Friday, December 18, 2015

Gifts of Nature: 10 Holiday Nature Gift Ideas

Volunteer Dennis Badke, from FoxWood Raptor and Wildlife Rehabilitation presents a Great Horned Owl at Woodlawn Nature Center. It's costly to provide for animals and keep a nature center running. Donations are always appreciated. Thank you! 

It’s easy to get caught up in a buying frenzy during the holiday season; however, the holidays can intentionally be a good time to connect with nature, togetherness, and goodwill. Nature experiences can be a perfect gift that will continue to build memories long after the presents are unwrapped. Here are a variety of nature related gift ideas we enjoy:
  • Gift of Memberships—Several area attractions offer memberships. We enjoy memberships as they allow us to stop by for a short time or a long stroll. A state park pass, membership to Woodlawn Nature Center or Wellfield Botanical Gardens, or season pass to Ox Bow County Park could be just perfect. Gifting classes, such as nature preschool at Woodlawn Nature Center, is another great idea. Gift certificates for the toboggan run at Pokagon State Park are also fun.

  • Gift of Possibilities—Repurpose a bag with a variety of tools to help explore nature as a possibilities bag. Try a field journal and colored pencils, magnifying glass, bug jar, field guides, first aid kit, and other options. Include a coupon to be redeemed for a hike.
  • Gift of Tools—Invest in good quality tools, such as binoculars, bird call CDs, or woodworking tools. Every time these are used, the recipient will think of you. My parents just gave the older boys in our family a personalized hand crafted leather pouch with traditional fire making supplies. This is a lasting gift, especially as it’s paired with Fire Fridays, having fire making contests in the fire pit on Friday nights.
  • Gift of Bird Watching—Watching birds out the window is a great way to connect with nature. For a couple of winters, I filled up my grandparents’ bird feeders as it was harder for them to get outside in the snow and ice. Giving a bird feeder and feed is another neat option, with many homemade options that are easy for children to make. One year I gave my sister a bird treat of the month club, which is great as long as you keep up with it each month. Find recommendations for children, including good field guides, bird calls, animals, etc., here. 
  • Gift of Time Together Outside—Coupon books can be a good way to spend time together outside. Our family gifted a niece and nephew a “nature club” present one year, taking them on a new nature adventure once a month. It was great quality and exploration time and lots of fun to give all year long. Feel free to join us at Woodlawn Nature Center for our monthly nature club programs for ideas.
  • Gift of Loose Parts—A variety of natural items combined in a collection give many building and imaginative options. At Woodlawn Nature Center, we have a wall of baskets full of slices of tree branches, milkweed pods, sticks, rocks, and more. Children (and adults!) combine these to make birds, structures, habitats, and more! A simple way to get started in loose parts play is play dough kit, with homemade play dough, glass pebbles, stones, buckeyes, pinecones, tree cookies, and sticks. You’ll be amazed at what children can do with open possibilities! Want to learn more? See handouts from a presentation on Loose Parts here. Animal loose parts might include puppets, costumes, games, felt pieces, etc. 
Children at Woodlawn Nature Center use natural and man made loose parts to create a spider
during nature preschool time. 
  • Gift of Snow Play—If we ever get snow this winter, we enjoy having a basket of supplies on the front porch to make snow play easily accessible. We include sand toys for shaping snow, sleds, snowman props, and spray bottles with colored water inside. Going outside in the snow with the child makes it a priceless gift.
  • Gift of Local Handiwork—With the many holiday bazaars, I find beautiful nature inspired handiwork. Knit or felted hats and gloves, wooden carvings, repurposed denim projects, twig Christmas trees, and more are great ways to support local families/organizations and to give creative gifts. One vendor I enjoy is Sew Much Stuff by Kris.
  • The Giving Tree! Donations are accepted at Elkhart Bicycle Shop.
  • Gift of Community Service—We enjoy serving as a family. Now is a perfect time to support our local natural service providers. Give the gift of lasting memories by engaging in a service project or donating to a local group. Our family has really enjoyed natural service projects as a family. Many places have wish lists and donation options online. We chose a few local groups, like Foxwood Wildlife Rehabilitation and Woodlawn Nature Center to spread a little holiday cheer. Some families do a collection at holiday gatherings and donate the money locally. Last year my parents gave each grandchild $5 for Christmas to invest in some type of community project. My children gave their money to help buy a light table at Woodlawn Nature Center. After the kids reported back to the grandparents, they were rewarded with another $5! 
  • Gift of Warmth--Giving cold weather gear makes it more comfortable to be outside in the winter.
    A local group makes scarfs and mittens and ties them on a nearby tree for people passing by. Contact Kris Peterson at 574-238-2065 or for details. We can give the gift of nature by helping others brave the elements. In winter, this may mean donating or gifting hats, gloves, scarves, used coats, and blankets. Cold weather gear can make it more possible for others to experience nature.
In a busy holiday season, bringing our gifts back to nature can be a wonderful time to make memories together outside. The memories and skills learned outside will last long after the wrapping paper has been discarded. Additionally, the recipient will enjoy the lasting benefits of time outside in nature.
Need more ideas? Check out the following at