As a mother raising boys on a 300 acre summer camp, I’ve acquired many tricks essential for taking them on enjoyable and educational nature walks. Because a healthy connection with the outdoors is good for one’s physical and mental health, I’d like to share them with you. Whether your family lives in a city and enjoys access to public parks and gardens, or lives in a rural setting like my family does, making time to be outside with your children each day is refreshing for everyone.
1. Let them walk; let them lead. For the simple purpose of supervision, I prefer to have my children walking in front of me instead of behind me. More importantly, letting my children lead the nature walk empowers them, builds confidence, and satisfies their innate curiosity. Many people strap small children into backpacks or strollers while walking on nature trails, but I believe that if children are capable and interested in doing so, they should be permitted to walk. If they are in a stroller, they cannot stop to examine the pine needles, or gently touch lichen growing on a tree. If they are carried in backpacks, they may not notice the beetle crawling over a rotting log, or the stunning orange leaf in the middle of the path.
Allow your child to set the pace; avoid hurrying them along. You will never get this moment back. Neither will they.
2. Start a collection. Bring a pail and invite your child to collect interesting items that have fallen to the ground. We keep our nature collection in a basket on the porch. Magnifying glasses and plastic tweezers are accessible to the boys so that they can examine their items scientifically!
3. Play the color match game. I love this game for its educational purposes and because it keeps the boys happily occupied. They love it because it’s fun. As Colin said, “Playing this game is like hopping inside of a Look & Find book.”
Simply pick up an assortment of free paint samples next time you are at the hardware store, punch holes in them, and then clip them together (I used round clips). As your children walk, ask them to search for their color matches.