We have so much beauty here in Iowa and that really shows during the fall months. If you haven't already tried hitting the trail with your family, this is a great time to do it! Mild temps keep everyone happy and the crunchy leaves make for awesome nature sensory play. Here area some of our favorite fall hikes in the Corridor that we enjoy as a family.
Note: The hikes mentioned vary in difficulty and child safety concerns. As always, use your best judgment in choosing hikes that work for your family.
Sandbar along the Cedar River
A popular site for family pictures, Palisades-Kepler combines the beauty of fall foliage with the drama of the cliffs along the Cedar River. Pending river level, the extensive sandbar makes for an excellent space to play in the sand. (****Please note that river currents are dangerous and no one should enter the water.****) The Cool Hollow Trail runs through the park and provides a moderate hiking experience. For more of a challenge, the Cedar Cliff Trail goes along the river and provides amazing views -- sturdy kid hikers will still likely need an adult assist at points on this one and young walkers will need to be up in a carrier.
Entrance to Cedar Cliff Trail
Just down the river from Palisades is the quiet Ennis Preserve. This Linn County Park includes a 1-mile loop trail that takes you through prairie and woods, down to the river's edge and back. The trail has a steep stretch as it approaches the river, where little ones may need to be up in the carrier or hold a hand. Pack a picnic and enjoy a peaceful meal in the grass by the park's entrance.
This Asian Maple is a favorite spot to play on fall hikes
Looking for a little walker and stroller friendly fall hike? The Morgan Creek Arboretum features a crushed stone path that takes you on a loop through trees and prairie with lots of open grass space to romp and play. Side explorations into the creek are available at points, so make sure to wear water proof footwear and messy play clothes.
Sun through the trees on a fall morning at Woodpecker
Woodpecker Trail is a favorite of my kiddos from the time they can toddle down the trail. You can make it a kid-friendly 1 mile hike or loop it together with the connecting Squire Point Trail for more mileage. Woodpecker does come to one beautiful stone outlook point with a bit of a drop, so keep kiddos close as you approach the water.
A great adventure with kid hikers
Across the pond from the outdoor classroom
The Outdoor Classroom at ICNC is the perfect option if you have a little hiker who wants to explore every leaf or stick on the path. Situated around a pond, the outdoor classroom offers the chance to climb, swing, build, and explore. For more distance, you can check out ICNC's great trail network or the nearby Sac & Fox Trail, too.
Exploring with natural materials
Still hiking despite the rain
This stroller-friendly paved path provides the opportunity to combine your fall hike with coffee by heading north along the trail to Capanna Coffee (which will take you through wetlands) or east to a fork and then up across 6 to Hurts Donut Co. Either option can motivate even the most reluctant of riders or walkers. And, the fall colors along the creek are a treat all on their own!
Easy hiking for an early walker
Looking for a quieter yet still stroller-friendly stretch of trail? The Clear Creek Trail, entered from Half Moon has a wide path and a peaceful vibe that feels more akin to a dirt trail.
Siegel, Dan J. and Tina Payne Bryson. The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind. New York: Bantam Books, 2011.
In a nutshell:
The Whole Brain Child offers parenting advice based on neuroscience and a developmental approach to parenting. Instead of expecting children to behave like miniature adults, Siegel and Tina point to the ways in which children's brains are still under construction. Instead of feeling frustrated when our attempts to communicate and handle tricky situations with our children go sideways, the book encourages us to see these moments as opportunities to parent in a manner that ultimately promotes the growth and emotional resiliency we hope our children will one day possess.
I love how practically the authors approach each of their tips. For each situation, they offer case study examples and a cartoon briefly summarizing the strategy they suggest. Additionally, they provide a kid-friendly cartoon breakdown of each idea such that you can work with your child to develop his or her own understanding of how the mind works. And, each chapter ends with a section for parents, which draws attention to the fact that we, as parents, have so much growing to do in how we handle our own emotions and frustrations.
Some quotations of note:
"It's also crucial to keep in mind that no matter how nonsensical and frustrating our child's feelings may seem to us, they are real and important to our child. It's vital that we treat them as such in our response" (24).
"Even though we will want to help build this metaphorical staircase in our child's brain, there are two important reasons to maintain realistic expectations when it comes to integration. The first is developmental: while the downstairs brain is well developed even at birth, the upstairs brain isn't fully mature until a person reaches his mid-twenties" (41).
"Your state of mind can influence your child's state of mind, letting you transform fussiness and irritability into fun, laughter, and connection" (133).
The Whole Brain Child is a parenting text with longevity - helping you understand your toddler to your teenager and even some of your adult relationships, too. If you are looking for a straightforward parenting text grounded in neuroscience that will challenge you to grow alongside your child, The Whole Brain Child is that book.
Want to see a simple tool that helps save my sanity day in and day out? Behold - the snack plate! While this tray I got for under a dollar at a thrift store seems pretty unimpressive, it has become a critical tool in how I hand snack time day in and day out.
As a parent, I approach family eating and meals informed by Ellyn Satter's division of responsibility. In a nutshell, the parent decides the parameters of meals - what is offered at what time and what location. The child retains control of how much he or she eats and which of the offered foods he or she eats.
This model of feeding complements a baby-led solids (often referred to as baby-led weaning or BLW) approach and continues the trust for your child that underlies baby-led solids into their toddler and preschooler years (as well as beyond).
In the moment, the division of responsibility approach to eating takes away any possible power struggles around food. Long view the hope is that it encourages a healthy attitude toward food.
Want to try out a snack plate with a single kiddo or younger toddlers? Mini-muffin tins or ice-cube trays can make the perfect solo snack tray. If you do try out the snack tray, let me know what you think!
Our bodies change in incredible ways as we move through the months of pregnancy and the childbearing year. Wondering how you can nourish your body and find balance amid such rapid change? Today, I'm so pleased to share an interview with Kelli Marie Rice who is a professor of kinesiology at Coe College and an expert in wellness and fitness. Kelli is also a mother of two. She graciously shared with me about moving through pregnancy and postpartum from both her academic and practical experience.
Before we talk about physical movement through pregnancy and postpartum, I'd love it if you'd share a little bit about how your background drives your passion and expertise in this area.
The next chapter in my life took me from Central College in Pella, Iowa, to the University of Iowa and Mercy Hospital in Iowa City. I started pursuing my M.A. in Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity, while also working as an exercise physiologist at Mercy Hospital.
My Master’s thesis was my first significant look into this fused interest of mine: movement, mothering, and gender. It is titled “Chasing the Kids, Does it Count?” It was a qualitative study that quantified ‘chasing the kids’ through the use of continuous monitoring (accelerometry), the Kaiser Physical Activity Survey, & interviews with all 66 participants. The results were compared with national physical activity guidelines to determine whether or not chasing the kids provided enough movement for moms to achieve health outcomes. The findings indicated that for this sample of moms (ages 35+ with kids 5 & under) chasing the kids, while exhausting, was not enough to meet the national guidelines for physical activity; however, women who planned physical activity (with or without their kids) were adequate in meeting these guidelines. I also found it interesting that the perceived ‘most vigorous movement of the day’ almost always involved chasing the kids, while the qualitative data debunked that. In short, chasing the kids is not nearly as vigorous or continuous as it feels, and moms generally aren’t moving enough by simply chasing their kids around; however, by holding space for planned times of movement, moms can absolutely be successful in meeting national physical activity guidelines.
I transitioned to an online Adjunct Instructor position with the University of Dubuque as I moved to San Francisco for the opportunity to launch my wellness consulting firm, which was established for the purpose of working alongside a Bulgarian Atomic Physicist on his latest invention, the TAO WellShell. After TAO launched & took Best of CES in Las Vegas, I moved back to Iowa City, got married & began teaching at Coe College.
I am entering my 4th year in the Coe College kinesiology department, while continuing to teach online in my 7th year with the University of Dubuque (13th year of teaching overall). Outside of teaching, I am living out my passion for uplifting mamas to love themselves. I support and encourage them by moving with them in ways that empower us, whether that is through leading hikes or by teaching a babywearing dance and fun family fitness class at Anytime Fitness in Coralville. Being a mom is hard work, but with a supportive tribe and feel-good movement/strength, we can truly maximize every ounce of our awesome selves.
I love how you point out the importance of support and community as well as movement to a mom's well-being. Your family-oriented classes seem to embody that fusion! How has your knowledge and experience of physical movement and wellness informed your journey into motherhood? And, how has your journey into motherhood shaped informed or shaped the knowledge you bring to your teaching?
My knowledge in these areas began with pregnancy and birth preparation. I planned for our home births much like I would train an athlete. I incorporated feel-good movement (walking, prenatal Kundalini yoga with Gurmukh, dance), squatting while Hypnobirthing for 60-75 minutes every day, and I performed a variety of abdominal exercises to prevent diastasis recti. I also adjusted my diet to support the demands of pregnancy and altered my vitamin supplementation. I journaled through 3 books with each pregnancy: Waiting in Wonder, Sacred Pregnancy, & Love Letters to Baby. Both of my babies were born in a birth tub at home: 8 lb 15 oz Delaney in a 4 hour labor, and 8 lb 7 oz Garrett in a 3.25 hour labor, 22 months later.
Moving on from birth, I incorporated babywearing, breastfeeding, and many other aspects of Attachment Parenting into our lifestyle. I conducted my own secondary research before making decisions about parenting and lifestyle choices, just as I would read a nutrition label or investigate an essential oil in our adult lives. My husband and I did what worked for us, in terms of maintaining balance in our lives, despite what may seem popular, common, or pushed by others. In addition to placenta encapsulation, movement and socialization were key components in my postpartum life. I remind myself that to offer whole lives to our children in a sustainable manner, we must be whole mamas. For me, this means maintaining balance among physical, emotional, social, intellectual, spiritual, environmental, financial, and occupational dimensions of wellness. Many of these areas can overlap! For example, babywearing hiking with friends: physical, social, environmental, and arguably emotional, intellectual and spiritual; plus even financial since it’s a great free activity! I try to incorporate every dimension of wellness into every day, for both myself and our kids.
Pregnancy and especially the postpartum period is both empowering and humbling. Not only does it challenge our bodies and shift our hormones and sleep patterns, but these tiny humans change our hearts in ways only a mama can describe. In addition to compassion and lifting up other mamas, a key way motherhood has altered my views is through the need for slowness. At least a decade ago, I met with author Carl Honore to discuss his book In Praise of Slowness. The greatest single thing I do as a mom that fosters the overall wellness of myself and my kids is embracing a lifestyle of slowness. We admire insects. We touch trees. We catch tadpoles and gently hold baby toads. We go to yoga classes for each of my babies (2 years and 4 months). We read nearly 1200 books before my daughter turned 1. I plan 10 minutes for us to get our shoes on and leave the house, just so we don’t have to rush. I find when I am slow and present, everyone is gentle and happy.
I carry these values into my teaching, both at the gym and in the college courses I teach. I create a relaxed, come-as-you-are environment. Everyone deserves to have their body celebrated. Everyone should we warmly accepted exactly as they are. Everyone benefits from being supported and uplifted by others in whatever way is most comfortable for them. Everyone has a need for multidimensional wellness, balance. I also find the AP principle of connection prevents or solves the vast majority of conflicts and challenges. People love the way it feels to feel connected. As we are practicing this 24/7 with our children, why not extend that same love to the world around us? It’s pretty inspiring!
As far as incorporating physical movement into daily life - beyond "chasing the kids" - do you have any advice for pregnant or postpartum moms?
I do! Many moms feel selfish prioritizing things for themselves, while others find logistics (childcare, breastfeeding) or money to be obstacles that make physical activity particularly challenging. To overcome these obstacles, I encourage mamas to keep it simple, think outside of the box, and choose movement that is enjoyable and feels good.
Keep it simple:
While both are nice, you don’t need a gym membership to be active and you don’t need a personal trainer to see results; walking, body weight exercises, hiking and dancing are great physical activities that are free! Rather than waiting for the perfect plan to emerge, simply choose one way to move each day and listen to your body along the way!
Think outside of the box:
I am a big fan of setting up moms for success. It can be helpful to include our kids in workouts so we aren’t relying on good naps or things that may be out of our control. I love babywearing workouts as a way to accomplish this! In addition to making a workout more likely, babywearing workouts are a sweet way to bond with Baby. Hiking, dancing, walking and even things like squats are great options that can be compatible with babywearing. For mamas with older children, movement can be as simple as putting on music and dancing together! Games, such as tag, soccer or racing to a tree can be fun ways to move as a family. Playing twister or bending our bodies into shapes and letters can be a creative way to stretch alongside our tiny helpers. Moms are some of the most creative people on Earth; we can use these mothering skills to turn essential self-care into magical memories with our tribe.
Choose fun, feel-good movement:
Keep in mind it takes 9 months to gain pregnancy weight; patience and consistency are critical components of pregnancy and postpartum fitness. Between physical body changes, hormonal shifts, changes in sleep patterns, and just figuring out our new role, now is the time to move only in ways that are enjoyable. Incorporating music or moving with friends can help make physical activity more enjoyable, as well! Set your sights on feel-good movement and celebrate your beautiful, strong, amazing self!
Thanks so much to Kelli for sharing her wisdom and experiences here on the Nested Mama blog!
As a parent of three fantastic but oft-waking kiddos, I know how baby sleep can become sticky wicket.
For whatever reason, it seems like everyone from family members to the grocery store checkout person to the old woman walking her dog in the park wants to know if your baby is a "good" baby and if he or she "sleeps through the night." And, if your baby sleeps like, well, a baby, he or she likely needs nighttime parental support for feeds, diapers, and snuggles. You may wonder this is normal (which it is), and you may wonder if you are doing something wrong (you aren't). When it comes to babies and sleep, it isn't a problem unless it's a problem.
That's where Infant Sleep Education comes in - a heart-centered, holistic approach to family sleep that keeps in mind what is developmentally normal for babies while also understanding that balancing life and baby may require some outside support.
If you find yourselves overwhelmed and exhausted, but also feel strongly about parenting your baby or toddler in a responsive manner to promote attachment, this is for you.
Are you an expectant parent? Fantastic! You can get a handle on normal baby sleep as well as strategies for soothing baby and finding balance even before baby arrives by attending an Infant Sleep Education Workshop. This course helps you and your partner get on the same page as far as what baby will need and think through strategies to help you work together as a team, find balance, and rally support as needed.
Are you the parent of a newborn and find yourself wishing you'd learned about sleep ahead of time? A private Sleep Education Workshop with time for Q & A can give you the resources you need to feel confident as you make this leap into parenthood. You may also want to consider day or overnight postpartum doula support to help you maximize rest and healing.
Are you looking for education and support as the parent of a baby who wakes frequently at night? Nested Mama offers private sleep consultations that start with your values and goals to help you fit the sleep piece into the larger puzzle of your busy lives.
Are you the parent of a toddler and ready to make a gentle transition away from night feeds or sharing sleep? Nested Mama offers private sleep consultations that can help you create the plan for a respectful transition. Because your goals and values are the most important in your parenting journey, we'll keep those at the forefront of your Sleep Strategy Package.
Still not sure if Infant Sleep Education is the right fit for your family? Reach out to Nested Mama and schedule your free 15-min chat today.
Johanna received a Ph.D. in English in 2014. Now a postpartum doula and educator of childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant sleep, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.