Several years ago, my husband unexpectedly lost his job. Because his job included room and board, we lost our home too. Feeling hopeless and rather defeated, we packed almost all of our belongings—including our kids’ toys and books—into a storage facility, then set route for my grandparents’ cottage in rural New Hampshire.

Surrounded by decades-old sugar maple trees and crisp woodland air, our spirits lifted. I soon noticed that nature made us feel better, and it was also rich with creative art and building supplies. From sticks and stones to pine cones, my toddler and preschooler enjoyed an abundance of natural materials to play, create, and build with. They didn’t even miss their toys!

Together we made bird feeders, raced bark ...

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