Do you love nature walks and hikes? I do. I used to live in Connecticut where my dear friend Mary introduced me to the real world of hiking! I thought I’d taken hikes until I hiked with her. If she ever reads this post, I promise she’ll laugh out loud…not because the post is funny but because she’ll remember all the funny things that happened (mostly to me) while hiking over 100 miles across the state of Vermont on the Appalachian Trail. I assure you that most are too embarrassing to admit. That would have to be a separate post! But…in spite of all the difficulties, it is an experience I will never forget. I love the outdoors and want to instill that love of nature in our little ones.
So as mentioned in previous posts, we will be adventuring through new city and state parks (maybe some national parks) and sharing with you what we find! To keep it interesting, we will be taking different types of hikes/walks as we explore. Here are some to try with your kids or students:
- The Alphabet Hike: Give the kids any of the mentioned below:
- Clipboard and Alphabet Hiking Sheet
- Field Notes (small notebook)
- Pre-made booklet with a letter of the alphabet on each page
Next, go on your hike and have the kids find nature things on the hike that begin with each letter. This can be differentiated for each child. A smaller child might say “bird” for the letter “Bb” while another child might say “bluejay”. A child might even get creative and say “buzzing” as a “bee” passes by. All of these would be great options for things they see or hear in nature during their walk. If at the end of the walk, they have some blanks, you can brainstorm together about what can fill in that blank or page. If you are really stuck, you can then brainstorm additional things in nature they didn’t see or hear but could be found in nature. (Note: Another way to differentiate is to have your child(ren) write multiple words for each letter as they go along (i.e. “B” bird, bluejay, bee, buzzing, bunny, butterfly etc. Make it as simple or challenging as it needs to be.) See my FREE printables below for two choices to use on your hike!
- Sheet of paper with a list of color words such as: red, blue, yellow, lavender, purple, scarlet, turquoise, lime, ruby, navy blue etc.
- Sheet of paper with as many squares to fill the page. The square’s should be big enough for a small drawing. Provide a color word for each box or a Word Bank of color words for them to choose from.
- A color word booklet with a good variety of words on each page or a Word Bank of color words to choose from.
Have your child(ren) look for these colors in nature. It will provide many opportunities to talk about each color word and seek them out. Depending on your choice, your child can write the word of the object in nature they found with each color and/or draw what they found. There are many good writing assignments that can be extensions of this fun hike such as: Write about your day at “Red River Park”. Describe the things you encountered and explored in nature. Which did you find to be the most interesting? the most beautiful? the most dangerous? etc. You get the picture. There are many options for writing here. If you have your child keep a personal word wall (ask me more about this if you’d like), you can have then add these new color words to their word wall for future use in their writing.
3. The Artist Hike: Now here is one that we are really looking forward to doing! Choose any of the following to take with you on the hike:
- sketch book
- colored pencils
- water color paints
- acrylic paints
- oil paints
- glue stick/liquid glue
- construction paper
- colorful tissue paper
- clay or playdough
Talk ahead of time about which art materials to bring. Pack them along with a picnic lunch and blanket. Go off on your trail hike/walk looking for beautiful things to inspire your art work. Once you find your inspiration, lay out your blanket, bring out your supplies and begin your creation. Here are a few fun choices:
- Water colors, acrylic, or oil painting(s) on:
- sketch book
- construction paper
- or any other fun materials you’d like to try out such as poster board or even cardboard…the possibilities are really endless
- Collage created with things you collect from nature using
- sturdy card stock, cardboard, poster board or even in a shoe box
- Art work inspired by the illustrations of one of your favorite book illustrators such Dr. Seuss or Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and many other family favorites. Here is a fun link from Eric Carle’s website that gives instructions on how to create collages like his:
I promise you, this will be fun on this hike or for a future art class or rainy day creations! He is still one of our favorite authors.
- Create an art piece using clay or playdough.
4. Alike and Different Hike: For this hike, give your child(ren) any of the following:
- Home created booklet with 4 boxes per page.
- Sketch book or Notebook
- Multiple sheets stapled together with pre-made boxes or they can draw their own.
During this walk, have them look for two items found in nature for comparison. They can write their names and/or draw pictures of them in the boxes next to each other. Have them list how they are alike and how they are different. This could be as simple as comparing a squirrel and a bird or as interesting as comparing a squirrel and an acorn! Or it can be the comparison of two different types of butterflies. Repeat as many times as you’d like or have time for.
5. The Explorer Hike: This hike is all about wild and free exploration. Study and read about something ahead of time in preparation for your hike. Before the last explorer hike we took, we had studied all about rocks and minerals and the tools geologist use. Next, we went out to explore and look for interesting rocks and tried to discover what types of rocks they were: igneous, sedimentary ,or metamorphic. We also talked about the different colors in rocks and about what minerals they might contain. There are many fun things that derive out of exploring the great outdoors! Please check out my posts titled “Day Trips from Orlando: Bill Fredrick Park” to see what were some of the tools we brought along with us.
The different hike choices are as endless as your own ideas! These help keep the children (and parents) stay engaged and excited about exploring the great outdoors. There are many local parks that are often left unexplored simply because they are not in our part of town. I encourage you to use your city and state park websites to find new and exciting parks to explore near AND a little far from you.
I would LOVE to hear from you! Feel free to comment below this post or as always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear about what local and state parks you’ve tried. Not from Florida? Great! Please tell me what state you are from and what places we should visit should we head your way. Perhaps you went out of town and found a city and state park you really enjoyed. I’d love to hear about it. We recently ventured out of state and we have some to share with you too! I’d also love to hear about your different hike ideas! Which hike would you like for us to try out soon? Hope to share with you soon!
Happy Trails to Ya!
Bernice and the Exploring Crespos