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We love hiking with our kids so we put together these 6 Tips For Successful Nature Walks With Kids to share with you. The most important one? Let them lead the process!
As many of you can probably relate to, the last week of school can be a tad bit stressful. Between end-of-year performances to attend and balancing work schedules around one too many half days, stress levels can escalate among family members. I am guilty as charged on this one and found myself snapping at the kids last week for no good reason.
So on Friday, as I heard the sharpness creep into my voice (yet again), I decided that we all needed a mental break. I pulled the kids in close for a hug, apologized profusely, and then told them we were going on a picnic in the woods as soon as school let out. I wasn’t surprised that they started whooping and hollering because my kids love going for hikes in the woods!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve never had to ask them twice to come with me on a nature walk. I think it’s because the woods are one of the few places that our children can lose themselves completely. As they walk among the tall trees and watch the shade creep across the paths, the very loud world that we live in slowly recedes and becomes peaceful and quiet.
I find that conversations between parents and children flow naturally when hiking in the woods. Perhaps it’s the steady beat of our feet on the dusty trails that lets them open up their hearts and voices to us. Perhaps it’s just the quietness that envelops us as we walk deeper and deeper into the green canopy of trees. Or maybe, it’s just because technology is at a minimum and there’s nothing else to do but idly chat away.
Over the years walking in the woods together with my kids, I’ve come up with a few simple tips that help keep us all happy and having fun on our nature walk together. And even if some crankiness does bubble to the surface (come on, they’re kids – it happens), it doesn’t last for long because around every corner is something fun to be found and it’s hard to be mad when you catch site of a bunny rabbit scampering across your path.
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL NATURE WALKS WITH KIDS
1.) Be well fed and stay hydrated.
Whether you decide to eat before you go or have a picnic like we like to do, I find that if the kids have full bellies and are hydrated, they tend to go for longer walks without getting cranky. For this trip, I promised them a picnic full of their favorite treats: Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam sandwiches, Marbled Banana Bread, and their “fancy” water. The kids recently spotted these bottle of Mountain Valley Spring Water (a natural, American spring water that is sodium free, naturally ionized and rich in minerals) at Whole Foods and had to have them. I forsee us using them for a craft in the near future! Citronella candles anyone?
2.) Have some games up your sleeve.
We like to play the “Name Game” on our walks. As we walk among the tall trees and barren branches, we each try to find all of the letters in our name. Whoever finds all of their letters first, wins! Another fun game is finding a series of things – for example, see who can find 5 wildflowers in a row or 6 birds in a row.
3.) Turn composition books into wildlife journals.
Although an adult may get tired of seeing rabbit and squirrel tracks, kids never do. They lose themselves in the observation process and often dream up creatures bigger than themselves. We like to print images of animal tracks native to our region and paste them into the kids books with them. Then, whenever we come across a track, they get to jot down some notes about it.
4.) Gather nature finds for crafts.
Our kids are tinkerers and love using their nature finds to create all sorts of things. From lady bug rocks to clam shell friends, they’re always using their treasures to make new things. Sometimes, we go seeking something specific, other times, they just gather whatever calls to them.
5.) Let them use real cameras on their walks.
Our kids got digital cameras for Christmas last year and whenever we go on nature walks with kids (or field trips), we encourage them to bring their cameras along. You never know when a huge frog is going to be perched on a nearby log or when a snapping turtle will pop its head right out of the water to see what’s going on.
6.) Bring your dogs whenever you can.
Bringing Fido, or in this case, Hazel, along always ups the fun factor of our nature walks with kids. They love watching our dogs use their powerful sense of smell to uncover many hidden things in the woods. You never know when Hazel will jump off the path into a pile of damp, smelly goo to discover something absolutely fantastic. Even better? Watching all of the kids follow her trying to figure out what’s caught her attention!
No matter what you do on your nature walks with kids, just try to let them lead the process. As adults, it’s often difficult to give up control, but when you let your children decide if you should make a left turn or a right turn, it means the world to them.
Have fun, be safe, stay hydrated, and respect nature,