Take the box OUTSIDE!
Below, Katy Bowman—biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA and the brand new book Grow Wild: The Whole-Child, Whole-Family, Nature-Rich Guide To Moving More—shares how to use your PlanetBox to get you and your kids spending more time moving outside.
I take a “stack your life” approach to everything, but especially parenting. It’s how we’ve been able to increase our outside, nature, and movement time by hours each week. (My new book, Grow Wild, shows you how you can do this too!)
One example of stacking is taking an everyday tool—a lunch box!—and using it just a wee bit differently so that it serves up so much more. Here are three ways to level up a lunch box so it can fill kids up with food, movement, and outside time.
Think OUTSIDE: The Nature Tea Box
“One of the simplest foods kids can start gathering is plant-parts for nature tea. Rosehips, dandelions, mint, wild chamomile flowers, spruce tips, rose petals— forest tea, or “Christmas tree tea,” or whatever your kids will name it, is just a bit of nature steeped in hot water. Being able to use my harvest with almost no wait time? What magic is this?” – Grow Wild, p. 177
Humans come hardwired to recognize plants; kids just need to be guided well early on to gain a mastery of what grows around them. A plant walk can be fun on its own, but a “Nature Tea” walk goes the extra step: kids learn which plants are edible, and they get an easy introduction to cooking and eating something outside. In your pack, bring a thermos of hot water, cups, and your box, stocked with a small container of honey, a spoon, and some tea cookies. Then, head outside to your yard, neighborhood, local trail, or park.
Nature tea is a simple recipe: pour hot water over edible plant-parts, steep, strain, and drink. The real work goes into the walking, squatting, bending, reaching, and picking movements. Some common and safe plant-parts include mint, lemon balm, spruce tips, wild chamomile (pineapple weed), and rose petals.
Once you’ve filled your box, walk to find a perfect place to stretch out your legs and set up your tea. Take some time to sense the plants. How do they feel, smell, and taste? Kids can mix and match plants to create their signature blend. Just add hot water and honey to taste.
This can be a fun, regular event as plants change throughout the season. Never consume a plant you’re not able to identify, and if you’re new to plant identification, look for classes in your area or grab a book from the library. Also important is good harvest practices: avoid gathering near roads or high animal-traffic areas, spread out your harvest over a big area (i.e. only take a
petal or two from one rose, and only from a few roses on a bush)—this keeps plants viable, shares the plant with more in the world, and gets you moving farther. You’re welcome.
The Outside: The Outdoor Dinner Box
“There are a ton of ways to set up dynamic kitchen and cooking spaces outside to add some nature to your kitchen (or some kitchen to your nature!). If you have a balcony, you can spread a cloth on the ground and do all your prep outside. If you have a little more room, you can add freestanding a fire pit, a barbecue, or a camp stove. If your region allows, you can set up a ringed cooking fire—or you can travel to a park or other community area where you can flex your outdoor cooking muscles.” – Grow Wild, p.164
Cooking outside is a simple way to increase dynamic, outdoor time by hours each week. Letting kids acquire fire-cooking autonomy not only provides them with essential fire and cooking skills, it’s a fun way to spend time.
First, find a local park or campground that has a fire ring, or source/build a fire pit/use a BBQ in your yard as permitted. Then gather sticks to trim or use pre-fashioned cooking tools. Next, you’ll pack your PlanetBox with an assortment of things that can be roasted over a fire! A pre-packed box lets kids choose what to cook while still guiding their meal. And, it also provides a built-in plate and place to organize.
Hot dogs and s’mores are classic campfire foods, but there are so many nutrient-rich options that fit in your box. Peppers stuffed with cheese can be roasted and wrapped in a tortilla. Gently pre-cooked veggies can be skewered and warmed: sweet or white potatoes, chunks of carrot, cauliflower, kohlrabi. Sausages, chicken, firm tofu (smoked, or pre-marinated), or smorgasbord kabob-style proteins are great. Parboil/pre-cook meats if you’re worried about them not getting cooked through. Pack lettuce leaves to wrap around roasted items to protect little fingers from getting burned. Roast apple slices and pineapple chunks for a bit of sweetness. Biscuit dough can be wrapped around a stick and “baked” over the fire. Fill containers with dipping sauces!
The possibilities are endless (and don’t forget to pack a napkin and invite some friends to join you)!
Think OUTSIDE: The Forager’s Box
“Gathering food is the foundation upon which children have always developed their knowledge and physicality. We think of “hunter-gathering” as an archaic, ancient practice with no relevance to our lives, but actually, kids are still natural gatherers, and gathering is still an easy way to find abundant nutrition. You don’t need to be a wild plant specialist—you can find out which common weeds in your area are edible and start there. Dandelions, miner’s lettuce, and wood sorrel are easily identified, early favorites that grow on lawns all over, and they’re a perfect place for kids to start seeing the edible world around them.” – Grow Wild, p. 174
Wild berry season is just around the corner. One way to get kids happily moving outside is to bring a “forager’s box.” A forager’s box is packed full of snacks that you’ll eat with food you find on a walk. You can forage and eat as you go!
For instance: Get ready to go berry picking. Grab an empty basket for berries, and pack your box with items that will go with your harvest: nut butter on celery (just add a row of berries), a container of plain yogurt (just mash berries in to make your own fruity flavor), a small salad to add to, and a sandwich that would taste good with “jam” you make trailside (yes, more mashed-up berries).
For even more movement, fill a jar partway with heavy cream and take turns shaking it on your hike, and in no time you’ll have whipped cream to go with your berry catch of the day! Just add a “shortcake” biscuit to your box for some quick and dirty dessert.
You’re not limited to berries! In other seasons, a forager’s box could contain tortillas, avocado and hot sauce—gather wild greens to make a dandelion-and-miner’s-lettuce taco!). A forager’s box is a fun way of getting outside, learning about nature, and feeding their bellies...all at the same time!