PlayWorthy: Ideas for free fun outside

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Here are some ideas for enjoying (and helping!) nature without traveling very far.

Go for a nature walk

Check out TrailLink.com for a list of places to hike near you. If a paved path is needed for a wheelchair, you can filter the results for path surface.

Look for four-leaf clovers

For those living under a rock, four-leaf clovers are supposed to be lucky. (The first three leaves represent faith, hope, and love, and a fourth leaf is for luck.)

Four-leaf clovers are thought by some to be very rare, but there’s probably one in any good-size clover patch you come across. In our own yard (which admittedly has a lot of clover), we were able to find 10 four-leaf clovers in about 15 minutes. We even found a five-leaf clover — the fifth leaf represents money.

Perhaps it’s the power of positive thinking, but believing that you can find a four-leaf clover makes it much easier to actually do.

Look for life within a hoop

Put a hula hoop on the ground or mark a small area off in some way and have kids identify everything within. You may be surprised at the variety of plants and animals. Here are some resources for identification:

Pick invasive plants

Garlic Mustard and Dames Rockets are two non-native plants that communities are trying to eliminate. If you like, you can join a group pick, though it’s easy to do alone. To find community effort, google “garlic mustard pull” or Dames Rocket pull” and include your location or state in the search term.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard was brought to the United States by European settlers, who used it for cooking. It smells like onions, and deer do not eat it. It spreads easily and crowds out other plants which deer and other wildlife do like to eat.

Light green, it grows about two and half to three feet tall, and has small white flowers with 4 petals. By June the flowers are often gone, leaving behind bare stems which stick straight up. The leaves are heart-shaped with serrated edges,

To pick garlic mustard, pull it slowly so that the roots come out too, or your effort will be in vain. Garlic mustard can spread seeds even after picked, so seal it in plastic bags and put it in a dumpster for garbage. Adding it to yard waste will only encourage it to spread. If you have limited time, start with stragglers instead of large patches. This preventive measure will help keep garlic mustard from spreading.

Dames Rockets

Dames Rockets are beautiful and fragrant, but are considered a noxious weed which causes significant environmental or economic harm. So feel free to pick as much as you want!

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