I planned a little nature walk for us to do so that we could explore and learn more about the Earth and our environment. We have a wonderful nature reserve close by with a nature discovery center and many trails to walk. My little guy (and my teenager) love to look and learn in the discovery center, which is what we did first. They have displays of the different types of habitats in our area, which includes marshes, wetlands and scrub areas. There are plenty of hands on learning activities as well!
When we were finished in the discovery center, we chose our trail and headed off. We walked under huge canopies of oak trees and through open areas of palm trees. We walked along the trail beside the lake to the dock and observed the different birds and other wildlife. We walked through a swamp and stopped to watch as a small alligator scurried across the path. We stopped and talked about how old we thought the trees were and saw a small green snake staring out at us from a hole in one of the them. We listened and heard woodpeckers pecking away in the trees, while my little guy counted how many woodpecker holes he saw in them. We also saw chameleons, skinks, frogs, caterpillars, butterflies, dragonflies, and a beautiful bald eagle among other birds. It was a day full of discovery and learning in the best way possible. There is no better way to learn about nature than by actually being out in it and experiencing it! As one of my favorite sayings goes "Think outside. No box required!"
Here are some things that help us make the most of our hiking experiences:
Make sure you have everything you need to make the hike enjoyable. Comfortable shoes, sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, bug spray, snacks and water are a must. If you have a small child, a stroller or backpack carrier are also helpful.
Let the Kids Choose the Pace
This might seem like a hard thing to do, but I find that if my little guy finds something he wants to stop and look at, it keeps his interest level high and wards off boredom for him. We will stop and look at the bug or squirrel or whatever it is he finds to be interesting, and talk about it for a few minutes and move on.
Have a Few Fun Activities in Mind for the Hike
Sometimes kids will get bored or tired after a long walk. Have some fun activities on hand in case this happens. Have a list of your local birds and flowers handy (alot of times you can get this from the welcome center where you are hiking at) and mark off the ones you find. Make a scavenger hunt list or print out one like this to do on your hike. Bring a camera and take pictures to make a nature journal of your favorite things from your hike.
Sometimes it is easy to take for granted the wondrous nature around us. While we help our children to learn and discover things, they can also help us to open our eyes and see things anew. Take cues from them and get excited with them about all of the nature around you. My little guy stopped to observe a caterpillar for ten minutes! He was fascinated with it's furry hair and the way it slowly went along, it's body moving up and down as it went. There are so many things in nature to get excited about!