Monday thought of the week: special places

A thought:

For special places to work their magic on kids, they need to be able to do some clamber and damage. They need to be free to climb trees, muck about, catch things, and get wet – above all, to leave the trail.

– naturalist and writer Robert Michael Pyle, quoted in “Keeping Childhood Wild: David Sobel on Mother Nature’s Child,” Orion Magazine (July 2012)

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Nature play film screenings with The Intertwine, Feb. 10

From The Intertwine’s latest email newsletter:

Nature play on the big screen. Let your inner child out at the third and final event in the Our Common Ground Film Series next Wednesday, Feb. 10, at the Mission Theater & Pub in Northwest Portland. Screenings of “The Land” and a short version of the film “Play AGAIN” will be introduced by “Play AGAIN” Producer Meg Merrill and followed by a panel discussion about children’s nature play and risk-taking. Panelists will be Beth Hatfield, Harper’s Playground in North Portland; Tom Doherty, Lewis & Clark College professor of eco-psychology; and Phil Wu, former Kaiser Permanente pediatrician and Intertwine Alliance board member. Doors open at 5 p.m.; the event starts at 6. Stick around after the panel discussion for a pint with friends old and new. The event is free and open to the public.

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REVIEW: MyMayu wrist gaiters & Veyo Mittyz

When you have young kids and it snows – or you live a reasonable drive from a snowy mountain – you know you’ll end up taking them out to play. For the little ones, you hope they do their deed before putting on the warm pants and snow pants, the extra socks and the boots. You hope the wind won’t put up too much of a fight as to keep their little cheeks from getting too cold and, as happened to my nine-year-old son last month, from getting frostnip. And you just might end up spending more time putting mittens or gloves back on wet hands than watching them play.


We recently had the opportunity to head up toward Mt. Hood for some snow play. After some recommendations from friends, we chose the White River West Sno-Park and were relieved at finding a parking spot fairly quickly. We were not the only ones who left the city that morning! (There is also a White River East Sno-Park a little further down the highway, but it does not boast a view of the mountain.)


This spot afforded my son some slopes to sled down with a fantastic view of Mt. Hood from a side we are not used to (and thank you to a friend for letting us borrow their sled). For my daughter, white powder was everywhere, and she wasted no time in letting herself fall back on it to produce the requisite snow bird.


We had with us to try out two new products for minimizing cold and wet hands and arms from snow play: MyMayu’s wrist gaiters and Veyo Mittyz. We started my little raccoon off with the wrist gaiters.


Made in North America from 100% waterproof recycled polyester, the wrist gaiters hold a child’s mitten or glove in place and extend up the forearm, cinching at both the wrist and arm opening with toggles. This keeps the wetness – and later shivers – out.


Playing in a hole other kids had excavated, rolling around on the snow, and picking some snow up to toss in the air, Afton’s arms stayed dry.


But it wasn’t long before her mittens became saturated with water and started to sort of droop, losing her fingers. She still played and gave no complaints of uncomfortable-ness. I don’t fault the wrist gaiters for this – the mittens stayed in place. The problem was we used mittens and not waterproof gloves. So I recommend using gloves rather than mittens for optimal play. I like the look of the wrist gaiters: sleek, a nice color that’s not too flashy (they are offered in teal or black), and visually they blend in well with the overall snow play outfit – they look like a natural part of her snow clothes. And it would be difficult for a child to take the wrist gaiters off themselves, which is a plus.


At a point when her mittens were just too wet, we decided to switch out the wrist gaiters for the pair of Veyo Mittyz with a butterfly design, which she enjoyed. (The wrist gaiters can fold up compactly, which was good for shoving them in my jacket pockets while we continue to play.)


These gloves were created for essentially the same purpose as the wrist gaiters: to keep little ones’ hands and arms dry and warm while playing in the snow. They also tighten at the wrist with a pull strap & buckle and cinch at the arm opening with a toggle. Here’s my daughter making a second snow bird:


Mittyz differ in several ways. They cover the whole hand without a separate thumb hole, which we all know getting a toddler’s thumb into a thumb hole on a glove or mitten can be a stressful moment of parenting. They can fit over the sleeves of bulkier winter jackets. And they were very easy to put on.


As she played in the snow, her hands stayed warm and dry – success! However, she seemed a little limited in using her hands to pick up snow or grab other things. The Mittyz look like and for her perhaps feel like animal paws (this is intentional – other designs for Mittyz look like tiger and dragon paws). But the freedom of movement is not as good as with MyMayu’s wrist gaiters (despite the droopy mittens).


But she was comfortable and having fun, and that’s what matters.


MyMayu’s “Summit” wrist gaiters go for $17.95 in 3 sizes (teal or black), while five designs of Veyo Mittyz go for $19.95 for size 12m or $39.95 for 2T-4T.

The boots my daughter is wearing in these photos are also from MyMayu. Here’s a review I did for their boots in March 2015.


Note: I received complimentary pairs of the wrist gaiters and Mittyz in return for an honest review.






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Wednesday photo of the week: monkey boy


Order a Children at Nature Play t-shirt here.

Order a Children at Nature Play sign here.

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Monday thought of the week: the downtime necessary

A thought:

Our kids miss out on the downtime necessary to look for bugs in the backyard, or play with neighborhood kids, to daydream.

– Heather Kuhlken on spending time in nature as a family in “Choose Nature Together: And Know When to Press Pause,” Children & Nature Network (January 20, 2016)

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Wednesday photo of the week: nature play provides balance


Order a Children at Nature Play t-shirt here.

Order a Children at Nature Play sign here.

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Upcoming nature events in Portland

— Please check for any schedule changes or registration requirements —

Hike series with Portland branch of Hike It Baby

Nature classes at Hoyt Arboretum, Summerlake City Park (Tigard), and Mary S. Young Park (West Linn) from Tinkergarten

Hike series with Friends of the Columbia River Gorge

Hike series with Oregon Wild

Winter nature programming from THPRD

Winter nature programming from the Friends of Tryon Creek

Winter nature programming at Jackson Bottom Wetlands (Hillsboro)

Free Skills Series from Rewild Portland (every month)

Bird watching outings with Audubon Society of Portland

Bird walks and Owl prowls with Backyard Bird Shop (p. 5)

January 30 | Classroom Discovery Days: Owls of Oregon | Friends of Tryon Creek

January 30 | Geology of Newell Creek Canyon | Audubon Society of Portland

February 3-6 | Portland Winter Light Festival | OMSI &PGE

February 6 | Raptor Road Trip | Audubon Society of Portland

February 11 | Science Talk: The Beaver of Johnson Creek | Johnson Creek Watershed Council

February 12-15 | Great Backyard Bird Count | Cornell Lab of Ornithology

February 13 | Nature Days in the Park: Bronson Creek Greenway | THPRD

February 20 | Guided Nature Walk, 9:30am | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

February 27 | Classroom Discovery Days: Ethnobotany | Friends of Tryon Creek

February 27 | Ducks and Beavers at Blue Lake Regional Park | Metro

March 6 | Winter Twigs of Mount Talbert | Metro

March 2 | Owl Fest | Friends of Tryon Creek

March 12 | Guided Nature Walk, 9:30am | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

March 12 | Urban Wetlands Exploration (Tualatin Watershed) | The Wetlands Conservancy

March 13 | Nature Days in the Park: Evelyn Schiffler Park | THPRD

March 26 | Classroom Discovery Days: Build a Bird House (supplies included) | Friends of Tryon Creek

April 2-3 | Trillium Festival | Friends of Tryon Creek

April 9 | Guided Nature Walk, 9:30am | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

April 22 | Earth Day 2016 | Earth Day Network

April 22 | Brunch with the Birds | Columbia Slough Watershed Council

April 24 | Nature Days in the Park: Camille Park | THPRD

April 8 | Stayin’ Alive: Winter Survival Shelters for Families at Oxbow | Metro

April 24 | Nature Days in the Park: Camille Park | THPRD

May 7 | Guided Nature Walk, 9:30am | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

May 14 | Nature Days in the Park: Whispering Woods | THPRD

May 26 | Evening Canoe the Slough | Columbia Slough Watershed Council

June 4 | Guided Nature Walk, 9:30am | Tualatin Hills Nature Park

Regular nature outings (check websites for seasonal scheduling):
Nature Days in the Park and Nature Mobile from THPRD’s Natural Resources
Honeybee Hikes at Leach Botanical Garden
Story and Strolls and Guided Nature Walks at Tryon Creek State Park
Ladybug Nature Walks with Portland Parks Environmental Education
Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge
Tadpole Tales with Columbia Slough Watershed Council
Farm Fridays at Zenger Farm
Second Saturdays at the Water Resources Education Center in Vancouver, WA
Guided hikes at Columbia Springs in Vancouver, WA (third Wed. of most months)
Tillamook Tales at the Tillamook Forest Center

Did you know?
– $2 admission at OMSI the first Sunday of every month
– $3 admission at the World Forestry Center the first Thursday of every month
– $4 admission at the Oregon Zoo the second Tuesday of every month
– FREE admission at the Portland Art Museum the first Thursday of every month, 5-8pm
– FREE admission at the Portland Children’s Museum the first Friday of every month, 4-8pm
– FREE admission at the Oregon Historical Society & Museum every day for Multnomah County residents

*My friend Laura posts a monthly listing of kid and family-friendly events of natural, scientific, and cultural interest. February’s list is here.

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Monday thought of the week: the naturalistic experience

A thought:

Whatever advances might be made in electronic technology and however creative the modern zoo or nature center have become, the naturalistic experience continues to be an unrivaled context for maturation and development.

– Stephen R. Kellert, “The Naturalistic Necessity,” in Julie Dunlap and Stephen R. Kellert, eds. Companions in Wonder: Children and Adults Exploring Nature Together (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012), pp. 113-36, on p. 115

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Wednesday photo of the week: woods to ourselves


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BOOK REVIEW: The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh

“A world-famous yet hardly known literary landscape.” That’s how the author of a new book describes her subject – a place many people know of from their childhood (or, parenting or grand-parenting years). It was a place one could first visit in books, and then in Disney animation. That place is the Hundred Acre Wood of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and cartoons. Such as has been done for Charlotte’s Web and the farm that story is situated in, landscape designer Kathyrn Aalto tells the story of how a real forest in England inspired the landscape in which Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends play and explore.

Kathryn Aalto, The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood (Portland, OR: Timber Press, 2015), 308 pp.

Publisher’s description Delve into the home of the world’s most beloved bear! The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh explores the magical landscapes where Pooh, Christopher Robin, and their friends live and play. The Hundred Acre Wood—the setting for Winnie-the-Pooh’s adventures—was inspired by Ashdown Forest, a wildlife haven that spans more than 6,000 acres in southeast England. In the pages of this enchanting book you can visit the ancient black walnut tree on the edge of the forest that became Pooh’s house, go deep into the pine trees to find Poohsticks Bridge, and climb up to the top of the enchanted Galleons Lap, where Pooh says goodbye to Christopher Robin. You will discover how Milne’s childhood connection with nature and his role as a father influenced his famous stories, and how his close collaboration with illustrator E. H. Shepard brought those stories to life. This charming book also serves as a guide to the plants, animals, and places of the remarkable Ashdown Forest, whether you are visiting in person or from the comfort of your favorite armchair. In a delightful narrative, enriched with E. H. Shepard’s original illustrations, hundreds of color photographs, and Milne’s own words, you will rediscover your favorite characters and the magical place they called home.

A relatively recent study showed the children’s picture books are increasingly situating their stories in non-settings, and thus children are not learning through their time with books that spending time in natural environments should be normal. (The last couple of years, however, have seen many, many children’s books focused on kids in nature.) The stories and illustrations in classic Winnie-the-Pooh books brought young readers into a forest and showed them how to explore. And it is to stories such as those by A.A. Milne that we as parents or caregivers today can look in order to inspire new generations to open the front door and get outside. Aalto writes, “With these rising concerns over the nature of childhood itself, Milne’s books offer a reminder about the importance of freedom in nature” (p. 25).

Aalto digs deep into the history of the books, the lives of their author and illustrator, and provides the reader with an armchair visit to Ashdown Forest. The book is beautifully illustrated with drawings from the book and photographs of places, flora, and fauna. If I ever visit England again (I did in 2009 twice for school, having spent a day visiting Charles Darwin’s home in the village of Downe), hopefully with my family, we surely must visit the Hundred Acre Wood and toss sticks off the bridge that inspired the long-beloved outdoor game Poohsticks. Until then, I can find inspiration for getting outside with my kids in our local forests in Portland by flipping through the pages of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh. And I hope you will, too. It makes you wonder whether where the natural places our kids play today – if they do – will inspire some creative endeavour.


NPR: ‘Natural World’: In Which We Make An Expotition To The Hundred Acre Wood

Kathryn Aalto’s Facebook page

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