Unstructured time in nature unleashes incredible creativity in my children. Recently, we met our playgroup in a redwood forest and with the aid of a notebook, pencil, and a camera enjoyed hours of fun as “wilderness detectives.”
On this occasion, I simply didn’t have the time to be bothered with much preparation. It worked perfectly, however, because I simply followed my daughter’s lead and ended up with a wonderful educational adventure.
Here’s what we did:
We arrived at our hiking spot and I took out my notebook and pencil. As Jasmine (nearly 5 years old) began to race up the trail, I asked her to describe what she saw. She ran just a few feet up the trail and began to tell me about a plant with pink flowers. I began to write what she wrote in the notebook and she was impressed. Somehow, recording her words made everything feel very important.
I asked for more details and she counted the petals. She described the shape and color of the leaves. She touched the stems and announced their texture. I wrote it all down in my notebook, asking clarifying questions, “what texture are the leaves? How many points do they have?” checking to make sure I’d accurately recorded her information.
(Interestingly, she does not like to spend time on counting or geometry if we’re working with paper and pencils. But in this environment, she was captivated. It didn’t even occur to her that she was doing “math.”)
I walked up the path and began “searching” for her plant. Because she’s been desperate to use my camera recently, when I found her plant, I handed her my camera and let her take a picture of it. We repeated with all kinds of plants and creatures.
She was thrilled. Meanwhile, little 2-year-old Chloe was racing around the trails picking up sticks, poking in the mud, and galloping after her sister. Whenever she stopped long enough to take notice of something special, I’d stop to talk about it with her.
Jasmine and I filled two pages of notebook paper with her discoveries, which included:
Large banana slugs
Baby banana slugs
Pink flowered bushes
Purple flowered bushes
California newts (Chloe found this one)
After we returned home, Jasmine enjoyed hearing the descriptions of the plants she’d found and then viewing the pictures she taken to go with the descriptions. We even tried to learn the names of some of the plants she’d found.
What nature adventures have you enjoyed with your children? Share them here!