Monday, November 2, 2015

Opt Outside - Adventure Gear for your Preschool Engineer

REI has announced that their brick and mortar stores will be closed on Black Friday. They are paying their employees to get outside. When I heard REI's announcement I felt happy. Very happy actually. Because I never got into the trend of shopping the Friday after Thanksgiving. Many people have the day off of work enjoying a long weekend to do as they please. My family usually spent that day going to pick out our Christmas tree, cutting it, and then decorating it. But at some point in the last couple decades, the long Thanksgiving Day weekend has turned into a time for a tradition different from family tree time. Now it is all about shopping.

For many people it is a good way to get a jump on shopping for Christmas gifts. I get that. However, since the advent of internet shopping we have less reason to go shop the big box stores than ever. Not only can we save ourselves the trouble of day-after-thanksgiving traffic and hustle of finding the perfect gift on that one day of the year, but we can enjoy limitless selection and access to high-quality gifts.

This is the first post in my effort to join the #OptOutside movement that REI has started. It is a list of toys inspired by their idea. Outfit your little Preschool Engineer with a bag for exploring the great outdoors!

Exploring the outdoors is something you can do in your neighborhood. You don't need to make a big trip to a park or playground. Just step out your front door and open yourself to the sights, smells, and noises around you. In fact, the picture book "Sidewalk Flowers" shows how simple it is to see nature anywhere and everywhere.

Excerpt from "Sidewalk Flowers"

But in the spirit of the holidays I'll suggest that you give a pass to a local national or state park to your child. Without having to worry about paying for admission for every adventure, your child's world will open up.

National Parks Pass. Here is the link to learn about and purchase the American the Beautiful National Park Pass. ($80) Not sure if there is a national park near your Preschool Engineer? Search by state on this page:

State Parks Pass. You will have to do some digging to find your state park. Start here: From there you will have to navigate to your state of interest and hunt around. The passes are often called "Passports." For example, this is what I found for purchase in a handful of states: Michigan, Colorado, and California.

Get your child ready by stocking him or her up with an adventure backpack.

Backpack. My 3 year old and 6 year old each have their own Sprig from REI. It is big on the 3 year old but good enough. The North Face Sprout pack is advertised for smaller adventurers and is the same cost as the Sprig ($35).


Hydration. I like when my kids carry their own water. Even if it is just 16oz. The Sprig has a place for a hydration reservoir if you want to spring another $35. Otherwise, just be sure to toss a water bottle into one of the exterior mesh pouches. But in my experience, those bottles fall out a lot when the toddler or preschooler stoops over to examine something interesting on the ground.

Get Outdoors Music. Check out any of the Jeff and Paige albums to get in the spirit. I think "Get Outdoors" is just the right fit for this post. The album is like listening to a book on tape/musical. Listeners go on an outdoor adventure with Jeff and Paige and learn about bats, birds and bugs along the way.

Magnifying Glass. Try this Magnifying Glass. For seeing small things, larger.

Binoculars. For seeing far-away things, closer. For big kids and small.
Backyard Safari Binoculars

Easy-to-place on your small child's face.

Specimen Jar for Treasures. A cool "bug" jar like this is the perfect thing in which your child can stash a treasure. It has a magnifying glass built into it for easy viewing.

With your preschool engineer ready to go, your last thing to consider is your role. I recommend the grown-up carry:
- plastic bag to put litter in;
- a plastic bag with extra clothes/diapers for your preschool engineer, plus a small ziplock with a few wet wipes (don't take a whole package. That would be so heavy!);
- first aid stuff like bandaids, hand sanitizer, and sunscreen; and,
- your own water (and water for your little one if she isn't expected to carry it herself).

Then toss a few granola bars in and be on your way! Be safe. Have fun!

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