As Simple as That: Take a Walk and Explore Nature with Your Senses

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The following is by Kara Fleck, editor of Simple Kids.  This post originally appeared July 14, 2010.

I want to invite you today to involve your senses on your next nature walk.  We are, of course, always experiencing the world with our senses but taking the time to be mindful of what we are seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling brings the process to the forefront and makes it meaningful.

An intentional period of observation helps us to connect to our natural world. That connection is important for both kids and adults.

Here are some simple prompts and questions to help you and your child to focus on experiencing nature with your senses on your next walk.

Sight

I want to encourage you to take the time to really look at the world around you.  Walk slowly.  Your purpose is  the journey and not a destination.

Some questions to ask your child:

  • What does the sky look like today?
  • What does the ground look like?
  • What animals can we see?
  • Any there any insects?  Birds?
  • What do the trees look like?
  • What colors do you see?
  • Have there been any changes since yesterday/your last walk?

Look carefully!  While you are observing animals, some animals might be observing YOU!

If you can’t find any animals, keep your eyes open for signs that they have been there.  Look for spider webs, animal tracks, bird’s nests.  Examine the leaves for signs an insect has been there.

Hearing

A walk together is a good time for talking with your child, and I do encourage you to do that, of course.  But make an effort to spend some time in silence, too.

Ask your child to listen and tell you what they hear.

  • Can you hear any wind?
  • Is there any traffic nearby?
  • Do you hear any birds?  Buzzing insects?
  • Is there running water?

Smell

Ask your child to tell you about what they can smell on your walk together.

  • Flowers and vegetable plants
  • Dirt
  • Grass, leaves
  • Is there a farm nearby?  Animals?

Touch

Pick up the stone that catches your eye, crumble a leaf in your fingers, run your hands over the bark of a tree. What do you feel? Encourage your child to describe what they are sensing, not just with their hands, but their whole bodies.

  • Temperature – compare the hot sun on your shoulders with the coolness of the shade
  • Is there any wind today?  Can you feel a breeze?
  • Pick up some rocks – are they smooth? rough?
  • Pinch some soil between your fingers – is is sandy? or does it stick together, like clay?

Other Ideas

Perhaps your walk has taken you to the Farmers Market or local farm stand.   Or maybe you’ve been walking around your own garden and picked some veggies or fruit.   When you get back home TASTE some of the items you’ve purchased.    Are they bitter? sweet?  savory? Eat them raw, if appropriate, and then cook with them. How does the taste change?

Keep a nature journal and encourage your child to record (through words or pictures) the things they experience on your walks.

As one of our activities along with Little Acorn Learning each month we photograph the same place (we chose a tree in our yard) and add the photo to a special book.  As the year passes we can see the changes that take place through this record.

If you come across a bug, bird, plant, or other creature or object that  your child is curious about, research it together.  Look up the name, its habitat, etc.

Learn the proper names of the things you see and teach them to your children. Being able to properly identify animals, birds, and trees will be a life-long help to them. Invest in a set of field guides for your area and use your new-found powers of observation to become experts on your own habitat.

The next time you go on a walk with your child, even just around the backyard,  let it become an opportunity to practice the fine art of observation. You’ll both be glad you did!

Further Reading


Do you go on nature walks with your child? What are they the most interested in? What fascinating things have you observed with your senses?

[really_simple_share]
About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at KElizabethFleck.com.

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Comments

  1. We go for walks every single day. Even though most of our walks take place in our master-planned suburban community and not a hiking trail deep in the woods, we still find plenty of things to explore (slugs, bird nests, baby ducks, fish, tadpoles, flowers, etc). I just put together a nature scavenger hunt list to use for our outing tomorrow morning, but after reading this post, I think I’ll go back and add some sounds and smells to the list too! Loved this post!
    Cara´s latest post: Smoked Turkey Club Panini

  2. Thank you for the suggested questions, Kara. I remember being outside all the time as a kid and now I struggle to get my daughter out. It was so easy living on a farm as a kid, but now, living in a development, I feel confined. I miss walking outside and being able to just take a walk through the woods. Guess its time I just make it a priority to take her places to walk. Thanks for the reminder.
    Michelle´s latest post: Miessence Mondays- Why Certified Organic

  3. Thank you both for your kind words :-) I hope I’ve encouraged you that you don’t have to be in the woods for these experiences.

    True, it is different in your backyard or along a city street – but the experience can still be a rich one if you are mindful in your process. Perhaps in the city you might have to focus more on the weather and the sky, but a little creature or two might surprise you (the frog in the picture was a visitor to our suburban patio not too long ago)
    Kara Fleck´s latest post: Simple Kids Music Review- Dance for the Sun by Kira Willey

  4. Oh, such WONDERFUL inspiration, Kara! I love this!!! We are in the midst of Vacation Bible School craziness, but that will be over by Saturday. I’m looking forward to some early morning, sensory-aware nature walks with my girlies. Thank you!
    Megan@SortaCrunchy´s latest post: How to Give Voice to Your Ezzo Concerns – Online

  5. I like the idea of keeping a photographic record of changes in one favourite spot through the year. I am going to suggest it to my son, I think it would go well in our backyard field guide. We are recording all our animal sightings and information about the animals. So far, we have only done animals but we plan to include plants eventually as well.
    Catherine´s latest post: loss and grief

  6. What a great way to spend the summer days Kara, doing all of this. I love teaching myself and the kids to listen and identify birds and their songs. And is there anything better than a good listen to wind through the trees and the creaking branches?

  7. Absolutely fantastic ideas! I love the lists of questions. I think I might even print this out.
    Jaimie´s latest post: Back in TownSort of

  8. What great ideas! My granddaughter was completely into polliwogs this year and is now fixed on looking for frogs no matter where we go! It’s been such a learning experience for her and I’ve had a blast watching her innocence.
    Tina @ Ride On Toys´s latest post: The Wonderworld Ride On Fire Engine For Toddlers

  9. Exposing children to nature is interesting,,they can observe the habitat of every places.
    Children can discover how beautiful the world is.

  10. My children are older now and I miss this activity with them! I now have grandchildren and love to take them on walks and show them things in the backyard and they love to show ME things they discover! That child-like wonder, may we never lose it!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: Finding your own beat

  11. what wonderful inspiration for our next walk! i find that we walk a lot of places, but almost always with destination… this reminds me that so often, the walk itself can be the destination. my son is a big fan of the dirt… and i love to see him get so engrossed in that sense of touch. we’ll spend time in the backyard with a magnifying glass… maybe we’ll bring that on our next intentional walk to slow me down little!

    thanks for the great ideas!

  12. These conversation prompts are wonderful. I write a daily speech and language activity blog and one of the monthly tasks is to go on a nature walk to see how the weather, plants and environment have changed since the last month. Of course, a weekly or daily walk is even better!
    Thanks for this conversation inspiration.

  13. This is so cute. ???? Me and my child look for animals all the time! ????????????????????????????????????????

  14. Lara Miller says:

    Kara, do I have your permission to use this and transform it into a curriculum for teachers? Thank you!

Trackbacks

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