache, look up every now and then.  I have found myself walking into trees or into a thicket where there very well could have been large, mean animals.
2.  Always remember where you came from.  You can get disoriented and forget exactly which direction your car is located!
3.  Caches can be on the ground, hung in a tree, hidden in a log or magnetized to a sign post!
4.  If you simply can't find it, look in the Activity tab on the app.  In the comments section, if there is a long string of "Did not Find", the cache could be missing.  People also might have listed 'hints' that can help in your search.
5.  Bring a pencil as many caches don't have one to sign the logbook.
6.  The caches are everywhere - in the middle of downtown, at the top of mountains and 40 feet under water.  If you are out and about with some time to spare, fire up the app and have fun!

(A reason to be aware of your surroundings -
we literally stumbled upon this bone pile on route to a cache)

Where should I go?

A great place to start is Campbell Creek Science Center - Drive all the way to actual Science Center.  There is a cache at the edge of the parking lot before the trail hidden near the base of a tree. There is another one on the other side of the Building in the trees.

Have fun!  This is a wonderful sport to get you outside and moving!

October 3, 2014

A Natural Playground for Anchorage?

I love the new parks being created in Anchorage. The fireweed climbing structures in Fairview, the amazing tree house at Stephenson Park and the zip lines at Oceanview are wonderful.  However, I see a need for a different sort of playground in Anchorage.  I dream of a playground with a natural feel, more loose parts (logs children can move for example) to encourage creativity and less plastic.

I can think of many parks that need a little TLC and would be ideal settings for a natural playground.  Castle Heights, Tikishla, and Ruth Arcand are the forerunners for location in my mind.  They are near wonderful natural areas, have space and need a bit of refurbishing. 

You can embed slides into hills, use logs for balancing elements and place large rocks for seats. Some elements must be made of plastic or concrete for durability and safety, but care is taken to have them mimic nature as closely as possible.  Much of the equipment is multipurpose and children can use their imaginations making the rock cave a hide out for bad guys, a lion den or a fairy house. 

In my internet searching, I made a little collection of images.  Some are from Canadian companies specializing in natural playgrounds and others are from actual natural playscapes that children enjoy. 

I worry about vandalism, but don't think that should stop a playground from being built!  Do you think a playground like this would work in Anchorage?  Would you take your children to a non-traditional playground like this?












September 23, 2014

Westchester Lagoon


 It was definitely Fall this morning at Skedaddle!  The sun poked through the clouds a few times and was wonderfully warm, but then a little breeze started and brought a little chill. 

I find this a hard season for dressing my children! We typically wear a long sleeved thermal shirt and a fleece.  I then layer on a rain coat or large fleece coat if needed.  I always pack gloves and a hat in the backpack with the snacks.  They don't take up much room and can really help extend an outdoor play session.

Footwear is also hard.  If we have large enough shoes, thinner wool socks in tennis shoes are good or thick socks in rain boots to help them stay on while playing.  I try to keep my sons in rain boots until there is a thick layer of snow as they don't dry out very quickly if they get wet. 

I hope you join us next week for Skedaddle on the East Side at Turpin Park.  There is a LARGE field here making fun for running, flying a kite or soccer.