It’s officially Spring: the snow is melting, the birds are chirping, and the days are finally getting longer and warmer. It’s the perfect time to get back into the habit of spending time outdoors with your children.
To help you ease into it, this week’s activity is rather simple, and is one of my favorite activities from when I was young. You’re taking your children on a nature walk!
Begin by printing off the list below. Grab your children, a brightly-colored crayon, a paper lunch bag or something similar, and head out the door. It doesn’t really matter which direction you go or how long you walk, as long as you’re outdoors. There is nature all around us. If you live near a park or a walking path, though, that might be the best spot for this type of activity.
Make sure each child has a bag and then start collecting nature together. If they’re unsure what to look for, pull out your nature treasure hunt list for ideas. If they’re sharing a bag, split up responsibilities, such as marking off the items on the list, or putting things in the bag vs. holding the bag. Try changing things up a few times while you’re out so everyone gets a turn.
It’s fun to collect things – children can’t get enough of it – but it’s good to zoom out and see the big picture, too. Use as many senses as you can to find evidence of Spring: listen for birds and insects; look for budding leaves or flowers and talk about the colors; smell the fresh air and new flowers if you’re lucky enough to find some; touch the grass, dirt, plants and rocks; taste whatever you think is safe. Explore nature together, getting lost in the beauty and wonder of it all, and be ready to answer lots of questions as your little ones explore.
When you’ve found your fill of treasures and your legs have gotten tired, wash up, have a quick snack, and spread out your loot. Spend some time talking about what you found, helping your child learn color, shape and size by putting them in different piles. Ask your child questions about their treasure: ask what each item is, where he found it, what it does, and how you can use it. This discussion time is an important part of your adventure outdoors. They love what they understand, and there is so much for them to learn. Do your best to give your children your undivided attention.
When you’ve answered all their questions and they’re ready for something new, pull out a box to display their treasures safely. My favorite is a clear, segmented, craft box. If you’re crafty, try making a collage or scrapbooking your favorite items to display somewhere in your home.
Congratulations! You’ve begun your outdoor adventure together.
**For older children, change things up a bit by giving them a camera instead of a bag. Have her collect pictures of nature instead of rocks and sticks, reminding her to zoom in as much as possible on the items she finds. She can take photos while you help the younger ones fill their bags. You can make a photo album or collage with the shots, or print a couple and hang them in your child’s room. Every time she looks at the picture, she’ll remember your nature walk together.
**I love reinforcing experiences with books. Here are some of my favorites about nature walks:
- Nature Walk – Douglas Florian (ISBN-13: 978-0688082666; Call #: Florian)
- The Listening Walk – Paul Showers (ISBN: 0690496621; Call #: P Showers)
- In the Forest – Marie Hall Ets (ISBN 0670396877; Call #: P Ets)
- A Walk on a Snowy Night – Judy Delton (ISBN 0060215925; Call # P Delton)
Check out the general area of Call # 508 at your local library to find your own favorites.