Spring has finally sprung! And as frosty nights make way for warmer days, you may be getting the itch to ditch the winter gear and bask in the sunshine. This is such an awesome time of year to get out and explore nature — especially with kids. But as with anything parenting-related, it will go so much better if you're prepared.

Here's what you need to know to have a successful outdoor exploration with your kids.

Start small. If your kids are new to outdoor exploration, don't try to force a long hike. Start with a small day hike or even just splashing around at a nearby pond. Give them a chance to get used to the joys of being outdoors before you take them to your favorite secluded (and faraway) location.

Know their strengths (and weaknesses). Plan the venture around things your kids already enjoy doing. If they like gadgets, bring along the digital camera and let them snap pics of their favorite nature finds. For kids who love arts and crafts, bring some drawing supplies and let them sketch away, or create nature sculptures using pine cones, sticks, branches, rocks, and whatever else you find along the way. And keep in mind the things your kids don't like, too. If they're bothered by bugs or averse to hiking, plan accordingly (bring bug spray and keep the outing short) to maximize the fun.

Be prepared. Minimize any challenges or obstacles that may pop up by bringing along some extra snacks, water, dry socks, sunscreen, bug repellent, sweatshirts, and toilet paper. (Hey, you never know!)

Get help. If you're an ecologist or experienced naturalist, you're good to go. But the rest of us may need a little help when it comes to identifying all of the plants, birds and moss specimens that your kids are sure to ask about on your outing. Grab a few pocket guides or field guides or join up with other neighborhood families to pool your knowledge and make the outing more fun and social for all of you.  

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