When you take a nature walk, you’re purposely slowing down, getting quiet, and taking time to look closely at whatever you see around you in nature. Besides looking, you are using your other senses to feel, smell, and hear what nature offers you.
You can keep it simple by taking a walk around your neighborhood or heading to a local park to explore. If you’re feeling adventurous, go on a trip to a state park, nature preserve, or botanical garden. The more land you cover, the wider variety of things you’ll observe.
While outside, encourage your kids to take notice of everything around them, from the clouds to the plants to the insects.
To make your walk even more fun, bring some of these tools along:
a magnifying glass so kids can see creepy crawlies up close
paper and crayons or colored pencils to make rubbings of different textures like leaves or bark
a reusable bag for bringing home treasures
binoculars so everyone can see animals or nests high up in the trees
a nature journal where older kids can draw, chart, and make note of what they experience
Bring Focus to Your Nature Walks
If you’re having trouble keeping kids engaged during your time outside, consider giving them a something specific to work on. Give your walk a theme such as the examples below.
Search for as many animals as you can find from the smallest insect to the largest mammal. Look for birds flying above or nesting in trees. Do you see any animal tracks? See if you can identify them.
2. A to Z Hunt
Give each child a sheet of paper with the letters of the alphabet printed down one side. While outside, work together to find something that begins with each letter. You may have to get creative with some of the more difficult ones.
Or, turn it into a competition. Have each person work on their sheet independently and see who finds the most items.
Choose a color before heading out and see what you can find that fits within that color’s spectrum. Is it a common color in nature or was it challenging to find something? Why do you think that is?
4. Different Time of Day
Instead of sticking to a routine, take your walks at different times. Try first thing in the morning, at dusk, or even late at night. You’ll encounter all sorts of new sights and sounds when you vary the times you’re outside. What’s new and different? What is the same?
This is similar to an animal nature walk, only this time you’re observing the rich diversity of plant life. How many shapes and sizes of leaves can you find? Use your paper and crayons and make rubbings of some of the interesting ones you discover. Can you find any plants that are as tall as you?
What about flowers? How many do you see? Are they all tall or are some close to the ground? What kind of petals do they have? How do they smell? Have they attracted any pollinators?
6. Use Your Senses
Have each person use as many senses as they can to identify objects they find during the walk. (Be careful with taste as some items in nature can be poisonous.)
- “I feel deep ridges on this rock,”
- “I hear an animal scurrying across the ground.”
- “I smell a sweet flower.”
Focusing on a theme is a great way to give a big boost to the educational value of your nature walks. You can easily tailor your walk to something you’re studying in homeschool science lessons.
Whatever kind of nature walk you go on, take note of what you observe and when you come home, expand the learning with books from your home library or from your local public library.