One of my favorite things to do with Otto when we start to get a little stir crazy as the snow begins to melt is to bundle up and go for a long walk in the woods. Nature walks for kids and adults alike are so therapeutic and help clear your mind and relieve stress. One of my favorite trails is located just north of Fennville, Michigan and goes all the way to lake Michigan. It’s about a mile walk from the parking lot to the beach and it’s perfect to do with small kids. There are other trail options that go deeper into the woods but the initial path is nice and flat for toddlers.
I remember going on nature walks with my dad as a kid almost every Sunday after church if the weather was right. We would look for wild berries and animal tracks in the woods behind out house. It’s one of my favorite memories I have as a kid because walking outside just made everything feel peaceful and calm.
A Nature Walk Can be Anywhere!
A nature walk can be anywhere it doesn’t have to be in the big woods. It can be around a small pond, outskirts of a playground or park. I find that kids like to collect things, at least my toddler does so I try to find places with a lot going on to keep him busy.
Try to find a place away from noise and distraction so your child has an opportunity to hear, see and smell all that is happening around them.
What are the benefits of nature walks?
Working from home during the pandemic I’ll be the first to admit, when Otto wasn’t in daycare he was in front of a lot of screens. Joe and I still had to work and it was hard to find the balance. Many times we would close the books after working and head outside to connect with each other and get some fresh air.
In the winter months it’s hard to be active because it’s so cold but if the temperatures were forgiving and the sunshine was trying to peak through we would bundle up and head out.
When Otto was in daycare he was for sure getting the physical activity he needed each day. At home it proved to be a bit of a struggle. The CDC suggests that children ages 3 – 5 years old get 60 minutes of physical activity each day and going for a two mile hike through the woods checked that box off of the list.
Promotes Creativity and Questioning
Otto is the king of questions especially when we are out on our walks. He asks what sounds are, why sticks snap and what tracks are. I love watching Otto explore and learn about his word by trial and error and asking all of the questions. Not only does Otto have a lot of questions but I love that he remembers the answers. On future walks he will find the deer tracks and point them out or show me an oak leaf. I love to watch him build upon what we learn and discover each walk.
What to look for on your scavenger hunt nature walk
I made a free printable for your scavenger hunt nature walk. I kept it pretty basic because I didn’t want to make it super region specific. As you continue to grow and learn more in nature you can look for specific things like deer tracks instead of animal tracks, oak leaves instead of just a leaf. It’s fun to grow and learn in nature together.
Below is the link for a printable version of the image below to take on your walk.
Things to find:
- a bird nest
- a small rock
- an acorn
- a squirrel
- a leaf
- a bird
- a pinecone
- a tall tree
- an animal print
What to take on your nature walk
I wrote a post earlier about winter gear for kids, but warm clothing (or weather appropriate clothing) is essential. Having to cut a walk short because we didn’t dress warm enough is such a bummer because it takes effort to get packed up and out there. It’s also fun to take binoculars for bird spotting and even a magnifying glass. Otto is a gatherer so we bring a little bag or bucket to collect the small treasures he finds along the way. When we get home it’s fun to unpack our bucket and talk about what we found on our journey.
- Warm gloves, hats and boots
- magnifying glass
- scavenger hunt checklist
- bucket or gatherer bag
- phone for safety
I think the best part about going on nature walks with your kids on a regular basis is getting to witness how nature and our world changes with each season. When the pandemic started a year ago we relieved stress by walking the back roads by our house and found peace that the snow melted and gave way to spring buds. The buds burst open into a lush green forest foliage and then slowly turned orange and red as we entered into fall. We are back one year from then starting the seasonal shift all over again. Being outside, hearing the birds, smelling the fresh air it’s good for parents and kids. I hope you are able to get out and enjoy the seasons around you.