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.
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.
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?
Ask your child to tell you about what they can smell on your walk together.
- Flowers and vegetable plants
- Grass, leaves
- Is there a farm nearby? Animals?
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?
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!
- Simple Activities to Help Your Child Explore the Natural World
- Elements of Backyard Fun (Even Without the Backyard!)
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?