I’m so happy to have my friend Elizabeth of A Natural Nester here today sharing a fun nature activity for your kids to enjoy!
“Oooh, there’s a FEATHER! That’s F, right? Ffffeather.” My six-year-old, beginning reader beamed with pleasure over her “F” nature find.
Our hike hadn’t begun as a quest to find nature items that matched with the letters of the alphabet. It started as just a family hike along a trail at a local state park. We were searching for geocaches, and heading toward a canopy walk and 75-foot-tall lookout tower (we thought… that turned out to be a different path). So, we’d been hiking for quite some time, and we’d been sidetracked one-too-many times in search of a cache. My little one, and her little legs, was oh-so-tired. The whining began right as we turned around to head back. I knew she needed a distraction… and quick!
“Let’s play a game,” I suggested. “We’re going to look for items in nature that match the letters of the alphabet.” She was intrigued, excited, and thankfully, fully distracted from her aching feet. We did our ABC nature quest a bit haphazard like, including items we’d already seen along the way and skipping around a bit alphabetically. Also, we simply kept it in our heads, rather than writing it down and keeping close track. But let me tell you, it saved our hike! When we reached the parking area, my daughter was happy and re-energized; ready to take the short trek (on the correct trail) to the lookout tower.
An ABC nature quest is ideal for young hikers. While my six year old needed the engagement to make it through our walk, my 9 year old found it equally fun. And the whole family pitched in to come up with creative finds for the tougher letters. My older daughter suggested quill for Q, and I offered up vernal pool for V when we came upon a large puddle in the woods. This discovery led to a discussion about what vernal pools are, what lives in them, and the purpose they serve in the environment.
We took pictures of many of our finds, at my little one’s request, so she could later draw and write about them in her nature journal. These included A-alligators spotted snoozing in the sun across the R-river; a cool, hollow S-stump covered in M-moss; and some T-tracks left by a raccoon, in the mud. After we returned home, we wrote down what we could recall from our list, and printed out the images we’d taken. My gals (and I) will use these to record the walk in our nature journals.
Go on an ABC Nature Quest
Want to get your kids engaged in nature this spring (and perhaps save yourself from the whines of a little hiker)? Try going on an ABC Nature Quest! While it works on-the-fly, a little advanced planning makes it even more fun.
Here’s what to do:
1. Before you go, use a nature journal, a notebook, or a clipboard and paper to write down each letter of the alphabet. Leave space next to each letter to record in words or simple drawings what you find on your nature quest.
2. Take a walk in any natural environment – a park, the woods, a beach, even around your neighborhood. While you walk, look for things in nature that match each letter of the alphabet.
3. Record your findings next to their matching letters on your list. (You do not have to find the matches in alphabetical order.)
- Work together as a family, or a group, to find items. Make this an exercise in cooperation too!
- Use all of your senses – look, listen, smell, touch, taste (if it’s safe). Look up in the sky, under a rock, out to the horizon. Allow the exercise to help you observe details in nature you may have never noticed before, connecting you to nature and the season in new ways!
- Be creative. Perhaps you can find a Y-shaped stick, or spot a zippy squirrel for Z. Have fun with it. You can even make a letter from natural materials… like an X fashioned of leaves to mark the spot where you gave up on finding an X!
- For a more advanced ABC nature quest, great for older kids, theme your walk for the season. Look for nature items unique to, or characteristic of spring. For example: F-ferns, B-birdsong, P-puddles, W-wind, N-nest, and so on.
Elizabeth Sniegocki is a writer, naturalist, suburban homesteader and mother in Sarasota, Florida. She writes on seasonal and sustainable living, wholesome cooking, community building, conscious parenting and more for various print and online publications. Elizabeth also offers self-paced eCourses and family eGuides to help others create a natural and mindful environment around them, and within. Take a peek into her nest and learn more about her work at A Natural Nester.
For seasonal nature journaling guidance, creative exercises, and inspiration, check out Elizabeth’s self-paced nature journaling eCourse, A Sense of Place – Spring. Designed for adults, the course is also easily adaptable for children and families.