Themed Walks to Explore with Children
My daughters and I try to go for a short walk through our neighborhood every morning. On those first warm days of spring, they are quite eager to go out without any prodding from me. But as the days turn from warm and mild to hot and humid, I sometimes have trouble motivating them (and myself!) to get out the door. In times like these, I’ve found it helps to give our walk a little theme, just an extra element of play to get them excited about going outside. The options for this are only as limited as your imagination.
Here are a few to start with…
- Five Senses Walk: This is one of my daughters’ favorites. You can pick just one sense to focus on; have a like in the book, Listening Walk for example. On a Touch Walk, you might ask your child to close her eyes, then place a small object, (like a rock, pine cone, etc.) into her hands and see if she can describe how it feels and guess what it is. Or you can set out on your walk to discover at least one thing for each of your five senses to discover. “What do you hear?” and “What do you see?” are easy ones, but sometimes trying to find something to taste can be challenging. We usually sample some of the herbs in our backyard, or mulberries from our neighbor’s tree.
- Color Walk: Pick one color, and try to spot as many items of that color as you can. If you have a digital camera that your child can use, it can be fun to let them take pictures of all the yellow things, or green things, or whatever color you’ve chosen. You could also bring along a paint sample, with different shades of the same color, and try to find a match for each shade. Then check out, I Went Walking a book about all the colorful animals one girl sees on her walk, or Baby Shoes about a baby who goes on a walk wearing new white shoes, but comes home with shoes stained by all the colors of the rainbow at the end of the day.
- Shape Walk: Pick a shape and see how many you can spot. Some shapes are easy (rectangles are usually abundant); others are surprisingly tricky. With older children you might look for geometric shapes, like cubes or cones. Again, letting you child take along a digital camera to capture the shapes can be fun. Read any of Tana Hoban’s books about shapes (like Shapes, Shapes, Shapes or Cubes, Cones, Cylinders, & Spheres) to get inspired for your shape walk.
- Counting Walk: Just find groups of objects and start counting. How many bees are in this clover patch? How many dogs live on this street? Or set out with a specific number in mind, say five, and then try to find groupings of five things. Check out How Many Snails?, a counting book about all the things the narrator counts as he walks.
- ABC Walk: Choose your letter-of-the-day and see how many objects you can find that start with that letter. If your child is older, have him bring along a notebook and pencil to write down all the words you find. Perhaps when you get home, you could write your own alliterative walk story, as Ann Jonas does in Watch William Walk.
- Nature Walk: Set out on a bird walk, or a butterfly walk, or a flower walk, or an insect walk, and see what you can see. You can simply count how many birds or bugs you see, or bring along a field guide and try to identify what you don’t recognize. Or bring along a blank book or journal and something to draw with, and your child can create her own neighborhood field guide. For some reading that invites you along on a nature walk try, I Took a Walk by Henry Cole, or any of Lindsay Barrett George’s Who’s Been Here? books such as Around the Pond and In the Woods.
- Nighttime Walk: Our daughters always get excited when we let them stay up a little past bedtime for a nighttime walk. Bring along a flashlight, count the stars, catch fireflies, listen for bats. When the walk is over and it’s time for bed, read A Good Night Walk or one of our family favorites, I Took the Moon for a Walk.