“Hey! I found a dead butterfly!” the sweet little one from my primary co-op class shouted excitedly and everyone ran over to see what he found.
“And I found BONES!” another cried from the opposite direction in the meadow we were exploring during the last spring science class of the year. The kids rushed from the boy and the butterfly, and he joined them after carefully placing his butterfly into his collection container).
These weren’t kids who were used to exploring nature closely. In fact, they had all looked a bit wistfully at the playground we’d walked by to get to the meadow. It was clear that they’d much rather be playing.
Until that first find.
Nature walks can build magical moments as you explore the world with children. And, while you can head outside with nothing more than a good pair of shoes and a water bottle, you can add another layer to your walks with a few simple tips. Consider these ideas…
Five Things To Do On Your Next Nature Walk
1. Document a Tree. Well… it doesn’t have to be a tree, but pick a spot you can visit consistently. Once you pick your spot, take a picture. Print the picture and paste it in your nature journal and record observations and the date the picture was taken. Every week or so, on a regular basis, revisit the spot and take another picture and continue to fill your journal with these pictures, dates, and observations.
2. Name Three. As you go on your walk ask your children to name three of “a something.” Examples of things to name: leaves, things they hear, things they see, trees, birds, insects, things that are green, things that are edible, and so on. Allow your children to ask you or their siblings to name three of something as well.
3. Bring a Sketch Book. The process of sitting down and sketching a scene or object forces kids to pay special attention and observe things they may have missed had they just walked by. Challenge your child to sketch from the vantage point of a bird or a squirrel. Sketch the same object. When you all have finished, compare the drawings to see your different perspectives.
4. Make it a Scavenger Hunt. Before going out on your walk, give your child a list of things to find. The first person to find all or the most items wins! You can make these up on the fly, by writing out a list, or — if you’re an email subscriber — you can download the fun pdf I’ve prepared for you.
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5. Bring a Magnifying Glass. Bring a magnifying glass on your next walk to observe the tiny world living in your backyard. Your kids will be amazed by the things they find under rocks, on the tree bark, and under leaves. Better yet, grab a simple macro lens cip to turn your smart phone into a microscope or one of these cool pocket microscopes. My kids have used theirs for years.
Using these ideas, and coming up with more of your own, it won’t be long until your kids are shouting about the things they find, too. They’ll be passing by the playground equipment in favor of the open fields in no time.
If you need more ideas to get you and your kids started, grab my book — 100 Backyard Activities That Are the Dirtiest, Coolest, Creepy-Crawliest Ever! — on Amazon or wherever books are sold! It’s all about getting up close and personal with the nature you’ll find in your own backyard.