Make a nature walk the best learning experience possible for your kids with this simple guide.
Although you can certainly spend time in your backyard or walk around your block and see some neat aspects of nature, they aren't the most exciting outlets. Instead, head to nearby trails or drive a little out of the city until you come across some larger wild spaces. There tends to be a lot more to see and experience when you get away from cars, pollution and city life, so take the time to find the right spot.
If you've ever gotten stuck trying to remember a specific detail or piece of information, you know that craving knowledge you have no means of finding is frustrating. So the last thing you want to do is head out for your nature walk without the means to answer your questions. Stop by your local library, and track down a few books on identifying and learning about different aspects of nature. For flower identification, something along the lines of Newcomb's Wildflower Guide is a great resource to learn the names and biological structures of many of the flora you'll come across (amazon.com, $12). Similarly Trees of North America is an excellent asset when seeking out knowledge about trees (amazon.com, $10). If your children are interested in flying creatures, they will definitely appreciate The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America (amazon.com, $16). And for your little one who can't get enough of learning about bugs? Check out the National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America (amazon.com, $10). There truly is a source of information for everything you and your kids have ever wanted to know about the natural world. Plus, having the right books on hand means you can relax and enjoy the experience rather than worry about not having the answers to their questions.
Kids love to show off what they've discovered, so encourage them to document what they find. Get them a simple notebook and an old box for them to hold on to they're new knowledge and findings. The box is ideal for storing nifty-looking acorns, rare leaves and pretty pebbles, while the notebook is where they can write down what they've learned so they can look back on it in the future. Pressing flowers is also a fun way of preserving what they've found. And of course, pictures are the best way to keep memories alive, so encourage your little ones to snap photos of all their favourite sites.
Most kids have a natural thirst for knowledge, so it won't take much convincing to get them on board with taking part in this activity. But if your children are feeling particularly tired or are glued to the TV screen, it may take a little extra effort to get them involved. If they're wary of the idea, consider turning it into a game. Make a scavenger hunt list, and even suggest a prize for the first person to track down all the items. To make it more than just a race, include items that will require them to do a little bit of research along the way, such as "needles from a red pine" or "a photo of Queen Anne's lace." Chances are, once you get your kids out there and learning about their environment, they won't want to quit for hours!
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