As the last of winter’s snow melts, your kids might start pointing out the sights, smells and sounds of early spring. I can remember my childhood excitement of being able to go out in just long sleeves, without a sweater or coat, after the long winters. This is the perfect time to start a habit of going for walks with your kids. Not only will you all be getting some exercise and fresh air, but what could be more enjoyable than watching the signs of spring slowly unfold in your neighborhood? A little bit of planning can go a long way in heading off boredom at the pass; sometimes, kids are a little bit reluctant to leave behind their video games, toys and other comforts that they may have been relying on through the coldest days of the year. Try a few of these ideas, and they might surprise you with their insight and discovery!
Pack Some Gear
If you’re planning on passing by a park, pond or other area where you might sit down a while, carry a backpack with a couple of identification guides for wildflowers, birds or trees native to your area. If you don’t own these guides, pick them up at your library. Also, pack each person a sketch pad for making notes and drawing pictures. I wasn’t sure my kids would be interested in this, but I found half-price sketch pads at our local art store, and they filled them with sketches of trees, flowers, grasses, rocks and wildlife. A couple of boxes of colored pencils, fine markers and crayons might help awaken creativity. Binoculars and a magnifying glass can help kids see from a different perspective, and a camera can record sights that they might want to appreciate later. Encourage kids to write about or draw anything they see that inspires them.
Point Out Signs of Spring
If your children are toddlers, you might not have to do this; the littlest ones walk slowly and are not afraid to point out anything that they see, from a fat green caterpillar, to a robin’s red breast, to crocuses popping up through the snow. Older kids, though, seem to overlook these little treasures. This means that it’s your job to point out the sights of spring: tulips, birds returning from wintering down south, the tiny pale green buds starting on trees. Once you get them started, they will soon be showing you things that you haven’t seen in a while.
Encourage Them to Use Their Senses
There is certainly a lot to see when it comes to noticing the signs of spring, but there are also things to hear and smell. I know that spring has sprung when bird songs start waking me up in the morning. When we lived up north, the scent of lilacs were a sure sign of spring. There is also that muddy smell after a spring rain that tells us without a doubt that winter is over. My son can tell it’s spring because he starts sneezing and coughing: those with pollen allergies seem to have a sixth sense about weather changes!
Keep Up the Conversation
If your kids asked questions while you were on your walk, look up the answers once you get home. My kids constantly ask me questions that I don’t know the answers to, so when they were small, I’d carry a small notebook to jot down notes to myself (now they do this themselves!). While at one time, we would have to look up information on hibiscus flowers or baby rabbits in an encyclopedia, now we can Google anything, and probably even find an easy-to-understand explanation on YouTube or another video site. Encourage your kids to tell your spouse or another family member about anything interesting that they saw on your walk; this will help them remember.
Do you take nature walks with your children? Have they made any wonderful discoveries lately?