Exploring neighbourhood nature with young children: Nature walks

Every morning before 8am this week we have donned our reusable fabric masks and headed out onto the somewhat less humid streets of our local neighbourhood. Usually by 9 am it feels heavy and close, but yesterday and the day before yesterday the heavy rains of the previous night had cleared and cooled the air to an almost comfortable consistency.

We don’t take much with us, a bottle of water, mosquito repellent, deep pockets or a vessel in which to carry our found treasures and after a discussion about how we might better remember the things we have seen on our ‘nature walk’ Althea’s robust camera.

We talk about what we can see, what we can hear and smell and feel. We talk about the weather and the science behind rain. We talk about flowers and ponder their name, committing to memory their colours and shape so that we can look them up when we get home. We talk about the difference between slugs and snails, the size and strength of ants, the pitch of chirruping crickets and the difference between butterflies and moths. We use real terms and simple definitions, nocturnal, bipinnate, stamen, nectar. I encourage curiosity and questions, especially those I do not yet know the answer to myself.

When we arrive home we wash our hands, lay out a feast of fruit and look up the flowers and wildlife we discovered just minutes from our front door.

And sometimes we are too restless or tired and we abandon our finds and embark on other endeavours, today emotions were running high so it was frozen mango in front of the twirly woos and that’s ok too.

These walks do not have to be long, sometimes it’s 10 minutes, sometimes half an hour.

You do not have to go far. Sometimes we simply collect flowers on our street, stopping to look at snail shells and litter (just as interesting, as it turns out).

You do not need to introduce a topic or lecture them. Gently point out beautiful things, planting the seeds for curiosity. Answer their questions and when you don’t know, be honest, you can find out together. This is how we co-construct learning and knowledge.

Some resources you might find useful for continuing your nature study back home:

A magnifying glass

A childs microscope

A glass jar or bugnoculars

A tray to corral loose parts

A guide to local birds and wildlife

A reference book about the flowers and fauna in your local area

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World 

An encyclopedia like: The Natural History Book

Nature Poetry: I am the seed that grew the tree

Voice activated google to ask important questions

Nature documentaries like: David Attenboroughs ‘The Private Life of Plants’ series and ‘Life’ series

Art supplies: paints, pencils crayons and paper or nature journal

And if you are looking for a little bit more inspiration and guidance ‘Exploring Nature with Children’: A complete year long curriculum

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