Ah, summer, the much anticipated season! Longer days and warmer weather offer more opportunities to have fun in the sun. There’s just something about being out in nature that is refreshing and rejuvenating to the soul. With summer officially arriving on June 21, get a jump start on all that the season has to offer by celebrating National Great Outdoors month.
CAMPFIRE S’MORES – Traditionally, s’mores are enjoyed over an outdoor campfire. Gather your members to make this different take on the delicious treat. Pour a 16-ounce bag of chocolate chips into a cast iron skillet (or any baking dish will do). Arrange large marshmallows on top, completely covering the chocolate chips. Bake in a 450 degree oven for six to eight minutes. While the chocolate and marshmallows are melting, instruct members to break apart graham crackers and place on a plate. Once the marshmallows are lightly browned, remove from the oven and let stand for about five minutes. Then, serve by placing a few graham crackers on a plate, along with a scoop of the melted chocolate marshmallow combination. Members simply dip their graham crackers into the melted chocolate and marshmallows to enjoy a tasty treat.
WELCOME SUMMER PICNIC – Head outdoors for a Welcome Summer Picnic. Coordinate with your dining team to arrange a picnic lunch for your group. Serve hotdogs, hamburgers, watermelon, lemonade, and other picnic foods. Whether you choose to set up tables outdoors, or keep the theme indoors is up to you, but we encourage you to dine al fresco if your facility has the space. Be sure to play upbeat summery music, such as The Beach Boys, to set the mood.
COFFEE WITH THE BIRDS – Pour your group a cup of coffee, then sit back and relax while observing the birds. Place a few bird feeders and bird baths near your location to attract a variety of birds for your area. Purchase some binoculars so that members can take turns observing the birds. As your group sips coffee, share some interesting facts about the different birds that are native to your area. Does your group know your state’s bird? For best results, try this activity in the morning, when birds are typically the most active. Visit The Spruce for some bird-counting tips.
NATURE WALK BINGO – Use card stock to create nature bingo cards, then take your group on a walk outdoors to play the game. To make the cards, draw a five by six grid. Label the top row with the letters B-I-N-G-O. Then, fill in the rest of the grid with random objects you are most likely to find in the nature surrounding your facility. Some examples include acorn, a pink flower, cardinal, squirrel, rock, mulch, frog, pine cone, etc. Give each member a bingo card and marker before heading outdoors. Then, as members spot different objects, instruct them to mark it on their card. Just like regular bingo, the first member to mark out an entire row, column, or diagonal wins the game.
SCOUTS HONOR – Invite a local Boy Scout group to spend time with your members this month. Many Boy Scouts are eager to assist with outdoor projects, such as planting, weeding, or helping to beautify your gardens. Pair your members with scouts to plan or complete a project, or simply visit with one another. The Scouts can even assist your group with the Nature Walk Bingo activity by escorting members in wheelchairs or assisting members with low vision.
NATURE PRESERVES – Take a trip to your local nature preserve with your group this month. Many nature preserves are free and offer a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. Call in advance to arrange a lecture or special tour for your group. If the nature preserve isn’t accessible for your group, ask the nature preserve to come to you. Many preserves offer special programs that can be brought to senior communities.
VITAMIN D – Encourage members to get their daily doses of vitamin D the natural way by sitting in the sun for a few minutes each day. Plan reminiscence groups or special socials outdoors, where members can safely catch a few rays of sunshine before going back inside. Serve water to promote hydration. Reminisce about summer activities, such as swimming, hiking, camping, or summer vacations. Encourage members to wear sun hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
FRONT PORCH REMINISCENCE – The front porch used to be an extension of one’s home, where you could sit outside after dinner and catch up with your neighbors. Turn your facility’s patio or deck space into the look and feel of a front porch to bring to life this reminiscence activity. Set the stage with patio chairs, a few flower pots, and a “Welcome to the Front Porch” sign. Then, invite members to join you outside after dinner to reminisce about their front porches. Serve iced tea or lemonade. Ask questions like these: What were your neighbors like? Did you ever borrow tools or basic baking ingredients from your neighbors? What did the children do while the parents visited with one another? Did you have a porch swing? When did you use it?
BUBBLES – Bubbles aren’t just for the kids; take your group outside and enjoy the whimsical fun of blowing bubbles. Give each member a small container of bubbles to blow. Rent or buy a bubble blowing machine. Fill a small plastic kids’ swimming pool with bubble solution and dip a hula hoop into it to create massive bubbles.
DO-IT-YOURSELF BIRD BATHS – Give the birds a place to cool off this summer by making bird baths. Purchase a few terra cotta pots and saucers from your local garden store. Choose a size that works best for your garden area. Then, instruct members to work in groups to decorate the pot and saucer using acrylic paint. Members can paint the pots and saucers solid colors, or tap into their creative side and paint designs. Once the paint has dried, spray with a clear coat, such as Krylon or Rust-Oleum. Once the clear coat is dry, place the bird baths outside. Turn the pot upside down, then place the saucer on top of the pot and fill it with water.
NATURE-MADE PERCUSSION STICKS – Bring nature and music together by creating percussion sticks out of tree twigs. Cut short branches from trees using trimmers, or pick up twigs on the ground, enough so that each member can make one percussion stick. Look for “Y” branches, where two smaller twigs jet out from a longer branch to form the letter “Y.” Instruct participants to tie a piece of yarn or string onto one of the upper twigs. Next, string colorful beads and small jingle bells, leaving a little space so that the bells jingle when shaken. Tie the other end of the string on the other end of the upper twig. The string should be a little loose, not taut. Use the percussion sticks during your next music group or drum circle.
GONE FISHIN’ WITH DAD – Don’t forget Dads this month. Combine nature and Father’s Day by planning a fishing outing for the men. Find a park where fishing is permitted near your community and invite family to meet their loved one there. Be sure to obtain fishing permits if needed. Consider having prizes for largest catch, strangest catch, best cast, and most catches. Pack a picnic lunch, or head back to your community for a special Father’s Day luncheon.
GREAT OUTDOORS TRIVIA
- Which colorful insect migrates annually to the northeastern United States and southeast Canada and spends winters in the forested highlands of central Mexico? Monarch butterfly
- Which insect depends the most upon sight, rather than sound, to locate mates? The firefly
- Which season boasts the greatest number of newborn babies in the U.S.? Summer
- Reaching heights of more than 350 feet, these trees can be found in a national park located in California. Sequoia and redwood trees
- Falling on June 21 this year, the summer solstice marks the onset of summer with the longest or shortest day of the year? Longest
- What is the Boy Scout’s highest rank? Eagle Scout
- Which President signed the act creating the National Park Service: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, or Woodrow Wilson? Woodrow Wilson
- Which U.S. park was designated the first national park? Yellowstone National Park
- How many national parks are in the United States: 46, 58, or 62? 58
- Can you name the pesky biting insect whose season reaches its peak as the hot weather of summer arrives? The mosquito
GREAT OUTDOORS THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air…” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The Great Outdoors” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2018 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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