The spring equinox, or vernal equinox is an astronomical event that occurs when the plane of the Earth’s equator passes through the center of the Sun, and the day and night is roughly the same length across the planet. The official spring equinox occurs on March 20 in the Northern Hemisphere, but it sure feels like spring has sprung early in our neck of the woods this year. That’s alright. After basically having been cheated out of winter and receiving virtually no snow at all, I’m ready to move on to some outdoor spring activities with the kids. They seem ready as well, having rejoiced in the rare opportunity to run around outside in short and t-shirt in February, while their sleds were sadly languishing in the garage. Since we live in the Midwest, there’s still a chance that we’ll get hit with a severe storm and a big snow dump at the end of March, but I’m willing to take my chances. Let’s celebrate the spring equinox with some of these fun outdoor family activities! (P.S. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you may want to check out my tips for celebrating the fall equinox instead.)
Five ways to celebrate the spring equinox with kids
Look for signs of spring
Go for a nature walk and take particular care to look for signs of returning life. Do you see any flowers poking out of the soil? Can you hear any migrating birds? How about buds on the trees? What other signs of spring can you think of? To make it more of a game, download a printable spring scavenger hunt to bring along. If you’re feeling ambitious, you may even want to chronicle your finds on a spring art wall. All you need is some butcher paper, a vertical surface and some art supplies.
Spruce up the backyard
Spring is a good time to spruce up the backyard, and by that I don’t necessarily mean beautifying it, but making it more kid-friendly. To make your backyard as inviting to outdoor play as possible, incorporate features like dirt, water, loose parts, places to hide and challenges, for example logs and stepping stones to balance on. Get your kids involved in the process and see what gets them excited. Learn more about the essentials every backyard should have here. Spring is also a great time to set up a mud kitchen. Find some great mud kitchen inspiration here.
Participate in a citizen science project
Citizen science projects are a way for scientists to collect important data about nature with the help of ordinary citizens. The projects range from counting horseshoe crabs and observing birds’ nests to surveying frog populations and testing water quality. Citizen science projects make for fantastic nature studies for an older child, and can help raise awareness of environmental issues in a hands-on way. To check if there are any citizen science projects available near you, check out this list from National Geographic.
Build a den or tree house
There’s good reason why tree houses and forts have become such classic symbols of childhood – kids simply love to hide in whatever nooks and crannies they can find. (I have yet to meet a child that doesn’t like crawling into the large, empty cardboard boxes on Christmas!) Start by checking out this Pinterest Board to get your inspirational juices flowing. Some of the designs are rather intricate, but many would certainly make for a great DIY project as well. Or opt for the simplest of all tree forts; the kind kids can build themselves just by using fallen branches in the woods.
Do a litter pickup
I know, it’s not the most glamorous of spring activities, but unfortunately it’s a much needed one. Most kids are keen protectors of the Earth and instinctively know that littering is wrong, so convincing them to help usually isn’t hard. In fact, I’ve seen preschoolers hunt for pieces of trash with the same enthusiasm as they would have searching for Easter eggs. Picking up trash together can be a great conversation starter about being respectful of nature and saving Earth’s resources. Plus, a child that has grown up picking up trash is unlikely to become an adult that litters!
I hope you feel just as inspired to get outside with the kids this spring as I do. Now let’s just hope that end-of-winter snow dump doesn’t materialize!