Turn Any Walk into a Nature Walk
By Peggy Ashbrook
Every walk is an opportunity for children to learn about the natural world. Walking around the block with my child when he was 2 years old could take an hour because there was always something new to explore.
Add your ideas to Peggy's Blog post: Walking with a Toddler Takes So Long Because There's So Much to Learn.
As you explore your neighborhood:
- Be open to the wonder of noticing small details and new growth.
- Leave electronic toys at home so that children can focus on the world around them.
- Bring paper and crayons so children can draw what they see if you bring your cell phone and need to take a call.
- Walk at different times of the day or night to increase your chances of seeing something new.
- Ask, “What’s different about what you see today?” each time you and your child walk outside.
- Model using all five senses. You might say, “I’m seeing the big clouds,” “I’m touching the wet grass,” “I’m hearing the jets of an airplane,” or “I’m smelling the fallen pine tree needles.” It’s not safe to taste many things outdoors, but you can “taste” the air.
- Carry along an inexpensive magnifying glass so children can get up close and personal with nature.
- Make dressing for the weather part of the learning experience by singing songs about the weather as you and your child put on sunscreen, hats, or several layers of clothing. Try “You Are My Sunshine,” “It Ain’t Gonna Rain,” or “The Mitten Song”. Let your child work to figure out how to zip a zipper or put on boots just long enough so she can learn these tasks and not so long that she becomes frustrated.
Observe the weather
- Nature’s Playground: Activities, Crafts, and Games to Encourage Children to Get Outdoors by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield.
- Take a Walk book series by Jane Kirkland includes books for elementary-age children that discuss different environments (beach, city, wetlands) and different things to observe (birds, butterflies clouds).
- Bugs Are Insects by Anne Rockwell. For children kindergarten to second grade.
- Seashells, Crabs, and Sea Stars by Christiane Kump Tibbitts. For children kindergarten to fourth grade.
- Winter Trees by Carole Gerber. For children kindergarten to second grade.
- Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. For children ages 4 and up.
- Nature Close-Up: Seeds and Seedlings by Elaine Pascoe. For children from kindergarten to eighth grade.
- Eric Gyllenhaal’s family shares their knowledge of suburban rocks
- A pre-K teacher offers ideas to integrate nature learning into the curriculum on her website, Thinking BIG, Learning Big.
- Free Songs for Kids offers songs about the weather.
Peggy Ashbrook is the author of Science Is Simple: Over 250 Activities for Preschoolers. She teaches preschool science in Alexandria, Virginia, and leads workshops for early childhood teachers.