Nature Walk

Trees are turning into fiery flames and there is a nip in the air. Autumn has arrived and the world outside holds all kinds of new adventures for our little ones. Running around in parks and gardens will keep the chill at bay, but tiny babes in prams will need an extra layer to keep them toasty warm, while they watch in wonder at how the seasons change the world around them.

Outdoor adventures stimulate our children’s physical, emotional and intellectual development and nature provides everything they need to develop their inquisitive minds and experience the sights, sounds, scents and textures of the natural world.
Here are a few of Kalusha’s favourite brain-building ‘nature activities’ for children:

Nature Walk

Going out for a walk is a sure-fire way of calming down fretful babies; they take in the new surroundings, wide eyed, and come home exhausted and ready to sleep…hurrah! Nature walks have the same calming effect on older children too. The fresh air has great health benefits and puts a hint of colour in their cute cheeks.
Little legs tire easily though, so we need to be prepared with delicious, healthy snacks and fun activities to keep them busy and occupied. A simple walk turns in to a great adventure when you challenge your child to ‘find’ and ‘collect’.

Provide them with a collection bag and ask ‘How many different types of leaves can you find on the floor?’ or cut a strip of card to fit their wrist and cover it in double sided sticky tape. They now have a special ‘collector’s bracelet’ that they can stick their favourite leaves on to and wear with pride. Be sure to teach them to only collect things that have fallen to the ground rather than pulling them out of the earth or from a bush. This helps children to develop a respectful appreciation for the Earth and all its inhabitants from a very young age.

Treasure Hunt

If you can spare the time for a little preparation, you can easily turn your nature walk in to a treasure hunt. Kids love treasure hunts! They will happily scavenge and check things off a list with the promise of a little prize at the end.

Create a list of items that you know your child will easily be able to find on your walk, or print pictures of them for younger children e.g. acorn, pine cone, red leaf, feather, seed pod, twig or spider web and activate their other senses too by adding items for them to hear, smell or touch on their treasure hunt list.

Add ‘feel rough tree bark’ and ‘smell a wild flower’ for variation and challenge them to tick them all off their list. It’s a good idea to put the list on a small clipboard and tie a pencil to the clip so that it doesn’t get lost and spoil the fun!

Encourage them to listen to nature by adding ‘the noise of leaves crunching underfoot’ and ‘birdsong’ to their list. Let them stop to listen to birds singing and challenge them to mimic what they hear. This birdsong copycat game is a great way to encourage listening skills and develop a child’s ability to focus and concentrate.

You can download our 'Forest Treasure Hunt' Printout to get you started
Forest Treasure Hunt PDF

Craft Ideas

Nature walks and scavenger hunts usually result in baskets of wonderful autumnal treasures being brought home and it would be a shame to waste them. Children will have hours of fun turning their precious finds into simple craft projects, that will keep them amused on the wetter, chillier days.

Coating leaves of various shapes and sizes in different coloured nontoxic paint, then pressing them on to sheets of recycled paper, make beautiful images and teach children about texture and pattern.

Favourite finds and ‘special’ leaves can be displayed in a scrapbook, collage, or turned in to a ‘nature wreath’ by mounting them on to circular base of recycled cardboard.

Wax Leaf Dipping

Head over to Lacy Arrowsmith's Instagram Account for an amazing tutorial on Wax Leaf Dipping to preserve your beautiful leaf findings to turn them into garlands or any other creations. They will keep till the next season as well.
Wax Leaf Dipping Tutorials by Lacy

Other autumnal treasures can be used to make a wonderful ‘sensory bin’ for little hands to dig into. Fill a medium size container with dry rice and add autumn leaves, acorns, pine cones etc and let your little ones experience the textures, smells and colours of nature. Not only is it great for their sensory development but it is also a source of inspiration for inquiring and wanting to know more about nature and the environment.

Bug Hunting

There are lots of Bug Collecting Kits available to buy and they make great gifts for kids, but it’s also easy to make your own.

All you really need is a clean recycled container lined with twigs and leaves and a magnifying glass and you are ready for a bugtastic adventure!

Teach younger children to search under leaves and in the grass for beetles, wriggly worms, caterpillars, grasshoppers, dragonflies and ants. They may need help to carefully lift them in to their container, using a small twig, where they can watch them with their magnifying glass to note their colour, see how they move and count their legs and wings. After a few minutes release them safely back where you found them and teach your child to respect creatures great and small.

Older children might ask to take a quick photo or may prefer to take a notepad with them and make a sketch. You can turn your adventure in to a project by scrapbooking their pictures and finding out fun facts about the bugs you found. Did you know that Ladybirds have really smelly feet to try to keep predators away?

Cloud Pictures

Stimulate your child’s creativity with a simple game of cloud pictures! Face the sky and cloud gaze until you can pick out shapes; animals, trees, faces, even ice cream cones! The things that us grown-ups so often take for granted are a source of wonder for children and they will love pointing out their finds.

Dirty Play!

Remember how much fun you had as a child making ‘mud pies’? Good old-fashioned fun that kids still love today. Research suggests that playing with dirt can also strengthen young immune systems, by exposing them gently to everyday germs, making children more robust.

The beauty of ‘Dirty Play’ is you that you don’t even necessarily have to leave your own garden. All you need is a little imagination and a cup of white vinegar on standby to remove any stubborn mud stains!
Mix dirt and water together in a bucket to make a consistency similar to that of bread dough and let your child knead, shape and flatten their ‘mud dough’. They can decorate their ‘pies’ with all the stones, flowers and leaves they have collected on their nature walk and host a tea party for you!

Bulb Planting

Also, whilst in the garden, you can encourage your children to become gloriously green fingered by allowing them help you plant bulbs to fill your upcoming spring garden with colour.

Daffodil and tulip bulbs are good choices for September/October planting. Digging a simple hole in a pot of earth, two or three times deeper than the size of the bulb, will help develop your child’s fine motor skills. Teach them to gently plant the bulb’ pointy end up’ and watch their delight in the Spring when their bright blooms appear.

Puddle Fun!

We may groan when the heavens open but most children love an opportunity to pull on their wellies and are somehow magnetically drawn to rain puddles!
Push your worries about soggy socks to one side because puddle jumping is actually a great way to develop children’s gross motor skills and teach them the cause and effect properties of water.

Puddles also make a great natural water table where they can experiment floating and sinking the leaves and stones they have collected on your outdoor adventure. Children learn to make predictions and explore strategies for answering so many questions through this type of play.

Puddles can provide endless fun and exploration, so keep those wellies by the door and then when the sun does eventually reappear, keep track of how long it takes for a puddle to evaporate…there is always something new to learn!

We live in a high-tech society where children are surrounded by screens, but experiences like these offer real, authentic and fun learning. They give children the opportunity to take risks, try and fail, and try again, building resilience and confidence.

Photography: Gustavo Fring, Tatiana Syrikova