We can’t always hit the forest trails when we need to get outdoors! Often, it’s a case of taking our kids for an hour of fresh air or needing them to come with us on our day-to-day errands… Here are 8 easy way to engage their senses and help them take in the world around them wherever you’re heading:
Us adults often get caught up in mind chatter and forget to tune in to the everyday soundscapes all around us. Let's teach our children not to do the same by encouraging them to pick out the sounds they hear on a listening walk. Do they hear bird song? Can they hear builders at work nearby? Ask them to point out new sounds as they go.
Copy cat calls
Take your listening walk further and encourage your children to copy the sounds they hear. Older kids will love the excuse to be loud as they're walking along the street! Who can do the best pigeon impression? And who can make the sound of a pedestrian crossing? Don't forget to join in too!
Before you head out, have a family chat and think about what things you might see on your next outdoor adventure. Then, make a checklist and take it with you for an engaging scavenger hunt that will encourage them to look up and pay attention on their travels. You can decide on fun buzzer sounds to call out when you spot something on your list!
Don’t have time to prep a scavenger hunt? Go with the old classic, I Spy! For preschool age who aren’t confident with phonics yet, try ‘I spy something blue/soft/hard/bumpy etc…’ A great way to engage their minds with no planning required.
Pack a wad of paper and a few wax crayons for a simple nature activity on the go - rubbings. Ask your child to look out for interesting textures (like tree bark, bumpy concrete or patterned manhole covers) then show them how to overlay paper and rub crayons on top make a print. Leaves make a fascinating rubbing picture.
Here’s one to try if you’ve got plenty of time to spare: encourage your child to pay attention to texture underfoot and to use this as a basis for how they move. If they feel the ground is smooth and flat (e.g. tarmac, solid dirt, marble) they must up their speed and move quickly. If they feel the ground is soft or bumpy (bark chippings, mud, grass) they need to slow down. Challenge them to find a new way to move each time…Bring on the silly walks!
Ask your kids to look out for shapes on your next walk and you'll be amazed how many brilliant learning opportunities are right in front of you every day! Point out the triangles in ornate railings. Spot the circles and squares of drain covers. Count the rectangles paving slabs... Start by pointing shapes out for them and asking how many there are, and wait for the eager ' MY turn, my turn!' as they'll soon want to reverse the challenge.
We can become so blasé about the world around us; sometimes it takes focus and a closer look to really appreciate both the natural and man-made wonders which surround us no matter where we live. Ask your children to make a fist, then stretch out their thumb and index finger, on both hands. Now show them how to make a view finding frame by keeping this pose and touching thumb tips to index finger tips.
With their own portable viewfinder, they can hold out their hands to frame interesting sights while out and about, whether it's a car they like or a caterpillar they see on the ground.
Which of these can you see your kids loving?