Updated: Jun 8
There are few things I enjoy more than going on nature walks with my son, Jaya. Every Monday after our morning “gratitude chats” and a snack, we go for a purposeful walk around the neighborhood. To the neighbors, who may catch a glimpse of us, we may just look like a mom and her son going out for a walk but to Jaya we are an adventurous duo on a serious mission!
The main purpose of our adventure is to look for interesting items to make a “letter of the week” with. This can be anything! We always take a basket to fill up with whatever catches our eye and a magnifying glass (Affiliate Link) so that Jaya can get a better look at anything he finds interesting along the way. Usually, the basket gets filled with leaves, twigs and an occasional flower or two but on special occasions we come across feathers. For us, this is a nature walk score!
Our walk begins with Jaya taking the lead. Once we close the door and reach the sidewalk, my first question is, “Should we go left or right?”
I let him make the call on which direction to head in because I want to teach him to trust his instincts and connect with nature.
Once we set out on our path, the fun begins! Sometimes we walk quietly together, each one of us on the hunt for that special leaf or flower that will make the letter of the week stand out. Other times, we get lost in conversations about trees or how to care for Mother Earth and we pick up trash along the way.
We usually stop to observe spider webs, lizards who are sunbathing or ants crossing our path. This is an excellent time to teach empathy and compassion for living things.
I remind him that when we venture outside, we have stepped into the homes of animals and plants. They are listening, watching us and just as curious about us as we are about them.
This allows us both to practice awareness and respect. I have witnessed him saying good morning to spiders, avoiding stepping on small flowers and deciding not to put a particular item in his basket because it just might be a bug's home.
When the basket is full, or we believe we have enough to make a capital and lowercase letter of the week with, we head back home. Using only glue, cardboard and items found on our nature walk, we begin our activity. The first step is to lay out all of the items we found and to talk about them. This is a great time for asking questions! “What color is this leaf? How many twigs did you find? Where do you think this bone came from (yes, we once found a bone!)? What kind of bird do you think lost this feather? What things are smooth and what things are rough?
The next step is to pour non-toxic glue (Affiliate Link) in the form of the weekly letter onto the cardboard. I recommend repurposing cardboard that was going to end up in the recycling bin! This keeps the activity low cost and teaches your little one to reduce and reuse. If you're doing this activity with a child who is not yet forming letters on their own, incorporate them into the gluing portion of the activity by using a hand over hand technique. Allow them to squeeze the glue bottle while you guide their little hands to form the letter.
Next, let them create! This is the time for you to step back and let them be. Allow your child the creative freedom to place their new found treasures on the glue and to get messy!
If your child ends up peeling glue off of their little fingers at the end, then your mission is complete. You have had a successful letter of the week activity. Pat yourself on the back! You are done for the day. Who am I kidding? You're never done. Keep going! You've got this!
Our walks have become sacred to me. During these nature walks, we are hunting, observing, listening, learning, exploring, talking and caring for Mother Earth. These walks serve multiple purposes that I genuinely love. What is also great about this activity is that most of the senses are incorporated. During the walk, your child can hear the wind blowing or the birds chirping, they can feel different textures or the sun kissing their skin. It is a time when they can observe different animals or plants in their natural habitat or smell the Earth after the rain has fallen.
Nature walks remind us that we are one with the Earth and with others. For children, this activity might only seem to be about making letters but it is so much more than that. As their parents and guides, we are fostering empathy, compassion, awareness, kindness, and a love for learning during these walks. And if you're lucky enough, they might just let you hold their hand while completing this serious mission.
Ready to connect with your little one in nature this week? Don’t forget your basket, repurposed cardboard, non-toxic glue and positive attitude!
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