When we received our eldest daughter’s first report card, it was no surprise that her highest marks were in Science. With Science geek parents, it can’t be helped! When the kids ask us questions about the world around them, we encourage them to make a guess (form a hypothesis), and then help them look for clues or do some research to see if they were right. By fuelling our children’s curiosity, we aim to foster a love of lifelong learning.
- Birding – With apps like Merlin Bird ID, birding is fun for the younger crowd too! Identify birds by size, colour, and location, then have fun “talking” to them by playing bird calls. Read more about birding with Merlin Bird ID here: www.playoutsideguide.com/2014/08/birding-with-kids-and-merlin-bird-id-app.html. If you are really keen, contact local birding clubs/associations to find out when birds will be tagged in a nearby park, and ask if you can watch. My girls had the rare opportunity to release some tagged birds last summer!
|Releasing a tagged bird|
- Bug collecting – Purchase a bug house and magnifying glass from the dollar store or make your own bug house (just be sure to poke some air holes!). Teach gentle handling of the insects and release them after looking at them. Plan ahead and take some books out from the library on creepy crawly critters and insect life cycles. Seeing bugs up close helped my youngest be less afraid of them. “They don’t have big teeth to bite me!” Caution: Avoid stinging bugs like wasps and bees, and hairy spiders as some spiders are poisonous.
- Learning about edible plants and berries – For my girls, the highlight of most hikes is finding a berry patch. We like blackberries, saskatoons, huckleberries, raspberries and wild strawberries. Caution: Teach your kids to always ask an adult before eating wild plants. Since some mushrooms are deadly, our rule is no picking or eating mushrooms.
|Enjoying some freshly picked wild raspberries|
- Geocaching – Right now, it’s all about the treasure hunt, but my 5 year old is starting to pay more attention to directions and is getting a better sense of distance. She can read numbers and understand that we’re getting closer or further away by the distance indicator on the app. Did you know you can geocache with your smartphone and a free app? The only other items you need are a pen to record your find in the log book and treasures for trading. Learn more here: www.playoutsideguide.com/2014/11/geocaching-101-how-to-geocache-with.html
|A cool geocache – treasure inside!|
- Meteorology – There are books at the library suitable for preschoolers (and up) that show what kinds of clouds are associated with what kind of weather. Identify cloud types, make your weather prediction, and see if it comes true. Clouds by Anne Rockwell is an excellent book for 3-6 year olds.
|Clouds by Anne Rockwell|
- Rock collecting – Challenge the kids to find rocks of different sizes, shapes, and colors. My girls enjoy finding round rocks and painting them (acrylic paints adhere well and have a nice finish). As the kids get older, try to identify what kinds of rocks you found and how they formed.
- Stargazing – Winter is the best time of year to do some stargazing because you don’t have to stay up late! If you’re like me and don’t know many constellations, have no fear! There’s an app for that! We like The Night Sky Lite. For the best bedtime story ever, read some Greek and Roman myths with a red light (to save your night vision), and locate the corresponding constellations or planets. Venus is easy to spot right after sunset and some constellations little astronomers can find easily include Cassiopeia, Big Dipper, and Little Dipper.
- Scavenger Hunts – Giving children a mission to complete is a great way to distract them from how long the trail is. Encourage them to ask lots of questions to learn about where certain items would be located. Make up your own or borrow one of these fantastic scavenger hunts from Candy Cook and Debi Huang:
- An Exclusive Mommy Hiker Trail Scavenger Hunt by Debi Huang www.mommyhiker.com/2013/09/guest-post-exclusive-mommy-hiker-hiking.html
- Springtime Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt happytrailswildtales.com/2013/04/springtime-nature-walk-scavenger-hunt/
- Seven Things to Look for On a Winter Hike happytrailswildtales.com/2014/12/seven-things-look-winter-hike/
- How to Make Your Own Nature Scavenger Hunt (plus links to many different scavenger hunts!) goexplorenature.com/2013/05/how-to-make-your-own-nature-scavenger-hunt.html