Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Scavenger Hunt Walks—Making the Most of Nature

Stop to smell the flowers.
My kids and I love going for walks around the neighborhood.  To me, it’s the perfect chance to teach them about their environment.

When we first started to look for items, we made a list of things we hoped to see and hear, such as a cat, a dog, things that are red, different kinds of wheels, and a panda bear (
my two-year-old’s suggestion). 

Since then, we’ve added natural things to look for:

If we find pinecones: Where is the pine tree? 

If we find helicopter seeds: Where is the maple tree?  (These seeds are fun to raise up over your head and drop, watching them propel back to the ground.)

Pointing out a maple tree.
If we see acorns: Where is the oak tree?  Are there any squirrels around?

If we hear birds: Do you know what kind they are?  I bring my smartphone with me—a great app with bird calls (at least for an iPhone) is BirdCaller.  Can you see the birds?  Be sure to check out my bird crafts, too: Bird Crafts

If we see ants: Is there an anthill nearby?  How many ants are there?

If we see yellow, blue, or purple flowers: Are there any bees in the flowers?  (Don’t get too close!)  Bees are attracted to these colors more than to others.

Do we see anything flying: What do we see?  Airplanes, birds, fluffy seeds?

If you walk after there’s been a storm: Are there any changes since the storm?  Puddles, large branches, bunches of leaves/seeds on the ground?  How about worms in the grass?

If we see an interesting-colored tree, bush, or flower: What would you call that color?  What other objects does that color resemble?

Look at the bark on different trees: How does it feel?

Can you find any leaves with munches in them?  Are there any creatures around that could have caused those munches?  (Remind them of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.)

Although wheels aren’t found in nature, we still like to look for them.  If we see anything with wheels: How many are there on the object?  How many different objects can we find with wheels (think wagons, bikes, garbage cans, cars, flatbeds, wheelbarrows—it’s surprising how many my kids can find.)

It’s also fun to collect things.  We sometimes bring a reclosable plastic bag with us on our walk to collect various nature objects, such a cool-looking leaves, acorns, sticks, and pinecones.  When we get back, we empty the bag, and the kids sort the items into piles, make a face with them, trade objects, etc.  What’s nice about doing this is that, once you’re done, you can just dump the items back outside and reuse the bag for next time.

Once you start pointing things out, it’s amazing all that your kids will notice.  Note: we're still waiting to see a polar bear..

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