Taking frequent excursions into natural areas means you have plenty of opportunity to observe the natural world.
Growing up I spent a lot of time outdoors not only playing the day away but going on adventures with my family and as I got older and I was the only one at home, with just my parents. My parents still spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying their motorcycle turned trike and getting that perfect nature photograph. We didn’t have a lot of specialized equipment then, we just took a lot of walks and got to see a lot of things. That’s all you need to do. Here are a few tips on getting outdoors!
You don’t need a lot of equipment to enjoy nature. Keep things simple.
When thinking about where and when to take a nature walk, it might be easy to get bogged down in whether or not you have the right shoes, apparel, and observation equipment. Try to keep it simple. You need some of these and some are a bonus if you have them already.
What are the essentials & a few bonuses?
- comfortable shoes– whatever you might take a walk in anywhere. You don’t want complaints and blisters to get in your way.
- water– make sure to stay hydrated or know where a water fountain is where you’ll be walking. I only really worry with this on a long walk on a warm day. Otherwise, we can start out and end up near a water fountain on a short walk. Often we leave the water in our van.
- binoculars– if you have them, don’t sweat it if you don’t. I include plastic kid ones… No shame in that! Lots of families have them.
- hand lens– if you have one. Sometimes we get these cool little pieces of equipment for other aspects of homeschooling. Use them for your nature walks
- compass– my kids love a good compass. We like the orienteering compasses from Home Science Tools. A compass can turn even a walk down your street into pure exploration and adventure. You want that spirit of fun on your side! Make it work for you.
- field guides– I like to have a flower guide and a bird guide for sure. All the rest aren’t as critical to me. It depends on what you’ll end up seeing the most while walking. I love my iBird app because I always have my smartphone with me. Pre-phone I took a small book guide. The app is nice because you can confirm with the call as well as what it looks like. Although, it’s good to be judicious in how much you play the calls out in the wild. It can be distracting for the birds who need to be about the business of survival…not checking into fake calls.
- camera– most of us have some sort of camera even on a simple phone. Some of our kids have iThings or similar devices that can take pictures if not a regular camera. If I’ve forgotten a guide, then I snap a picture of the item in question and we look it up later.
- adventure bag– I’ll share more details about this another day, but making a walk an explorer’s expedition goes a long way and you might want some tools of the trade in a satchel with you!
- hats/sunscreen/bug spray– I can’t leave these out and feel good about it. Always be prepared for hot sun and bugs. We live in an area where Lyme disease is a significant concern. We have to take precautions every time we go out the door since our yard is wooded and deer bed down for the day right next to the house and in other places in our yard. Take precautions for where you’ll be outdoors and for the conditions there depending on the time of year. Public service announcement over!
The important thing to remember is that if you don’t have everything on the list or you just don’t have time or the inclination to get it together, it doesn’t matter! Doing is the thing! Go on out and just walk. The point is to have experience to fall back on later when you want your kids to walk more or do something with what they saw on a walk.
Where do I take a nature walk?
Even within urban and suburban areas, there are places to take frequent nature walks. Remember that nature walks don’t always have to mean heading into the wilds! We observe a lot of critters and plants in some unassuming places.
- A favorite walking path– we used to have a walking route we liked at our old house. It was a couple streets of a small village along with a backroad with houses and fields.
- State Parks– usually have great programming and plenty of hiking trails. Chances are you are within driving distance of one even if it’s small.
- Municipal Parks– cities and townships often have parks and some with a body of water…ponds or creeks.
- Arboretum– check to see if you have one nearby. These are fun for the variety of trees and are lovely any time of the year.
- Your Own Backyard– I’m going to be sharing details on how to enjoy your yard next time, but this is an easy walk!
- Through Your Neighborhood– take a walk around the neighborhood or down the street.
- Around a local pond– if you have access to a pond, this is great fun to watch throughout the year
- Vernal Pools– these are small ponds/wetlands that are only present in the spring
- Wetland– this could be as simple as a drainage ditch near to your home. Culverts running under the driveway count too! Chances are on either side you’ll have a small wetland ecosystem going.
- Creek– Do you have a creek nearby? I love to visit a creek with my kids. It’s great in the summer for cooling off and always interesting no matter what time of year. Even small creeks that run at a trickle unless there’s been rain are fun to observe.
- Any small stand of trees– do you have some nearby in the neighborhood or in your yard? Trees are active places if you stop and take a look.
- Flower beds & Window Boxes– urban friends, you can find a lot to observe in the small pockets of nature available to you!
The whole point of this post is to remember that nature walks don’t have to be giant undertakings. They can be a walk on your own street or a trip to a favorite local path.
What you want is for your kids to be out and observing. If you can’t manage the guides and the other equipment, it doesn’t really matter. Just get out and go see!
You want to build a large base of experience your kids can access later when you are asking them to add another layer to their knowledge- like a drawing or a research endeavor.
Whatever you do, try not to be discouraged by what may seem very big. Just go out and have fun with your kids. During this series I’ll be sharing how to take advantage of the time your kids are observing. Stay tuned for a post on being prepared (as a mom) for those nature lessons.
If God spoke creation into existence, should we be surprised when creation speaks back to us about God?
The sights surround us. The sounds summon us. The wonder of creation beckons. – Margaret Feinberg, Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God