Nature Walks for Winter Break

Nature Walks for Winter Break

Winter break is here! With the holidays around the corner and children out of school, they are full of excitement.

Need an activity to keep the kids busy and help them get rid of some of that energy? Go on a nature walk! A nature walk could be as simple as taking a walk around your neighborhood and noticing the environment around you. You could also do a nature walk on a hiking trail, or you could even do a pretend nature walk in your house. Taking a walk with your family and noticing the environment all around you can be a great way to get some exercise, explore, and do some self-care this winter break.

Use nature walks to get exercise.

With all the excitement of the holidays and no school, your child’s energy level might feel pretty high during winter break. Get them moving and get rid of some of that energy. Exercise is a great self-care activity for adults and it also has the same mood boosting effects for kids.  Simply taking a walk around the neighborhood is a great way to get exercise.  Want to get more movement into the nature walk? You could play a game where you have to move like certain animals. You could move like animals you think you might see on your walk, or any animal that comes to mind.  For example, if your child wanted to move like a cheetah you could have them run as fast as they can. For a kangaroo, have them jump, etc. You could also skip, run, gallop, jump, walk backwards, or try other variations for short periods of time to get everyone moving and keep the nature walk fun.

Use nature walks for exploring.

Children love to explore, set them up to be explorers on the nature walk! A great way to guide children towards exploring is to ask lots of open ended questions and encourage them to make predictions. Use question starters like, “what do you think would happen when/if… ?” “I wonder if…, I wonder how..?” to help them make predictions. Set children up to be explorers on the walk by using props. You could use magnifying glasses to get a closer look at plants, leaves, insects, rocks, etc. and binoculars to look for birds in the sky or other animals.  You could use writing materials to take notes or draw pictures of the things that you see on your walk. For more ideas on how to embed learning and exploring into nature walks check out this post.

Use nature walks for self-care.

Taking a walk, especially when paying attention to nature can be a great way to relax and practice self-care. Try using mindfulness to direct your attention to the environment and sensations you notice around you. Being in the moment and focusing your attention on what you are experiencing can help you and your child feel calm and less stressed. Before the walk, have your child close their eyes, take some deep breaths, and listen to the sounds around them.

During the walk, prompt them to breathe deeply and use their 5 senses to get them to focus their attention on the environment around them. You can ask them to name things they can see, hear, taste, feel, and smell and model this for them. For example, saying things like “I see leaves on the ground. I hear the rain falling. I can taste the air. The tree trunk feels rough. I smell rain in the air. What do you see/hear/smell/feel/taste?” Kids will lose focus at times on the walk but that is natural! Just continue to encourage them to breathe deeply and go back to things they notice with their senses.

Too dreary outside for a nature walk?

If it’s too rainy, cold, or just an all-around dreary day, bring the nature walk inside and have a pretend nature walk! You could post pictures of trees, plants, and animals around the house. You could bring pine cones, rocks, and leaves in from outside, and use props like stuffed animals, binoculars, and clothing to make pretending more fun. Play music with forest or other nature sounds and walk around the house seeing what you can find and hear. You could also turn it into a scavenger hunt and hide items throughout the house that your child has to find.

Try out a nature walk this winter break, whether it be on a hiking trail, around your neighborhood, or a pretend one inside!

Nollie has worn multiple hats while working with the KITS Program. When she was a student at UO she was an assessor on the KITS research projects, a teacher in our school readiness groups, and a childcare assistant. Since then, she has taught KITS groups for 4J and coached other educators to implement the KITS Program.

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