What better way to spend quality time with your family and get in touch with nature than a fresh, invigorating walk in the woods, along a river, or the beach? What’s more, family hikes make for fun learning opportunities for kids and parents alike.
A stone is a stone is a…mineral?
Take an excursion along a shoreline to learn about rocks and minerals. Before you go, learn which rocks and minerals are abundant in the area. Take along baggies or plastic containers, a rock and mineral guide, and magnifying glass for viewing the colors, layers and details. As you identify stones, discuss their uses and other neat facts.
Sounds of nature
Wander through a forest and listen for a variety of bird and animal sounds. Carry a cell phone to record some of the sounds you hear. Listen to the recording again at home and play a game of detective to determine the source of the sounds. Search the Internet to discover the makers of the mystery calls.
Capture nature’s splendor. Hiking trails provide plenty of photo opportunities, and kids will love snapping the shots. When you get home, print out the best photos, then create a nature scrapbook with them.
These giants of nature are not only intriguing because of their sometimes-massive size but also because of the variety and history behind them. Borrow books on trees from your library that describe trees’ unique features and their history. Use clues such as the shape of the tree’s leaves, the texture of its bark, and even its size to determine the kind of tree.
Which way do we go?
Roam the countryside and teach your children directional skills such as how to read a map and use a compass or the sun to determine direction. Before setting out, choose a trail system that provides maps or make up your own. Take a trail that branches off for directional skill-building opportunities.
Animals all around
Take a quiet hike in a wooded area with grassy clearings and see how many animals you meet. Discuss the animal’s unique features and how those qualities help or hinder the animal. Talk about what the animals eat, their shelters and species they are related to. Also, keep eyes peeled for animal tracks to identify and determine how recently they were made.
Creepy crawly things
Scouting for insects is an all-time favorite among kids, and the variety in the woods is remarkable. Carry an insect book, clear container, tweezers and a magnifying glass for close examination of insects’ fascinating features. Read about insects’ defense behaviors and characteristics that warn predators of danger.
Plant life – old and new
Discover the fantastic diversity of plant life. Before you head out, review books on plants to spark your children’s interests. As you inspect plants, look for their seeds and notice the variations. Learn how certain plants evolved to have natural defenses to protect against creatures that would otherwise devour them.