“The Gift of Green Time” Reconnects Families With Nature

by | Jul 2023

Shot of a young couple hiking with their dog out in nature

Photo: iStock/pixdeluxe

Guide highlights ways to help families discover the magic of the Lake Minnetonka area.

Looking for a way to become closer with your family and the environment? A Minnetonka author has some great suggestions on how to achieve just that. The Gift of Green Time™: 50 Ways for Families to Disconnect (and Reconnect) Outdoors (Lake Minnetonka edition) by Beverly Gillen highlights ways to help families get outdoors and discover the magic of Lake Minnetonka and surrounding areas.

“Life is so busy … without intentional effort, it’s easy for families to be consumed with work and school and all kinds of activities and not really spending much quality time together,” says Gillen, a licensed parent educator.

The book, which covers all four seasons, includes fun facts, suggestions for other reads related to the highlighted activities and more than 170 ideas on how to carry out different suggestions listed in the book. The activities aren’t geared toward a specific generation but instead aim to include everyone looking to spend time outdoors. “I tried to be really intentional about the audience,” Gillen says. “It features grandparents, pet parents, people with babies … all different age groups.”

Author Beverly Gillen

Photo: Beverly Gillen

Gillen says she has done many of the activities featured in the book with her family. “I’ve always been told to write what you know,” she says. “I started by brainstorming … and we’d take very fun field trips.” On those local excursions, Gillen says she discovered new places, including Carlson’s Loveable Llamas in Waconia. “It was fun to find and experience new places,” she says. “Literally, every week for a year before the book came out, we would drive around taking pictures … It was a labor of love and family experience to put this together.” Gillen also collaborated with local photographers to help bring the experiences to life. “It was so much fun meeting with different people,” she says.

As a parent educator and environmental advocate, Gillen says she’s not anti-technology but frequently notices people with their noses in their devices, missing what’s going on around them. She’s hopeful the book will inspire readers to get outdoors and take a break from technology. “We’re privileged to live in this beautiful area,” she says. “It’s a joy to experience it.” In addition, she suggests using the book as a family memory album. “Write in it, and put the date of when you did the activities,” she says. “You can also write fun memories or quotes from the experience … look back on it, and share those memories of being together with your family.”

Gillen says she’s hopeful that when people read the book, they use her advice to carve out time in their busy schedules to enjoy nature. “Each day we have on Earth is precious, and we don’t know how much time we have together, so make the most of it,” she says. “Enjoy simply being together and making memories outdoors—it’s the gift of green time.”

Shot of a father and son enjoying a day outdoors on a paddle board.


How to use The Gift of Green Time™
  • Document family memories by writing comments and dates in the margins.
  • Let the kids take turns choosing one activity for the whole family.
  • Close your eyes, and pick an activity at random.
  • Use the Field Notes page to sketch something you saw on your adventure.
  • Share a photo of your adventure on social media, using #giftofgreentime.
  • Plan out a bucket list of 12 activities to try over the next year.
  • Do the book’s challenge by completing all 50 activities in one year.

Learn more about Gillen, and order her books at bevgillen.com.


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