Activity Inspiration: Nature Walk Four Ways
Spending time outside is a critical part of healthy development. There is even a popular theory, called biophilia, that people are biologically drawn to nature. However, increased exposure to screens, parental fear of the dangers of the outdoors, and the expansion of suburban development have all decreased undirected exposure to nature for children.
How can childcare providers help while keeping it safe and fun? Lead your CACFP participants on nature walks! Here are four variations of this timeless activity that are sure to refresh and inspire:
- Five senses walk: Encourage children to use their senses as they walk by modeling for them. For example, say “I see bright green leaves, and dark green leaves.” And “I’m touching rough bark.” Or “I feel the damp grass.” “I hear birds chirping!” It’s obviously not safe to taste the things you encounter out in nature. Encourage your explorers to bring water bottles and experience the taste of refreshing cool water during their walk. This nature walk encourages body awareness and observation.
- Alphabet Walk: Bring along a digital camera, and encourage children to spot the letters of the alphabet out in nature. Perhaps the branches on a tree form a W, or a pod of seeds looks a lot like a B! Don’t worry too much about whether their observations are strictly correct. This nature walk encourages collaborative work and very close observation skills.
- Art walk: Bring along crayons and paper. Find a comfortable spot, and encourage children to draw what they see.
- Classroom Field Guide Walk: Bring along paper and colored pencils. As children find objects of interest (twigs, rocks ,and leaves especially), have them lay a sheet of paper over the top and gently rub the pencil back and forth to get the impression and outline of the object. Allow them to name their find (ex: Curled Green Leaf or Rock by Pond). When you return, combine everyone’s pages into a folder or binder for a group field guide.
There are a few things to keep in mind when leading your nature walks in order for everyone to be safe and have the most fun possible:
- Hydration- be sure all participants are well hydrated or bring along a bottle of water.
- Sun exposure – plan for a shaded walk, or ensure participants have a hat or adequate sun protection.
- Allergies – Be aware of any allergies in your group to plants or bugs, including bees, ants, etc. Communicate with guardians about what precautions should be taken in case of exposure. Be sure adult leaders are able to recognize and avoid poison ivy.
- Supervision – Children can get wrapped up in what they see and wander away from the group. Establish safety rules and a supervision plan before setting out.
- Clothing – Check the weather and make sure everyone is adequately dressed!
We hope after reading these ideas you feel ready to take your CACFP participants out in the wild (or maybe just a nearby park) for some fresh air. We want to see your photos! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag us in the photos @NationalCACFP on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and stay tuned for more activity ideas.