Whether you're trying to foster an appreciation of nature in your kids or just want to get them up off the couch, there's some great gifts that will entice your youngsters to leave the screens and head outdoors to explore.
These ideas come from several members of Louisiana Master Naturalists.
“Cameras are always a nice gift to encourage people of all ages to take photos of the things they see," said Erin Bryan. "It also helps them to slow down and really look for things and appreciate them more.”
Scavenger hunt kits are a favorite for her two boys, Mason, 9, and Eli, 6, Bryan said, adding that they also like sets for collecting creatures like frogs, minnows and butterflies and kits to make molds of animal tracks.
Art Scarbrough likes gifts for connecting with our feathered friends.
“Bird feeders and birdhouse kits are good gifts," Scarbrough said, "and will get both the kid and the parent involved.”
Butterfly kits, which can include live caterpillars, a habitat, water mister, feeder and more, were a favorite for her kids, said Karen Pinsonat, who added that they also liked ladybug habitat kits.
“Kids seem to love planting seeds and watching them grow," offered Denise Horton. "A pot with soil, flower or vegetable seeds is good. Kids are amazed to learn this is where flowers and veggies come from.”
After returning recently from a hiking trip, Regina Payne suggested a nature notebook for families to collect and press leaves and a hiking backpack and poles for carrying babies or toddlers.
An age-appropriate nature backpack, with basic things, like inexpensive butterfly nets for toddlers or more sophisticated items like field guides, a journal or magnifying glass for the older set are good gifts, said Maryann Hoskins.
Other great gifts ideas with nature in mind include binoculars, field guides, a hand-held GPS, a compass, a minnow net, rubber boots and a nature journal with pens and paints.
Nature books and publications recommended include subscriptions to National Geographic or Ranger Rick, “C.C. Lockwood’s Louisiana Nature Guide” by C.C. Lockwood, “Petit Pierre and the Floaty Marsh” by Johnette Downing and “Louisiana Nature Set: Field Guides to Wildlife, Birds, and Trees and Wildflowers” by James Kavanagh.
A surefire way to get kids to go outside is it to take them on a field trip, said Tara Landry. Spots like the Vermilionville Historic Village, Acadian Village in Lafayette and McGee’s Swamp Tours in Henderson offer guided tours and are great places for families to share an outdoor experience.
Memberships and passes to nature-oriented places like BREC’s Bluebonnet Swamp, BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo, the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum, Knock Knock Children’s Museum, the LSU Hilltop Arboretum and LSU Burden Museum and Gardens, all in Baton Rouge; the Audubon Zoo and Aquarium and the Louisiana Children’s Museum, in New Orleans; and the Lafayette Science Museum and the Children's Museum of Acadiana are all good bets.
While some gift shops at facilities are closed for in-person browsing due to COVID-19, many are able to serve shoppers via telephone or online. Gift sales help support these nonprofit agencies.
Louisiana Master Naturalists of Greater Baton Rouge seeks to advance awareness, understanding and stewardship of the natural environment. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.