Monday, April 02, 2007

Ways to Enjoy Great Walks with Young Children!

Ways to Enjoy Great Walks with Young Children!

Let’s go for a walk. Is anything simpler than just taking a walk to learn about the world?

In today’s driven reality, we sometimes need to be reminded of that. Summertime is a great time to get outside and go for a walk. With the warm weather, plenty of bugs, butterflies flora and fauna, and extended hours of sunlight, children can really explore the best nature has to offer during this magical time of year.

Walks provide a prime opportunity for great casual conversation, touching base with each other and finding out what’s going on inside a child’s head. It is also a time to reconnect with the neighborhood, someplace new, or even the natural world.

Walks are great simply as a purposeless meander, but can also be an intentional time to expand a child’s perspective. Always remember, you are first a parent and a companion; second a teacher. Here are some walk ideas:

Sensory Walks
One of the fundamental jobs a child has is to literally make sense of the world. A baby begins with sensory input streaming in and a world divided into “things I can suck and things that I can’t.” From that point on, children need to recognize and categorize the sensory properties of all things. This is, in fact, an enormous task.

During the walk, the focus is on noticing the senses, but you could move from simply noticing and commenting to recording and documenting your findings in a journal; adding some math and written language to the experience. Ask your child:

“What’s that smell?” Be alert for all the smells one encounters on a walk: from freshly mowed grass to automobile exhaust; food smells to animal “you know what.”

" What’s that sound?” Sort through all the sounds: human noise, different birds, crickets, dogs, trucks, lawn mowers, airplanes, far off sounds and nearby sounds.

“What does it feel like?” The world is full of texture: all the kinds of bark and plants, sticks, stones and grass, ground surfaces, metal, plastic, or rubber surfaces, the texture of clothing.

“Sensory deprivation.” : On a walk, take away a sense and talk about its absence. A blindfold walk, a headphone or ear plug walk, a “don’t touch walk, etc. and talk about how it feels when one of the senses is taken away. Do your other senses accommodate for the absent one?

You can make up as many walks as your imagination allows. Consider color, light, climate, objects, animals, people, math, language, rhythm, learning about the world, and our place in it, and above all, fun.

Here are some more walk ideas:

Color walks
Look for all the colors you can see and make a color journal. Or, look for a particular color. Or make up something you have to do when see a color – hop 3 times when you see purple; walk backwards when you see orange, etc.

Microclimate walks
On a hot day, go for a walk in sunny and shady areas, waterside areas, or breezy areas, and notice how the temperature is lower in the shade and even lower in shady areas with trees, or with a breeze off the water.

Architecture walks
Notice how houses are alike or different – size, shape, roofs, windows, doors, porches, landscape.

Sharing Nature with Children Exploring nature is becoming receptive – feeling with every sense.
In Sharing Nature with Children see these guidelines:

Teach less and share more: Besides telling children the bare facts of nature (“This is a mountain hemlock tree.”), I like to tell them my inner feelings in the presence of the hemlock tree.

Be receptive: Being receptive means listening and being aware.Focus on the child’s attention without delay: Some children are not used to watching nature closely, so find things that interest them and lead them bit by bit into the spirit of keen observation.

Look and experience first, talk later: Smell the lilac, rub the bark, or listen to the rumble of the garbage truck, then have the conversation.A sense of joy should permeate the experience: whether in the form of gaiety or calm attentiveness. The world is an interesting place with lots of things to learn about. Children need to connect to the world and come to love the world.

Parents are the best guides and mentors as they lead explorations into the child’s habit at. Without turning it into a rote learning classroom, we can venture out armed with fun games to attend to the world around us.

With Love, Amma - Naana