It’s not officially summer yet, but many kids will be starting summer break really soon. As the weather continues to warm up, I am looking forward to taking walks with my family.
My daughters and I have enjoyed many nature walks over the years. We have had the opportunity to take walks at nature centers, state parks, national parks, and on various other walking trails.
Did you know kids can collect Junior Ranger badges by completing tasks at national parks? My daughters have each received a badge for completing a packet and going on a guided hike with a park ranger at one national park. You can call national parks and ask what they offer for the Junior Ranger program. Otherwise, you can find more information on the National Park Service’s website here if you are interested. I have seen some families go to multiple national parks and collect badges at each one. National parks also often offer free programs throughout the summer (and the year) in addition to the Junior Ranger program. Normally the information for upcoming events can be found on their websites.
My daughters have also learned a lot about national parks through the National Park Service’s Webrangers program. This is a free online program, which you can access on the National Park Service’s website here. You are required to create a user id and password so all of the completed activities can be saved. Kids can earn virtual badges and rewards as they complete each activity. Children are also offered a physical badge once all of the activities are finished. My daughters learned quite a bit while completing the Webranger activities.
Maybe you would enjoy walks with your little one on a “mission as a scientist”. Your little one could be a scientist just like the girl in the book Jobs of a Preschooler. You may want to search for something specific each time you go on a nature walk such as:
- interesting creatures
- animal tracks
- animal homes (more specific: nests)
- insects (more specific: butterflies and moths)
- interesting plants
- whatever else of interest
I’ve noticed when we search for specific items, my daughters seem more focused on looking around and exploring than if we are just “going for a walk”.
For even more fun, you could pack a little “scientist bag” filled with a notebook, magnifying glass, binoculars, camera, and pencils. Depending on what you are searching for, a little guide book may also be helpful to identify animal tracks, flowers, etc. (Libraries often have guide books to borrow if you don’t have one.) Sunscreen and bug spray are also beneficial on nature walks, although it is best to keep it off of hands especially if handling interesting finds.
Your little one may have fun drawing, taking pictures, and studying (as long as it is safe to do so) interesting discoveries along the way. The drawings and pictures can be added to a little science journal (a notebook or binder with papers) if desired. Both of my daughters have had fun creating their own binders filled with photos they have taken. If you choose to collect items, you may want to check policies. Some places have rules against taking any items, so all of the leaves, flowers, acorns, etc. must remain there.
Outdoor exploration often leads to conversations and research to find more information about specific items. For example, what is the difference between butterflies and moths? What are the different kinds of animal homes?
Hands-on learning can be a lot of fun. I don’t know about you, but I end up learning quite a bit along with my daughters when we do activities like this. The world is our classroom. Have fun discovering new things and learning as you take a walk!
I will be writing posts with pictures based on themed specific nature walks for you to see (and share) with your little ones. Stay tuned!
What will you discover on your next walk?