THE BENEFITS OF GOING FOR A NATURE WALK – – NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE – By U.S Muddy Puddle Teacher Bobbi Powers

Some of the greatest influences an adult can have on a child’s life are to encourage them to play outdoors and to help them develop an appreciation of nature. In today’s society, there are many activities that may attract children’s interest and may tend to keep children indoors. Many schools are set up so that most or all of the lessons and activities are done inside. By being in the outdoors and connecting to nature, children can have an experience of a setting for learning that enhances all of their senses and inspires them to learn things for themselves. Children are naturally curious and they like to discover the new scents, sights, sounds and textures of the outdoors. Exploring outside gives them numerous chances for making discoveries, being creative and solving problems. As they go on more walks they start being more detail-oriented and observant. They often notice little things that adults don’t and they will be excited to point them out to you! These new skills are then carried over to other learning areas!

Going for a walk outside and looking for signs of nature can be a fun learning experience for children. This can include looking around the yard, going around the block, visiting a park or a beach, exploring a field or hiking out in a forest. If you are in an urban environment, look for small signs of nature to discover and learn about, such as plants coming up in cracks in the pavement, the insects and spiders that are crawling around, the birds sitting upon the buildings and trees growing by the street. If you are able to take the children out into other natural areas or you live in one, there’s even more to see. Children enjoy knowing about the things around them. Using resources like the internet, the library, nature centres and natural science museums you can help them learn to identify the plants and animals they see and to learn all about them. 

Benefits

Going for a walk and looking for things in nature can have many benefits for all of the participating people, both children and adults: 
Healthwise walking in nature gives you exercise, helps you feel happier and calmer, increases your mental alertness and concentration, improves your short-term memory, and decreases stress and anxiety.
Socially it builds bonds and improves communication between people. It encourages them to communicate about and understand the world through the shared experiences of going on walks. You and the children have time to think, to ask questions and to talk about the things you discover.
Going for a walk in nature allows children to use their senses. Children will be able to see, hear, feel and smell things they haven’t before. 
Walking in nature helps build skills that can last a long time. It teaches children to stay on the path they are on and to stay together, to respect the local plants and animals, to take care of each other and to be aware of their surroundings and where they are going. For older children, it’s also a great place to teach survival skills and ways to not get lost.
Things that you and the children learn and discover on your walks can be used for lessons in other areas such as literacy, mathematics, science and social science.

Things to Consider

When you are planning on taking your children on a nature walk, there are several things to take into consideration:
If you are a teacher or a home childcare provider, you will need to know the requirements of your licensing or permitting agency and your insurance regarding whether you will need parental permission and where you can take the children if you plan to leave your campus or home. Going for a walk around your yard and garden or your playground is one easy solution to this.
In deciding where the walk will take place, take the amount of time you plan to spend and physical capabilities of the children into account. (Remember when some children say they need to use the bathroom, they mean now! Having everyone use the bathroom before you go on a walk usually helps alleviate this problem but not always!)

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Consider the potential needs of the children and prepare for those. If you are taking a short walk close by you should be fine. If you are going further, consider taking a first aid kit, snacks and water, and a cell phone if possible. If you’re going on a day trip, take other things you may need like changes of clothes and contact numbers in case of an emergency.
Before you go talk with the children about the things you would like them to do as they walk along like staying together, staying where they can see you, being around water, how to act if they see an animal, any plants they should be aware of like poison ivy, if they can pick plants, and so on. For instance, if they see something interesting and they want to stop and look at it, you can teach them to tell you that so everyone stops.
You should also consider what activities you and the children are going to do on the walk and take along any items you may need to accomplish them. For instance, if the children are going to collect items to take back, what will they put these items in? To study small plants or animals, they could take along a magnifying glass, something to catch it and something to put it in and release it from.

Conclusion

Taking children on a nature walk can be very rewarding for both them and for the adults that go along. Even if you have a plan, allow some latitude for what the children do on the walk! Finding a snakeskin while they are collecting leaves to learn about leaf shapes can lead to a whole new lesson on how snakes live! Most importantly let everyone have fun and discover nature!

Author: Bobbi Powers       April, 2019

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