Nature Walks For Kids
Here are some tips for making outdoor nature walks a success:
- Do your homework. Walk the path ahead of time and make note of places to stop and talk about something of interest; whether it is a specific animal or habitat. These stops should be short and sweet (5-10 minutes).
- Have some visual aids to help with your talk. Pull out a pictures of species that you know are in the area and talk about their characteristics. Older children can discuss what makes a mammal different from a fish or bird. They can discuss adapations that help animals survive.
- Pause at points e.g. where a variety of birds can be heard. This is the perfect place to talk about where different birds live and what they eat.
- Keep the species local. Children are bombarded at school with information about polar bears, whales or elephants. They think their local animals are boring in comparison. Help show them what is exciting in their own backyards.
- Make the walk interactive. Children love hunting for insects with small yogourt cups and magnifying glasses. Pick a stopping point that is shady and has fallen logs. Give the children 10-15 minutes to see what they can find. Have an insect book handy for identifying but only if that is of interest. Spend a couple of minutes talking about where they found the insects and why they live there (under fallen logs or beneath rotting bark). Talk about why you wouldn’t pull bark from a living tree (it protects the tree like skin and protects the tree from bugs and disease).
- A similar activity can be done with dip nets and shallow water. Make sure you have a couple of clear containers that can be filled with water and viewed at a viewing spot. Children (and parents) that start out squeamish are usually enthralled by the end of this 20 – 30 minute activity. A good insect book from the library will help you identify the species that are being caught.
- Remind everyone (including parents!) that they are visiting animals’ homes when they are out in the woods, riverbanks and fields. A good analogy is to ask children how irritated they get when their rooms and toys get ‘messed with’ by siblings or friends. Why do they get mad? Because it is disrespectful to have their personal space invaded. Remind them that when they are out in nature, animals and their habitats deserve the same respect.
- Throw in a fun game for good measure e.g. a game of tag as ‘frogs’. Or give them a small patch of woods and allow them to camoflauge themselves like a small animal. The person who is ‘it’ stays in the same spot and the player who is the closest to them without being seen wins. Afterwards, talk about camoflage strategies that animals use.
- Finally keep your stops short and sweet and don’t hesistate to move along if you find attention flagging. The goal isn’t to bombard them with facts. Focus on the cool ‘nature nuggets’ and keep it light and fun. Even the youngest can handle a 2-hour walk if you break it up. Parents enjoy the enthusiasm that their children will show and will probably learn something new themselves.