Taking your kids for a walk in the forest, the bush, along the beach, your local park or even just around the block is usually enjoyable just as that. But if you want to add a little structured activity to your ramble which can stimulate learning and curiosity, try some of these ideas:
How to grow socks is a brilliant activity which involves finding a pair of wooly, or fuzzy old socks you are willing to sacrifice for the sake of science. After walking through some dense nature in your fuzzy socks, you take them off and check them for seeds. If you see some, wet your sock then put it in a baking dish. You will need to prop this up on one end so that it is on a slope and then fill the low part of the container with water. Place it in a warm spot and check every couple of days for your seeds to sprout.
A Nature Scavenger Hunt is likely to be lots of fun. For little children it really only needs to be as simple as writing up a list of items to be found before setting off on a walk and then helping them work through the list. Perhaps they could collect items in a bag and bring them home or just leave them in the wild. List objects such as a smooth stone, a red leaf, a yellow flower, a seed pod and so on – this will be challenging enough for them to enjoy. The older they are the more complicated you can set the tasks; counting objects, comparing species, finding animal tracks and so on. Even older children might be encouraged to look at humans’ impact on nature, geographical formations and possibilities for land care. You need to know the area you will be walking through beforehand to make this a great success, and you will also probably need to set out some rules such as leaving animals and insects in the natural habitat.
Find out before you leave what species of animals and birds you are likely to find in the area you are walking through and make up a chart with your kids which they can fill in and tick off as they see examples of the wildlife. This might require organising a walk at sunset and spending time quietly observing rather than walking through the bush at great speeds but can be really rewarding.
Another idea is to get kids to plot a map of their ramble, with little kids keeping it simple and free-form, perhaps marking in major points of interest (very big knobbly rock, waterfall etc) while older children could carry along a compass and plot directions either simply or more detailed according to their age and interest.
Getting the kids to take along a camera is also a great idea. Let them snap the things on their scavenger hunt list, or give them a new set of things to photograph thinking about texture (some rough bark) and colour (different shades of green) , movement (creek moving fast compared to creek moving slow) and so on. Perhaps even just let them explore and photograph things that appeal to them most. See Phil’s tips for Introducing your kids to digital photography.
More nature walk ideas:
Maximizing Nature Walks from HGTV
Magic Cabin has a lovely collection of outdoors exploration items such as the Terra Kids Adventure Tools which includes a wrist compass, collecting box and a magnifying glass and prism lens set – all good things to take along with you on your walks.
Hearthsong has a couple of items worth noting too – a Young Naturalist’s Notebook : “Observe and record the birds, butterflies, animals, insects, reptiles, and other creatures that visit; draw a map; preserve the leaves and flowers; find out which way the wind blows; figure out who the tracks belong to; and more.” and an explorer pack for slightly older kids which includes binoculars, an orienteering compass, a signal whistle with thermometer and flashlight.
20 Fun and Easy Things to Do With Your Children in the Outdoors from Nature Net.
Make a mobile or critter from the things found on a nature walk.