How To Make Nature Walks Exciting For Kids
Humans need to have a connection with nature. Spending time in natural surroundings is good for your health and helps to improve happiness.
For families with small children, enjoying a nature walk is not always possible. Children can get bored of walking quite easily. Once fatigue kicks in they become moody and restless.
But have you ever noticed kids seem to have an inextinguishable resource of energy when they are engaged?
The solution to an apathy-free child is giving them something to do. And Mother Nature has provided us with an abundance of fascination organisms that will keep children engaged – with a little invention.
To help encourage your offspring to spend more time in nature’s playground and reap the nurturing benefits of being in nature, we’ve put together a list of activities that will turn boring walks into exciting adventures.
Using Technology For Good
Researchers are finding an increasing body of evidence to show how modern technologies are causing ill health, both physical and mental.
Spending too much time attached to a computer, TV, and video console is credited with child obesity, depression, lack of concentration, narcissism, laziness, an urge for instant gratification and more.
Nature walks can be a fun way of prising your children away from the TV, computer games and social media.
And here’s the catch. You can still take your smartphone with you but use the beneficial aspects of technology.
Here’s a couple of ideas for how you can use technology to make nature walks more engaging for children.
Name That Nature
Today’s smartphone apps are remarkable. You can download free apps such as iNaturalist and NatureGate and immediately identify flowers, trees and seeds that are prevalent in the forests or parks close to your home.
There are educational benefits straight away. You may even find your child is a budding botanist or natural scientists that could follow in the footsteps of Agnes Arber or Charles Darwin. Questions regarding the evolution of mankind still need to be answered you know!
However, discovering the names of life in the natural world alone is probably not going to keep young children entertained for that long – especially if they would rather be playing Mario Kart or watching Peppa Pig on Netflix.
To keep kiddies engaged, you need to create a game. And that’s simple. Before you head out into nature, make a list of flowers, plants, seeds, leaves, birds, animals and insects for the little ones to find.
Kids love a challenge and such experiences can be fun and inspirational. You may even want to include a reward system.
For example, if they find 10 out of 20 they can have an ice-lolly, 15 out of 20, an ice-cream with sprinkles and 20 out of 20…a trip to Disney Land!
Errr, okay, we’ll let you decide the prize.
Spotting wildlife is one of the most exciting challenges for kids when you’re venturing out into the wilderness.
It is estimated there are approximately 70,000 species of animals, plants, trees, fungi and single-celled organisms in the UK.
That’s more than enough for a game of wildlife spotting whilst you’re on a nature walk.
Again, why not utilise the power of technology and download an app that identifies wildlife.
Before you head off for your adventure, however, you should brief your children about the protocols of spotting wildlife.
For one thing, you have to be quiet. This is why wildlife spotting is arguably the best game for parents to play with children on a nature walk!
For a full list of tips, tricks and ethics when spotting wildlife, visit the National Trust website and take cues from the experts.
Photograph Mother Nature
Depending on the age of your children, photographing nature could be a hobby that encourages them to go for long nature walks.
If your child has a smartphone with a built-in camera, encourage them to utilise it by taking photographs of anything they find interesting in the great outdoors.
To make this a regular feature of your walks, you should also take photographs of your own. You can then compare your photographs with your offsprings – which should hopefully encourage them to develop their photography skills. And maybe yours as well.
Taking photographs of nature is relatively simple for children. As you become more proficient, your shots will get even better.
For inspiration, check out some nature photography websites and magazines. You may also want to read tips and hints from blogs of professional photographers.
Encourage Kids To Get Creative
Children are naturally creative. However, over the last decade, there has been a growing concern the younger generations today are losing their imagination and zest for creativity.
The fact of the matter is that creativity has to be nurtured.
Nature walks are an ideal opportunity to nurture the imagination of your offspring.
Moreover, you can encourage your children to be creative whilst exploring the great outdoors and using Mother Nature to nurture creativity when you get back home.
A really simple solution is to take some tracing paper and crayons and trace the bark of a tree. To make this activity more of a challenge, make a rule that the bark pattern has to be unusual and interesting.
And why stop at tracing tree trunks. There are dried leaves, seedpods, pine cones, feathers, acorns, rocks and a multitude of other natural elements that can be traced.
Whilst many things in nature burst with colour or are naturally beautiful and pleasing to the eye, there are also many things that are quite bland.
Children with imagination can easily fix this with paint by turning a dull object into a vibrantly colourful piece of nature art.
You can combine camouflage art with a standard scavenger hunt. The challenge is for your child to find items that would look better with a pattern, then breathe life into it using their imagination.
Why not take inspiration from nature itself. Some pebbles have beautiful patterns whilst others are grey, dull and lifeless. This gives your child at least two things of everything on your list to find and paint.
If you’re planning to spend a good portion of the day walking in nature, pack a small canvas and travel-sized tubes of paint to keep your children occupied whilst you take a rest.
Whilst the kids are painting, you get to enjoy peace and quiet in the sun after your picnic!
Children find nature mesmerising. Take them to the beach, a forest or country lane and they automatically scavenge for interesting artefacts.
And with so many weird and wonderful things to find whilst walking in nature, it makes logical sense to encourage children to collect a goody bag of natural elements they can use to take home and use for nature craft – perhaps on a rainy day!
Thanks to the changing of the seasons, this is an activity that will never grow old.
Your child may want to put a collection book together or use whatever they find to create a unique ensemble.
If you have a family celebration or an upcoming party, why not collect dried leaves and make confetti out of them using a hole punch.
For more inspiration check out these examples of nature craft.
A nature walk through a woodland area will expose you to millions of seeds. And there are lots of interesting things you can do with seeds to get your children interested in nature.
You can use seeds to create nature art or encourage your children to identify which type of seeds they have found (using a nature app) and group them into categories.
The more proficient your children become at identifying which seeds belong to which tree and which flower, you can organise competitions to see who finds the right seed first – and apps are not allowed!
To collect a large number of seeds, find an old pair of socks your children wear on their hands and crawl on the ground to gather seeds. Then pop them into a jar for sorting through later.
Scurrying around in the dirt is also beneficial for building up your child’s immune system.
Conker season is always an exciting time for children. Kids love playing conkers with their friends at school and a nature walk is a prime opportunity for them to find winning conkers.
Nature has an abundance of things you can use as a springboard to broaden your child’s knowledge of the natural world.
Encouraging them to explore nature and examine what they find also sends a positive message of the need to care for and protect the environment.
Every walk is an opportunity for kids to learn something new. During a nature walk, learning about the environment keeps them entertained for hours.
For example, purchase a magnifying glass so your children can inspect what they find closely. Point out the fascinating patterns in nature, observe the symmetry and the beauty of the shapes nature grows in.
Exploring the undergrowth also teaches impressionable children to understand and appreciate the dangers of the world with a soft approach.
The natural world has many dangers; thorns, nettles and poison ivy are nasty, but there are also poisonous plants, insects and amphibians that can cause serious damage. Identify these to keep your children safe.
Taking walks at different times of the day also allows your children to observe the natural world in different states. For example, common flowers like dandelions, tulips and poppies are in full bloom during the day but close when it starts to turn dark.
The Little Naturist
For highly inquisitive children, a chemistry set makes being in nature even more satisfying. With a biology and nature kit to hand, children are more eager to learn and will probably pester you to go on a nature walk.
Ideally, you should invest in a nature kit that serves an educational purpose. Many of the “science kits” on the market today use simple dyes to change the colour of other substances. The educational aspect is very limited.
However, there are educational science kits that inquisitive children can use to learn more about the natural environment such as microscopic life kit, plant root viewers, beetle life cycle kits and if you dare, a frog dissection kit.
Even simple tools like a magnifying glass, medicine dropper to suck up rainwater and a microscope enable your child to get up close and personal with Mother Nature’s creations.
Local watering holes such as ponds, rivers, streams and rock pools are teeming with natural wildlife that is invisible to the naked eye.
You could include dip netting as part of your nature walk and examine the thousands of bugs and microorganisms. With a nature and biology kit, children have an end goal for this outdoor adventure.
There is no reason to target H20 environments either. Insects and microorganisms can be found in countless locations such as plants, grass, trees and soil.
Track Local Ecosystems
A fun adventure for your nature walk is to track a local ecosystem. For example, you could explore the connection between the forest and various watersheds.
The World Wildlife Fund has launched an initiative called Seek to encourage children to understand more about their natural surroundings.
Seek aims to promote the need to protect the environment and inspires children to observe the biodiversity in their local environment. The kids are asked to photograph things they find in nature and upload images through an app so scientists can track and record global ecosystems.
Like Sweatcoin, the WWF is teaching children to put technology to good use so that it can be used for a higher purpose.
Sweatcoin’s walking app is designed to encourage people to exercise more by recording the number of steps you walk in a day and offering rewards. One mile will earn you 1000 SWC’s which can be exchanged for a wide range of products.
You can also use the data from our app to play another game at the end of your nature work and test your child’s adeptness for mathematics. Check your number of steps, work out the distance you walked and calculate your average speed.
Have you had fun on a nature walk recently? Leave a comment and let us know how you entertain your kids on a nature walk.