Easy low-prep ideas to get kids out exploring nature on a walk. Ages 2+, 15 min+
Family walks have become a daily occurrence for us recently and we have found some creative ways to explore our natural surroundings. Giving kids a sense of purpose or just something fun helps us get out the door! Some of the ideas listed below require a little preparation while others you can do more on-the-spot. Some of our favorites include:
The Unnatural Hike
Before heading out, secretly gather 10 or so small items that are man-made or unnatural (things like pennies, pens, little plastic toys, etc) and keep them hidden from the children. Find an area where you will go on your walk and place the objects along the path or in an area with boundaries without them seeing where you placed the objects. Then tell the kids that you have placed some unnatural things along the path and it is their job to use their observation skills and count in their head how many unnatural things they think are on the path without sharing yet. If you’re working with younger kids, you may want to give an example such as, “Is this leaf unnatural? No, it’s made in nature so I would NOT count that, but I would count this pen.” Remind the kids not to pick up the items but just to count them in their head and when they think they have found all of them, come back and tell you. Once all the kids have shared, walk together and find and pick-up each unnatural object. Compare who was able to get closest to the actual number of objects! You could play this again with kids taking turns placing the unnatural objects or doing the same thing in a different location.
Groups of 2, Groups of 3
This hike doesn’t require any preparation, just challenge your kids to find anything in nature as they are walking that exists in groups of 2. For example, we found seedlings emerging with two leaves (a dicot), a butterfly with 2 wings, a bug with 2 antennae etc. You can also change the number and have kids look for groups of 3, or 5 and then discuss what you find. What was easier to find and why do you think that? Did you notice any patterns about the things that are in groups of 2, groups of 3? What advantage does that give something in nature?
What would ______ like?
This hike inspires imagination and is especially good for younger children who are learning about empathy. Tell your child to think about either someone or something special such as a stuffed animal or toy. As you walk today, you are going to look for things that their special thing or person would like or could use. This makes the child look for different things on your walk that they might not notice. My daughter loves her stuffed cat named Tasha and as we walked she found flowers that were orange, grass that was long and a really pretty rock with sparkles in it that Tasha would love! Ask your child, why would _______ like that? What could they use it for?
Letters and Shapes
As we walked down a dirt path recently, my daughter shouted out, “There’s a Y!” and indeed the path split off and looked just like the letter “Y.” This started our game of looking for other letters and shapes as we walked. We found the letter “L” on a branch, a circle on the end of a fence post, and rocks that had a triangle shape. Sometimes I would see something ahead and challenge her to find it while giving some clues like, “I see a letter that is a vowel on the path ahead,” or sometimes we just left it open to see what we could see!