From "Busy But Balanced" (St. Martin's Press). Used with permission.

In our busy lives, most of us have little time to connect with the great outdoors. And yet marking nature's predictable rhythm can be a touchstone for our families. During a recent talk I gave, a mother of three, who yearned for her kids to maintain their relationship with nature, approached me. She said: "When my kids were younger I always took them to the playground, on hikes in the woods, outside to play with the dog or to look for animal tracks in the snow. Now there is no time for them to be outdoors unless it's organized. I think they miss that lovely time in nature. I sure do."

Mark March 20, the first day of spring, on your calendar and celebrate the magical shift of seasons--even if you never step outside. Whitney, my twelve-year-old, put forty tiny braids in her sister's hair this year to celebrate spring's arrival. Her experience braiding horses' manes came in handy on her sister's thick head of hair. Elizabeth was thrilled in the morning when she took out the braids and was transformed into a wild-haired spring creature.

The following ideas don't take much time, but by honoring nature's cycles everyday life takes on a richer meaning. Who knows--you may create an annual first day of spring tradition for your family.

12 Ways to Say "Happy Spring!"

  • On your way home from work, pick up some flowers or small flowering plants for each child's bedroom.

  • Let tonight's meal be the first picnic of the season--even if you're dining on a blanket in the living room.

  • Write a spring poem and tuck it under your child's pillow to find at bedtime.

  • Create a list with your child of all the spring treats the earth delivers--robins' eggs, green grass, warmer air, blue skies, purple crocus...

  • Throw open the windows and imagine that the breeze, even a cold one, is blowing out stale energy and old habits that you would like to release. This can be the day to spring-clean your psyche.

  • Get out your favorite mail order catalogs and have each child select a new bathing suit, shorts, or an outrageous beach towel.

  • Create a spring parade around the neighborhood. Give the kids markers and a piece of poster board to make a sign that says, SPRING HAS SPRUNG!

  • Have breakfast for dinner tonight and scramble up some eggs, the universal symbol of rebirth.

  • Create a collage of your family's dream garden using pictures you and your child cut out of magazines and catalogs.

  • Write your own myth. What might Father Winter say to Sister Spring as she knocks upon his heavy wooden door? Does he want to leave yet? How does Sister Spring make her way in?

  • As the sun goes down, light lots of candles, turn up your favorite music, and dance together to celebrate the beginning of spring.

  • Head over to the nearest playground after dinner regardless of your children's ages. Swing into the spring air, even if there is snow on the ground.

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