How to recharge your week with a Saturday "play-date"

bellevue botanical gardens, bellevue, Washington. © given PHOTOGRAPHY 2018

bellevue botanical gardens, bellevue, Washington. © given PHOTOGRAPHY 2018

Are you wondering how to change up your week...make it more interesting, even satisfying?

Play.

I know what you are thinking. Who has time to play? Not to mention play at what? But any life coach or psychologist will agree with me, saying that playing can be one of the best antidotes for anything that

weighs you down

. And according to research, adults spend too little time at play. (I'm thinking that on some level you probably already know this.)

But, maybe you don't know that it's fast acting. Especially when it's outside. In two hours or less of play you will start to feel recharged. You'll feel more spontaneous, light-hearted and ready to tackle that big pile of laundry with ease.

So why not burn your to-do list and start your Saturday off with a couple of hours of fun.  

If you need some ideas, here is a mix of my seven favorite, easy to plan "play dates" that you can do with your kids, significant other, friends or solo.

1. Get some flower power.

 Many botanical gardens are open year round with wonderful displays of brightly colored purple, orange and yellow flowers. Some plants have interesting blooms that look more other-worldly than real and thriving winter plants offer wonderful displays against the backdrop of gray skies. A great time to visit is right after freshly fallen snow. It’s a lovely accent, adding depth and layers to the displays, making you feel like your walkin’ in a winter wonderland.

Pileated Woodpecker, © Cary Given/Given Photography 2012

2. Go on a woodpecker hunt. You don’t have to be a birder to look for woodpeckers near your home. Think of it as a treasure hunt. Many types of woodpeckers nest in greenbelts and urban parks near residential areas. The most conspicuous is the large Pileated woodpecker, which gives you many clues for finding. Look for rotting large drilled out rectangular holes in trees and listen for their “wuck” call or loud drumming, as they claim their territory. You can’t miss their bright red head, if you happen to spot one.

Bald Eagle calling, Jasper National Park Canada. Cary Given/Given Photography 20123. Find some watchable wildlife. Look for a wildlife sanctuary near your home. Typically, these places provide valuable feeding grounds to a variety of birds and animals. Easy footpaths, hiking trails, auto tours and observation towers make it easy to see wildlife up-close. If you can’t find a sanctuary near your home, look for lakes, bays and farmer’s fields that harbor large numbers of waterfowl such as geese, ducks or swans for the summer or winter.

4. Build a bird circusIf you have not seen a flock of tiny bushtit birds on a block of suet, you are missing one of the cutest sights ever. They travel in flocks, covering suet in about two seconds, becoming one big pile of feathers. The antics of pine siskins and chickadees are just as entertaining. It’s like watching a 3-ring circus. In less than an hour you can put together your own backyard bird feeders for hours and hours of great entertainment, sure to add fun to any day.  

Volunteer Park Conservatory, © Curt Given/Given Photography 20125. Visit a nature conservatory. These serene greenhouses often house a variety of jungle plants making it a great alternative for a warm and dry walk on a cold, wet day. The lush vegetation is eye candy for the garden lover or anyone else, for that matter. Water features, cobbled paths and benches for reading or meditating add to the charm. 

6. Look for beach critters. Summer isn’t the only time for marine critters on the beach. Low tide happens year-round, and nighttime is a really cool time to look for critters. Check your local tide table for a low tide, grab a flashlight, a marine animal guidebook, and head to the nearest beach. On this nighttime adventure you might see seastars, crabs, sea snails and a variety of other mysterious sea creatures.

7. Visit a year-round farmer’s market. Shop at a local farmer’s market where nature's bounty is only an arm-reach away. There is nothing better than a local market with it’s fabulous colors and smells to engage your senses. No need to think here…just follow your intuition as you browse the stalls filled with fresh natural vegetables, free range eggs and poultry, wild fish, artisan cheeses, honeys, bakery good and orchard fruits. Dinner is sure to be a feast after a stop here. And, remember to bring your own grocery bag to help keep costs down for the vendors.      

What keeps you from getting outside and enjoying nature on the weekends? Do you have any unique or sure-fire nature related activities that get you re-energized?