Ep. 43 Favorite Winter Nature-Based Therapy Activities
Laura Park Figueroa: Welcome to Therapy in the Great Outdoors, the podcast where we explore the business and practice of nature based pediatric therapy of all kinds. If you're an outdoor loving pediatric practitioner in the fields of occupational, physical, or speech therapy, social work, or mental health, this podcast will help you start and grow a successful nature based practice or program.
I am the ever honest, always 100 percent real, you'll hear it all on this podcast, Dr. Laura Park Figueroa. I'm a pediatric OT with over 20 years of experience and I run a thriving nature based practice with profitable locations in two different states and multi six figures in revenue.
I also host the free online community at therapyinthegreatoutdoors. com to help you pursue your nature based therapy dreams too. Are you ready to take action on those dreams? Let's jump in.
Welcome to therapy in the great outdoors I'm Laura Park Figueroa. And today we are going to be talking all about nature-based therapy activities to do with children outdoors in this season of winter. I'm going to share my two favorite activities at the very end. And before we dive in, this is a listener feature episodes.
So you're going to hear different nature-based therapists' and educators' voices on this episode and hear their favorite activities. And I want to first give you some updates about what I'm doing right now in my businesses. I hope that you are doing similar things in yours. If you are running a nature-based practice, because one thing you need to be doing in the month of December. Is all of your yearly wrap-up.
So looking at all of your metrics, looking at all of your data and then business planning for the next year. So right now in my practice at Outdoor Kids OT, We are really hard at work, trying to find a therapist because we need to hire a part-time therapist by March. I have two different therapists going out on maternity leave next year. So we're going to grow a little bit and hire a part-time person and then fill up caseloads as people come back from maternity. And so I am working hard on that and advertising, getting the message out there that we are hiring. And then also in my private practice, we are working right now on mapping out our entire 2024 year of services and really the services for 2024 to 2025, actually. So right now we are working on the calendars for next school year. And this is an example of how, when you run a practice that is much bigger when you have a large team.
So I have. Five therapists on staff. Now two different locations in two different states and also volunteers for over 14 groups that we're running right now. It is a lot and two admin staff as well. So we have a lot of people that we are managing. It's probably upwards of, gosh, I guess it's probably about 20 volunteers, maybe more than that.
So it's a team of maybe close to 30 people. I should probably know this shouldn't I. But it's hard because some volunteers are at two different groups and we have some paid group assistance and things like that. Yeah, so it's just a lot, it's a large team. And one of the things that you can learn from my experience is that. You really do need to be planning very far ahead when you have a team that big we have to be making decisions in my practice. Very early on in order to get all of the programs built inside of our EMR in order to run registration for camp coming up in February for summer camps.
And then for our school year services, we enroll people in April and may for the fall to start in September for the next school year. So it is a lot going on right now. My team is waiting on me to finalize my approval of all the calendars. I need to do that tomorrow. So that's, what's going on in my private practice.
And then in this business in therapy and the great outdoors, my online business, where I support you as a nature based therapist. I am doing a lot of planning for next year as well. So I have mapped out. And my scribbly scratch my. Yearly calendar. And we're planning to open enrollment for Contigo, which is my nature-based therapy certification and mentoring program three times next year. And I will open enrollment for the business hive, which is my year long business coaching program. For nature-based therapists.
I will open that twice, which is what I've done the last two years as well. The opening for the hive will be in January and July. And the opening for Contigo will be January. April and. September are the three months that we will open enrollment for about a week or so in those. Dates. So if you are interested in any of those programs, you can always reach out to me. So if you have questions about anything I offer, please feel free to reach out to me.
I really, I love to talk to you all. I love to help you make decisions about what's best and where you should fit in to get support for yourself wherever you're at in your nature-based therapy work. And so please reach out to me. You can DM me inside of the therapy in the great outdoors community or on Instagram at Laura Park fig, or you can hit reply to my weekly emails. If you're on my email list, there are a lot of ways to get in touch and I am happy to help you make decisions about which supports are right for you.
Okay. So I'm doing all that planning. I'm getting my calendars in place and it feels really good to have a plan. This is something I'm going to talk about on a future episode, I will be doing a year in review episode, like I've done for years on now to share my numbers and my business. So I always share like my financial numbers, my revenue, what I paid myself. How much payroll was all of that. This year, my practice is set to hit, I think about a little over $330,000 in income.
So I have eight years of experience to share with you about how I got here. That will be an upcoming episode in the future. So a lot of this year end review and business planning for next year is getting me ready to do that. Episode four, you all in a week or two. Okay. I think that's it for the announcements let's get into. The activities.
So I'm going to. Let these play. And then I will make comments in between maybe. And the first one, the first activity is from Jillian Blount in Wasilla, Alaska. I said this on the last episode, because she also shared an activity for , our fall treatment activities episode. And she is a great example of how you can do nature-based therapy in any climate.
People always think that you can't do it in the cold, and it's just not true. There are nature-based therapists Alaska. And she loves it there. So you'll hear her talk about that a little bit in this little clip.
Jillian Blount: Hi, I am Jillian Blount with Wild Free Kids OT in Wasilla, Alaska. We have lots of winter here, despite what many think. Our winters are not as horrible as they've been made to seem. Some of my favorite activities to do in the winter. I love to find a good sledding hill. We get to work on so many skills.
Also, I love snowshoeing. I am trying to work on having a lending library and giving families. equipment that otherwise might be too expensive or give them a chance to try it out before they purchase it. And just did that with a family and it was really great fun. But one of my most favorite activities to do in the winter is put some dye or food coloring with some water into some kind of squirt or squeeze bottle or spray bottle and decorate the snow. It's really fun when it's freshly fallen. And if you can work collaboratively and make a picture or a scavenger hunt for other people, it's really a lot of fun. You can find me at Wild Free Kids OT thanks. Happy winter.
Laura Park Figueroa: I love that Jillian is making winter activities more accessible for her families, that they can try things out, have the equipment and try things out and then see if their family enjoys it before they're investing all this money and getting equipment for something like snowshoeing, which those can sometimes be a little bit expensive.
I got snow shoes at Costco. Actually, they weren't that bad, but. It's just great that you can, it, I love the idea that you could offer different recreational supplies to your families in order to make getting outdoors more accessible for them. The other thing I love is that this favorite activity of hers with the squirt guns or the water bottles with colored water in them, and then drawing on the snow. Is because that is such an open-ended activity that kids could totally get into and take it a million different directions.
There's games, they could make up with it, but it's very, open-ended, that's one of the things in the Contigo approach that I teach in my nature-based therapy approach. Is that these activities that allow kids a lot of freedom and they're novel and interesting to them. But they're open-ended and they allow kids freedom to do what they might want to do with them. . Okay, next up is Megan Higgins, Gramling, and she is from integrative OT in Birmingham, Alabama.
Magan Gramling: Hi, my name is Magan and I am with Integrative OT in Birmingham, Alabama. The Instagram handle or Facebook handle is at Integrative OT. And my favorite nature based activity in the winter with my nature campers is to make fairy houses. We use sticks and rocks and moss and leaves. And all other fun things we find in the woods to build fairy houses.
And my other favorite activity is making s'mores in a campfire. So we learn how to make a fire safety, and then cooking with marshmallows is always a fun sensory experience.
Laura Park Figueroa: Thank you, Megan is, these are super fun ideas. I even was thinking. About fairy houses and thinking if it was snowing, we could build like, Ferry, snow forts. And make little tiny snow forts with a one thing that's really fun to do is get peg people. They're just these wooden little peg people and decorate them with Sharpies or. Or glue fabric on them in some way to make them your own and then build the fairy house or the snow Fort and have the little fairy peg people play in there.
It's really fun. And making s'mores, this is always something that I feel like in some of the work that I've done, a lot of the kids have allergies or have parents have concerns about sugar. I was blown away the other day because one of my employees got. Marshmallows that were made with MCT oil and collagen.
They actually were like healthy marshmallows and we all tasted them. They were pretty good. So I'd encourage you all when you're doing some sort of an activity especially, because a lot of the kids that we work with may have allergies or sensitivities to sugar to really think about ways that you can make treats, but make them a little bit healthier in that way.
Okay. Let's move on the next activity is from Alexis Filippini, who is not a therapist, but she's a nature-based educator. And she runs a program called words in the wild, where they build literacy skills through nature exploration. I actually personally know Alexis, her and I were in a female entrepreneurs group in the bay area when I lived there.
And so I've known her for many years, but it was so fun to hear her voice and have her contribute for this episode. So here's Alexis.
Alexis Filippini: This is Alexis Filippini from Words in the Wild, where we build literacy skills through nature exploration. Here in Oakland, our winter weather is pretty mild, but we do have some fun winter activities. Cycle, C Y C L E, is one of our favorite words to study, so we do a lot with the winter water cycle.
I'll tell you about one set of activities that build orthographic, or spelling, skills and science vocabulary. We're all about movement, so first we dance to the song Water Cycle Boogie. You can find it on Spotify. And then we make water cycle spinners out of two paper plates and a brad. Our word scientists draw and label water cycle science words, like evaporation, on their spinners.
Then they participate in an interactive read aloud. They move the spinner through the different parts of the water cycle as the story moves through those different parts of the water cycle. We really like to move our bodies to show the water cycle too, like the rain coming down or the mist rising up.
You can't really see me moving on this podcast, but you can probably imagine those movements. Find us at wordsinthewild. org or on Instagram at wordsinthewildlab. Happy winter!
Laura Park Figueroa: Thanks Alexis. I love how Alexis really broke down. All of the different things that they do in her sessions with children. And you can really see how she's very skilled at building literacy by, by weaving nature into the process. It's so cool. So Alexis has a variety of free activities available on her website.
So I'm going to put that in the show notes and her website is words in the wild.org. So you can find water cycle bingo and some other games there as well.
All right. Our next winter activity is from Holly Dryden and she is in Pennsylvania. Here's Holly.
Holly Dryden: My name is Holly Dryden. I'm located in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, and one of my favorite winter activities with kids is of course going outside and foraging for natural materials to make ice ornaments with. Even better if you can find things that are edible for birds to put a little hanger in and hang them in the trees.
Laura Park Figueroa: This is such a cute idea. I could totally see using silicone little molds or something with like unique shapes or fun, fun things that the kids could choose. Do you want a star or a heart or different shapes in the silicone molds? And then. Filling them with the natural materials and with ice, and then having some bird seed in there.
Like she said, like putting something in there that the birds could eat and then putting a ribbon in and hanging it up in a tree, it would look so beautiful. So thank you for that idea. Holly, of super fun idea to do.
Okay, now I'm going to share my two favorite activities. And the first one is flashlight tag. So it gets dark really early in winter, particularly here in Wisconsin during daylight savings, it has been. Almost pitch black dark by 4 45 sometimes during our groups and the schools don't get out till later here.
So our groups have to start at 4:00 PM. So we are often fully in the dark, fully using headlamps for the last 45 minutes or so of our session. And you can frame flashlight tag almost in any kind of format that you want. You can, there's so many varieties of it that you can play, but the kids get totally into it.
And the thing I love about it for winter is that. it Naturally incentivizes and motivates kids to run. And during winter, one of the things that we really need to be paying attention to is keeping kids warm. If you live in a cold climate, I'm assuming in some ways that when we talk about winter activities, that like the people who. Live in cold climates are the ones that really need the ideas, because it can be challenging when things are very cold outside to fill all of that time and make sure that kids keep moving in order to stay warm enough.
During our groups, when we play flashlight tag, there's so much running that you get really warm and it's challenging to get kids to, to move that much. So that game has been a huge hit. With our groups here in Madison. So basically the way we play is we pair off. So everybody's cause it is dark out.
So we often have partners and usually we have an adult with a child. The property that we play on right now is a private property and it's not very big. So it's okay. We're not, there's no danger of someone getting lost in the woods, but so we pair off and then we have one group of people like adult and child be it.
And they count while everyone runs and hides in the woods. They, you can have your flashlight off while you're hiding. And then w you can play all kinds of ways. You can make up how you want to play. You can say flashlights on flashlights off, whatever. So you can have your flashing off, we hide.
And then the pair that is, it goes to try to find people, and if their flashlight beam of their headlamp, Shines on you, then you're out essentially. And the goal of the people that are hiding is to get back to the fire circle this little kind of a home base that we have. Without getting tagged by the flashlight.
So that's how we've been playing. There've been some iterations on it where the kids want to do different things, where they want to have their flashlight on while they hide and different. Things, and it lends itself to really letting the kids make some kind of decisions about how you're going to play.
What are the rules going to be? And negotiating and team building and problem solving. There's so much that goes on in this game. So that's a really fun one. So that's one of my favorites. And the second favorite I have is making a fire in the Kelly kettle and making either hot chocolate or mint tea. Again, like I always think about sugar.
I like to make hot chocolate with just. Like cocoa powder, unsweetened cocoa powder. And a little bit of honey or maple syrup. I personally feel that honey and maple syrup are better options for kids, even kids that are sensitive to sweeteners and sugars, because they at least have some vitamins and minerals in them and they come from natural sources.
And also it's another opportunity for the kids to measure things out and make things versus just like dumping a thing, a hot chocolate into a. Into a thing. A cup of water or whatever. So they have to scoop the cocoa. They have to scoop the or put in the honey and maple syrup tastes to see if it tastes good to them. So there's a lot of opportunity there for problem solving as well that you might not have.
If you're just opening a Swiss miss thing of hot chocolate, at least that's what it is here in the U S Swiss. Miss is the big, it's a big. Major hot chocolate manufacturer full of sugar. So we use this Kelly Kettle and it is a kettle that holds water, but it has a little part at the bottom where you make a mini fire. And it actually works really well and is pretty easy to get a fire started.
So you can use your fire, making tools, your Ferro rod, or matches. If you want to just get it going quickly, you can talk with the children about what a fire entails, and then you build that fire. You put the kettle on top and it has a hollow core. It's hard to explain, but. It has a hollow area in the middle where that the heat comes out the middle, like a chimney. But the liquid is all around it in the container.
And then it heats up as the fire goes. So it's really fun. And Super engaging activity for kids to do, especially in the winter, because anything with fire building or warmth is a great activity. Again, to keep kids warm and comfortable. While they're outside playing. So that's my second one.
Fire and tea or cocoa naturally sweetened in the Kelly kettle. So I think that's it for today. I hope you got a lot of different activities to do with kids and your nature based sessions out in winter, and I'm getting ready for my year end review episodes. I'm going to make it outline and be ready. I think I'm going to do it. In about two weeks. So I'm going out of town for a long time during the holidays. So my big kids come into town on the 23rd of December, and I have two kids that are, that don't live with us anymore. They're 21 and 19. And then they come into town on the 23rd of December. And then on the 28th of December, we are going for a two week.
We're calling it the heritage trip to Puerto Rico because we're going to see where my. In-laws grew up. My husband's parents grew up in two different places in Puerto Rico in the mountains, and we're going to see where they grew up and we're going to visit some of my husband's relatives, or we're going to go all over the island.
So we're doing this big two-week trip. We're going to be there during three Kings day, which is this huge celebration. It's epiphany. The 12th day of Christmas, and it's just going to be really exciting and fun. So I am not sure if I will have podcast episodes those two weeks. So there may be a slight break in the podcast over the holidays.
So I am aiming to do weekly episodes though for you all and plan to keep that up in the new year. Okay, I'll see you all soon. Bye.
Thanks for joining me today for therapy in the great outdoors. If you want valuable advice, as you start or grow your nature based pediatric practice, get my free ebook, the nature based practice roadmap. It is a guide to help you focus and avoid costly mistakes. as you start or grow your outdoor work with children. In it, I share the four stages of nature based practice, what you need to focus on and common mistakes to avoid in each stage, plus a checklist of specific action steps for you to take at each stage in the process.
Get it at therapyinthegreatoutdoors. com roadmap. So until next time, get outside, connect, reflect, and enjoy therapy in the great outdoors.