Spring is a wonderful time for the kids to get out and learn about nature. Whether your child is already interested in nature or you'd like to encourage an interest in or appreciation for nature, going on nature walks with your child is a good way to achieve your goal. It is also a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some fresh air! You could just go out for a walk and enjoy yourselves, but with a little preparation, you can turn the walk into a learning experience that will nurture your child's abilities and encourage critical thinking and creativity.
What to Take With You
You don't need to take everything listed here with you. You can choose what to take depending on your child's talents or you can go on a walk more than once taking something different each time. If you want to take everything, you can put it all in a canvas bag or small backback.
- Sketch Pad
- Crayons or Colored Pencils
- Magnifying Glass
- Nature Books
You might not have nature books on your first few walks. As your child asks about grass or bugs or flowers, you may want to get some children's reference books that you can keep at home or take with you on future walks.
What to Do When You're Out Walking
- Take Notes
If your child is old enough to take write, encourage him to write down what he sees. This encourages careful observation and practice writing. He can also jot down questions he has that you don't have the answers to. If your child isn't old enough to write, ask him what he sees and write it down for him. Observations can include not just what can be seen. Your child can use his sense of touch and smell too. He can even listen for sounds, which can be different in different seasons. Write down any questions he has as well.
- Draw Pictures
Encouraging your child to draw pictures is a great way to nurture her artistic talent and get her to pay close attention to what she sees.
- Take Pictures
Taking good pictures is an art, and there's no reason not to encourage this art form! Once printed, the pictures can also serve as reminders of what nature looked like on that particular day. Your child can also practice sketching from the photos.
- Ask Questions
Your child will most likely have plenty of questions for you, but if you want to stimulate some critical thinking, you will want to ask your child questions. A good way to think about question asking is to consider "Bloom's Taxonomy." You start by asking basic "knowledge" questions like "What kind of flower is this?" or "What color is this flower?" But then you move to questions that ask your child to make comparisons or draw conclusions. For example, you might ask, "How are trees different from flowers?" "How are trees and flowers alike?" Or you might ask your child to explain how she thinks flowers grow (if she doesn't ask you first). These are the kinds of questions you might not have the answers to and can be written down to explore later.
What to Do When You Come Home
- Explore Answers to Questions
If you or your child wrote down some questions while you were out walking, you can find some time to do a little research to see if you can find the answers. If you can't find the answers at home or on the Internet, you might plan a trip to your local library. Looking up the answers to questions is a good way to nurture your child's curiosity and help him learn good research strategies. It's never too late or too early to learn those!
- Draw Pictures
Although your child may have drawn pictures while you were out, she can also use the photos she took as models for additional pictures to draw. She can copy them as closely as she can or she can use her imagination to change the colors or other items in the pictures.
- Keep a journal
Encourage your child to keep a journal that documents what he has seen and what he thinks about what he has seen. It can be a place to continue exploring his thoughts on what he's seen, to consider more answers to questions, and even to pose new questions that can be explored on the next walk. It can be a place to elaborate on those comparisons and contrasts that were considered on the walk.
- Write a Story
If your child enjoys writing, she might like the opportunity to start writing a story about the walk. It can be about a child out in nature or it can be about invisible fantasy creatures who live among the flowers and trees.
- Make a Scrapbook
Your child can use the pictures she drew or the pictures she took with a camera (or both) and start a scrapbook. If you go to the same places more than once over time (like in early spring to late summer), she'll end up with a wonderful record of the changes that took place -- and more to think about and more to compare and contrast.
These are just some suggestions for things to do on and after a nature walk. If your child enjoys them, that's wonderful, but you don't want to force any activities on your child. Just be sure to have fun!