Resources for Parents and Families

Natural Families Network
Nature Clubs for Families Tool Kit: Do It Yourself! Do It Now! provides inspiration, information, tips and resources for those who are—or who might be—interested in creating a Nature Club for Families.

Nature Clubs for Families

The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs has a new Eco-Smart Parent blog

Kids In Parks
The TRACK Trail program is part of the larger Kids in Parks Initiative sponsored by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation.

TRACK Trail adventures are designed to help kids explore nature through the use of self-guided brochures. TRACK Trail adventures are fun, healthy and free. Within the pages of each brochure a different story unfolds. From Nature’s Relationships to Fern Identification, each adventure will help you connect with your natural world.

NC Zoo Society, @ the Zoo articles

Environmental Action Kit!

Make a difference!! Join the World Forum Foundation by inspiring children to become the next generation of ‘caring environmental stewards.

Screen-Free Week!

Get your kids away from the screen and into nature with this screen-free toolkit!

Parents ! This one’s for you !

Looking for ideas to get the whole family excited about nature?!? You are in luck! The Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs has a new Eco-Smart Parent blog that promotes  events for families and children.  You can view the blog by clicking the link above!

Leave No Child Inside !!

These are amazing, free or low-cost materials that will have you outside in no time! Check it out!

Imagination Playground!

Watch as these kids use creativity and teamwork to build the ultimate playground!

Here are some more video links for Inclusion Playgrounds! Help bring children together by design!

A Book for All Ages

Loretta Lutman has recently published a children’s book   called The Ugly Caterpillar, about one of our native butterflies.  Loretta was the first horticulture volunteer at the NC zoo, and assisted in the development of the Butterfly Garden, where she has ‘worked’ since it’s inception in 1994.  Her passion and curiosity of raising butterflies for study and release earned her the honorary and affectionate title of “The Butterfly Lady.”

The Ugly Caterpillar is the true and complete life cycle of a butterfly, told in story form, with illustrations based on her photographs.  The book uses correct terminology, and tells how butterflies know where to lay their eggs, where to look for the eggs, what this species must eat, and what this tiny caterpillar does to survive the winter.  This book could easily serve as a guide for children, parents and grandparents to find the eggs of this butterfly, then enjoy the magic of watching this ugly caterpillar turn into a beautiful butterfly.

The book is printed in America and is suitable as a ‘read to’ book for ages 1-6, while 7-9 year olds like to read it themselves.  To discover more about this book, visit this website:

Nature Rocks

This practical website resource customizes activities and nature play ideas by age, location, and time availability, an easy to use, helpful resources for families!

National Wildlife Federation

“Be Out There” is a national movement to give back to our children what they don’t even know they’ve lost: a connection to the natural world.  Getting kids back outside is an important societal issue that effects children of all races and socio-economic levels throughout America. National Wildlife Federation (NWF) encourages all Americans to Be Out There. Find out more at

Parents Guide to Nature

A great resource for parents published by Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood. 

“In 20 concise pages you can learn about what makes great nature play, why it is important, and how you can restore it to your children’s daily lives.” Parent’s can download a free copy for personal use.

Outdoor Explorer’s Kit!

Ready to head outdoors!? Take a look at NCCAN!’s suggested exploring kit that you and your children can put together to help you really enjoy the outdoors!

NC Office of Environmental Education

Environmental education is not something that is only taught at nature centers or schools. It is a lifelong learning process that teaches people to think critically about the world around them. What better person to share this with children than parents? Find out where to go with your kids for some great environmental education opportunities, what you can do at home, research that shows the benefits of spending time outdoors, and much more!

American Camp Association:  the CAMP Resource for Families

A comprehensive camp resource for families, “offering expert advice from camp professionals on camp selection, readiness, child and youth development, and issues of importance to families.” The American Camp Association helps you find the right camp for every child.

Children, Nature and You

A website offering the knowledge, tools, motivation, and passion that will enable you to give the children you influence the awe and wonder that only the natural world can inspire.

The Green Hour for Children 

Looking for another idea to involve your children in the outdoors? This one is inexpensive, can be done anytime of year and can involve all of the family. It is called the “Green Hour”, a term trade marked by the National Wildlife Federation, (NWF). What is it? It is taking one hour a day everyday and spending it outdoors, without a radio, or other electronic device.

The “Green Hour” can be one hour of unstructured play in the outdoors. Let the children just explore and enjoy nature on their own. It can be in the backyard, nearby woods or local park. Studies have shown that allowing for time to just explore nature improves imaginations and attention spans.

REI: Passport to Adventure

Show kids how rewarding it can be to spend time in the outdoors. That’s what Passport to Adventure program is all about. Designed for kids aged 5-12, it’s a fun way to connect them to the natural world and start them on a lifetime of outdoor creation and stewardship.

Hooked on Nature

Hooked On Nature provides tools, resources, and workshops to inspire and empower parents, grandparents, educators, and grassroots leaders who wish to nourish joyful, profound, lifelong relationships between children and the natural world.

Teach Them About Trees

As spring approaches, consider the many resources that AMERICAN FORESTS offers to educate children on all the changes that are beginning to happen in nature, and other aspects of trees and forests as well. A Tree For Every Child is the learning guide we offer for educators of children grades 4-6, and includes lesson plans and activities both in and out of the classroom that teach children about forest ecosystems.

Sierra Club Building Bridges to the Outdoors

The goal of the Sierra Club’s Building Bridges to the Outdoors project is to give every child in America an outdoor experience…leave no child inside!

Nature Clubs for Families Tool Kit

Nature Clubs for Families The Tool Kit developed by the Children and Nature Network includes a Quick Start Guide with simple instructions on how to start a local Nature Club for Families.

52 Ways to Love the Earth

52 Ways to Fall in Love with the Earth is a place to share stories and memories about the natural world. These blog posts will spark something that you’d want to share about the ways you love the earth. Share your thoughts, impressions, experiences!

Music for your Family

Founder Jenny Morgan has recorded a CD of professionally produced music, some featuring local youth singers, that will get your family up, excited about nature, and ready to head outside!

The North Carolina Zoo, and kidZone! Open April through November 1 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Building forts, digging in the garden and drawing with chalk are just a few of the activities available daily at kidZone play spaces. Note to parents: Children may get dirty and want to spend lots of time playing! Live animal presentations Thursday through Sunday at 1:30 p.m. This is not an animal exhibit area. Exhibit areas includes Water’s Edge, Animal Programs, Woods, Butterfly Garden, Maze, Artists Cove, Playhouse, Treenasium, Mud Cafe, and a kidsZone closet for make believe- you can be a vet!

Other Ideas!

The Child Friendly Backyard

Safety First

Outdoor Fun Ideas for Kids

Fun for All Seasons

Green Spoken Here

Start a checklist for green living and ways to include the outdoors in your family activities by downloading this pledge.

For additional research, please visit our research page.

Great backyard games created by kids for kids

Find an outdoor activity near you: for the perfect activity nearby using location, age and time available with Nature Rocks

Check out the National Wildlife Federation’s Nature Find, which has over 10,000 nature sites and 50,000 events across the country 
Pick out your next national park visit with the National Park Service locator and plan a trip for a nationwide fee-free day
Look up local trails with  Sierra Club Trails

Stuck in the city? Use one of The North Face's  Planet Explore Urban Nature Guides to find nature in San Francisco, Denver, D.C or New York
Visit one of the 7,180 state parks in the United States with the America's State Parks locator 

Use the locator to find a campsite, day site, boating or horse location near you
Spend some time with the sequoias in California or the oak trees in South Carolina at a U.S. Forest Service National Forest or Grassland
Outdoor Adventure Guide from Active Network provides scores of cool, new, active things to do in the outdoors
Visit one of The Trust for Public Land projects and learn about the restoration and protection of wildlife sites.

Plan your next adventure:                                

Look up tips, trails, events and games and download a kids' adventures journal from REI’s Family Adventure Program

Find family-friendly outdoor activities in any season and learn safety tips with the National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out Therecampaign


Learn how to spend your Green Hour outdoors camping, gardening or crafting with tips from the National Wildlife Federation

Take the National Park Trust's Buddy Bison on a trip then share your adventure and learn about other Buddy Bison travels

Set up a campsite, learn about outdoor photography or turn your garden into a wildlife habitat with National Wildlife Federation activities

Find a Sierra Club Outing near you
Want to camp, hike, bike, run or ski? Planet Explore's outdoor portal can help you get outdoors with resources and events

Combine "screen time with green time" and go on an outdoor geocaching adventure with Ranger Rick's Geocache Trails

Quickly filter through a wide range of bird-themed activity ideas for all ages with National Wildlife Federation's Activity Finder

Join in on an Appalachian Mountain Club hike along the Appalachian Trail 

Turn a vacation into a volunteer opportunity with one of the American Hiking Society volunteer trips

Active Network's new Camping Trip Planner let's you chart a course for adventure with great ideas for campsites along the way

Get the gear you need from National Recreation and Park Association’s supply chain

Build a bee house, a bug aquarium or other nature projects with "How-to" tips from the Izaak Walton League of America

Find a birding festival, Earth Day celebration or open house with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calendar of events

Check to see if your state offers a Free Fishing Day to celebrate National Boating and Fishing Week in June