TGSG Note: It’s not often that I have celebrities stop by The Guru, so I am beyond tickled that Cheecker took time out of his busy schedule to sit down and chat with me. As you can imagine, a spokes-squirrel has a lot on his plate.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I am a huge fan of Cheecker and the work that he does getting children and families outdoors. So enjoy the interview, then listen to the smartest squirrel I know — unplug and go play outdoors! Bethe
1. Why do you think it is so important for children to connect with nature and explore the forests?
I live my whole life outside and I’m a better squirrel because of it. I love climbing trees, running through the brush and playing with my forest friends, and it is really important for children to do the same thing because it gives them a greater appreciation for the environment. Not to mention that it’s healthier for them! Studies show that kids who have more time to explore nature are generally healthier, more imaginative, less stressed and more respectful of themselves and others.
2. Speaking of children, what was your childhood like, Cheecker?
Funny you should ask, Bethe. I have so many great memories of running through the forest with my brothers and sisters as a young squirrel. Things weren’t so much different back then. We still climb trees, hang out in our houses in the trees (we call them nests), gather nuts (acorns are my FAVORITE) and run around together.
In fact, I guess you could say that my childhood wasn’t too much different from a human childhood! I see children running around, climbing rocks and exploring nature with their families in my forest all the time.
3. What tips do you have for parents to help get their kids unplugged and out into the forest?
Today, there are more cool video games and electronic gadgets for kids to play with than ever before, so it’s no wonder kids spend less time outside. The best way for parents to get their kids unplugged is to show them early on how much fun the forest can be.
You don’t have to wait for your batteries to run out to go on a real-life adventure! There are all sorts of awesome and exciting things to explore in the forest, and if parents can show that to their kids when they’re young, children will have a greater desire to discover nature as they grow.
Here are just a few activities parents can do with their kids to get them outside:
- Find a local creek or body of water to let out your fishing line, observe some marine life, or even go for a swim. Water provides a range of activities that will lure your kids away from their electronics and promote activity as a family.
- Read about plants native to your region and try to identify 10 different species on your hike. This is an excellent way to engage your kids and foster a family conversation about nature!
- Camping: This classic outdoor activity proves to be even more exciting when you leave the tent at home. Treat your family to the stars when nighttime falls!
- If your family is less experienced in the outdoors, pack a picnic and just relax in a meadow or field. Sometimes relaxing outside is the best way to unwind together.
- For those weekend wilderness warriors, this is a great occasion to learn how to do something new and create shared memories with your kids! Find a guide to teach you how to fly fish, repel or even rock climb.
4. You have a free hour. What do you do?
I love following animal tracks. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a pretty friendly squirrel. I love hanging out with all my forest neighbors, so I follow tracks to find my friends. What I love most is finding a track I’ve never seen before. It usually means I have a new neighbor!
By now, I know how to identify almost any track – bears, birds, humans – you name it, I’ve seen it. I’m probably the best animal tracker in my forest, but I’ve seen some humans that know tracks almost as well as I do – that’s impressive. There are some kids and their families who visit the forest who have animal tracking down to a science. They even have books to help them identify what they see out in nature. It is really neat!
Need more inspiration to unplug and get outdoors? Check out the great PSA from Cheecker and his friends at Discovertheforest.org.
Want to learn more about Eastern Gray Squirrels? Check out eNature to learn more – and see what other wildlife you can spot near you!
Me & Cheecker will see ya outside!
~ The Grass Stain Guru
Guest Bio: Cheecker is the official spokes-squirrel of the U.S. Forest Service. He is usually found in the forest playing and searching for nibbles and wants to teach everyone how to get outdoors and discover the forest. He shares his knowledge with his loyal Twitter followers at @Cheecker and can also be found on Facebook.