Exploring Nature with Kids

Home & Family, Outdoors
on October 9, 2011

A family nature walk provides an opportunity to explore nature and enjoy the outdoors. Spending time in nature has multiple benefits for kids. Children can see wondrous natural sites and learn about animals and nature hands-on.

Backyard beauty. Exploring nature can begin in your own backyard. Take your toddler on a tour of the wilds of the backyard. A walk along a flower garden can provide an amazing sensory experience. Look, smell and touch the different flowers, leaves and even soil. Compare the softness of a petal to the roughness of a tree bark. Stand underneath a tall tree and have your child look up. Look for bird’s nest high above and marvel at the magnificence of an oak tree.

Neighborhood nature walks. Depending on your area, a nature walk through the neighborhood can provide several learning opportunities. Let your child bring along a small pail or container with a handle to collect pebbles, fallen leaves, twigs and other found bits of nature. Do not allow the child to remove anything that is on private or governmental property. Never disturb any creature’s home to collect a souvenir, either. Bring along a camera and take pictures of any interesting nature scenes you do find. When you get home, talk about what you saw. Make a memory collage using the pictures you took.

Parks, trails and preserves. Plan a family nature walk through a nearby park or nature preserve. Families can explore trails and observe various creature habitats. Before setting out on a nature walk, research the area you plan to explore. Familiarize yourself with the plants, animals and overall ecosystem. During your walk, play detective. Have your children hunt for specific plants, flowers, trees and even evidence of animals. TLC’s How Stuff Works reminds parents to supervise your children’s “investigations of animals; undomesticated creatures could hurt your child — and your child could harm them!”

National parks. National parks offer not only stunning scenery but also almost unlimited natural resources to study. At Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, for example, families can explore tundra areas, meadows, beautiful waterfalls, woodland trails and more. A walk through the park is a sensory explosion of sights, sounds and smells. Before visiting a national, state or county park, visit the park’s website for more information.

Safety. Remember when exploring nature with kids, safety must be a priority. Always be aware of current and predicted weather conditions. Dress appropriately for the weather, and don’t forget sunscreen, even when in a shaded forest area. Never allow children to approach or feed wildlife. Teach your children that littering is never allowed on a nature walk. Children of all ages must be supervised on any nature walk.

This article was originally published as Exploring Nature with Kids on DailyParent.com.