Your kids play outside all the time -- but have they ever stopped to smell the flowers, touch the rocks, or listen to the wind? Spend your next sunny day outside on a kid-focused nature walk. Your kids will find hidden treasures they've never noticed before.
Early to midmorning is the best time for an outing. It won't be hot yet, and you're more likely to find animals, birds, and insects scurrying about (in the afternoon, they usually look for shade to keep cool). You may even see fresh animal tracks from the night before. Another benefit? Soil, leaves, and rocks will still be moist from the previous night's dew, leaving richer, brighter colors and patterns you might not see when they're dry.
Dress your children in socks and closed-toe shoes; if it's not too hot, have them wear long pants to help prevent scratches and bug and tick bites. Slather on the sunscreen and make sure the kids have hats.
Create your very own Explorer's Tool Kit to make your nature-walk adventures even more fun. Here's what you'll need:
To help your kids focus, begin with a simple warm-up game, suggests Lizette Castano, executive director of the Children's Nature Institute in Beverly Hills, who helped us design this walk. Have them lie down in the grass and look up at the trees. Ask questions like: How tall do you think the trees are? Who do you think lives in the trees? Explore each of their answers and help them stretch their imaginations.
A nature walk also gives kids a wonderful opportunity to sharpen their senses. Have your child perk up his ears and ask him to mimic what he hears, such as birds calling or the wind blowing.
Let your child sniff the flowers and then compare the different fragrances. Also, rub blades of grass or leaves together to release their scents.
Ask your child to gently touch the rough bark of a tree or a bumpy rock. Encourage him to use his palm, the back of his hand, even his cheek!
Send your kids on a hunt for bugs and worms. Have them use magnifying glasses to search under leaves, flowers, and bushes and on tree trunks. Take photos of what they find. Then, when you get home, use the pictures to identify the different bugs online or at the library.
Plan to stay out for an hour or two, depending on your child's age -- kids usually stop frequently to watch insects and play with what they find, so you're not actually walking the entire time. Stop for a snack and a break halfway through.
Collect a few large leaves and show your child how to make a leaf rubbing. Place a leaf, faceup, on a hard surface, such as a tree stump or a bench. Then put a piece of white paper on top of the leaf and use the full side of a wrapper-free crayon to rub over the leaf.
Grab the crayons and help your kids put their nature walk memories down on paper after your excursion. Whether they illustrate the beautiful wildflowers or the bugs on the ground, their imaginations will be reliving the walk all over again.
Copyright © 2010 Meredith Corporation.