Get Outdoors: Rediscovering Nature With Your Family

Where Can We Go?

These cool digital tools let you find nature near you. Search this website and free app by zip code for nearby hiking trails, as well as kayaking spots, scenic drives, camping areas, and lots more.

Nature Find: Just enter your zip code in this web tool ( or free app for a list of parks, trails, farms, museums, botanical gardens, and more near you. Find places to boat and fish, see which species can be caught there, and learn about state rules and regulations. Find nearby places to canoe, kayak, or paddleboard.

What Is That?

Identify your finds with these awesome apps.

Chirp! Bird Songs USA. Connect the singer -- a robin, for instance -- with the song: "Cheerio, cheerio, cheer-up!" ($2.99, iOS)

TreeBook. Identify trees by their leaves and, in winter, by their twigs. (free, iOS)

LeafSnap. Upload your leaf photo and learn the name of the tree it came from. The current version is limited to the Northeast, but other editions are planned. (free, iOS)

Pocket Universe. Point your phone at the night sky, and this app will identify stars, planets, constellations, and other celestial objects of interest. ($2.99, iOS)

Read All About It

Fire up young explorers with these activity-packed books.

Look Up!: Bird-watching in Your Own Backyard, by Annette LeBlanc Cate (Candlewick Press, $15.99). Cheeky humans and anthropomorphized birds lead the way in this captivating primer.

The Wild Weather Book: Loads of Things to Do Outdoors in Rain, Wind and Snow, by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield (Frances Lincoln Ltd., $14.95). A wealth of creative ideas for finding fun in any kind of weather.

It's A Jungle Out There! 52 Nature Adventures for City Kids, by Jennifer Ward (Roost Books, $14). A year of neighborhood nature discoveries for urban families, organized by season.

Can I Bring That Home?

NWF naturalist David Mizejewski on nature etiquette:

Q. If you go fishing, you can bring home a fish. If you come across a frog or some other small animal on the trail, is it okay to bring it home with you?

A. Fishing is in a class by itself. You often need a license to fish, and what you're allowed to catch is determined by biologists who study wildlife populations. In other situations, you should be guided by the old phrase: Leave only footprints; take only photos. At the same time, naturalists recognize that hunting for bugs or mucking around in a pond to see what lives there, for instance, are really valuable learning experiences, and there's nothing better on a summer night than catching fireflies in a jar and watching them glow. After a couple of hours of observing, though, you should let whatever you catch go, in the same place that you found it.

Q. What about collecting inanimate items?

A. Kids are going to want to collect rocks and twigs, pretty leaves, and so on. And in fact, it's one of the activities we recommend on the NWF website. But there are two important exceptions: birds' nests and feathers. It's illegal to own any piece of a migratory bird (because of a law aimed at stopping poachers). And always keep in mind that nature doesn't exist just for you -- it's something we can all share and experience. So don't do anything that could cause potential damage. Picking wildflowers, for instance, is bad for endangered species and robs other people of the experience of seeing and enjoying them. So don't take that pretty flower; take a pretty picture instead.

FamilyFun/NWF Get Outdoors Contest:

Be Out There- FamilyFun

Do you have a great idea for getting your family out in nature? We want to hear about it! Go to and click on the Get Outdoors tab to submit your idea. Each of nine winning entries will receive a prize package of gear from the National Wildlife Federation and could be featured in a future issue of FamilyFun!

Originally published in the June/July 2013 issue of FamilyFun magazine.

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