Spending quality time outside is great for all of us, yet it is a particularly wonderful opportunity for families to re-connect, relax and get away from the distractions of home, work and school.
However, if you’re thinking of grabbing your wellies and taking the family out for a stroll, we suggest you give it a fun and educational twist…you guessed it, make it into a nature trail!
You don’t have to venture far for this activity- even just to your garden or local park or woodland. Even in the most built-up urban areas, you will find hidden green spaces teeming with wildlife, waiting to be discovered. Nature really is everywhere! The question is how to turn your usual walk into a nature trail and engage the children with wildlife? Well, we think we have a few great ideas to get you started.
1. Wildlife Notes | Don’t just view, take notes too!
Take a spotting sheet or notebook with you and get the children to scribble down all the different nature they see on the trail. There may be squirrels foraging, caterpillars or ladybirds hiding beneath leaves, or a whole host of mini-beasts lurking under logs. If there is a pond or lake you might catch sight of some frogspawn or even a dragon-fly hovering over water. You could give them structure, by providing them with headings to fill in too: Creature / Plant / Other | Sounds Like | Looks Like | Habitat.
If you’re looking for inspiration, Wildlife Watch have a fantastic ‘Signs of Spring’ nature spotting sheet too!
2. Bird Watching | Fly high and focus on the birds
Arm the children and yourselves with some binoculars, and play bird bingo! Print some image grids of popular birds (you are likely to see!), pack the picnic and head down to your local green space to play the game! You could also take a bird book or field guide along with you, where for every bird spotted you can find our more information and help the children understand more about each bird. Don’t forget to remind the children to use their ears to absorb the sounds of nature; hey’ll be amazed at how many different types of bird song can be heard even in the most urban of spaces; especially on early spring mornings.
You can follow this activity up using the RSPB’s Bird Guide online: photos, videos and sound clips on over 200 species of bird.
3. Bark Rubbing | Create artwork with nature’s touch
For a truly sensory experience with nature, why not try bark rubbing. All you will need to take with you is some paper and charcoal or crayons. Once on the nature trail, the children simply need to lay the paper over the trunk of a tree and scribble over the paper with their crayons, pushing onto the bark pattern. This will create a simple but effective drawing demonstrating the pattern and texture of different tree trunks!
This is a great activity to allow the children to explore different types of trees and understand how they all have a unique look and feel. Don’t forget, if there is a fallen tree or log nearby, encourage them to use the age-old trick of counting the rings to see how old the tree is too!
4. Picture It | Capture the moment for future memories
Do you struggle to get the kids away from technology even when embarking on an outdoors adventure? Well, if you can’t beat them…at least encourage them to use technology a little more productively! Your nature trail provides the picture perfect opportunity for photo moments. The children should use their technology to take photographs of anything interesting they see along the way – landscapes or wildlife.
Once home, they can then analyse the pictures and see the hidden details of the images – which may of course be hiding natures’ delights! Why not start making a photo album too? Something you and the family can build upon with each nature trail!
5. Scavenger Hunt | Bring focus and challenge to the day
A scavenger hunt is always a firm favourite for children, so why not use this to your advantage? Create your own nature led scavenger hunt. You should provide the children with a list of natures wonders that you think you may find on your walk. Think: birds, insects, pinecones, feathers, specific leaves of trees or wild flowers.
The children then need to make it their ultimate mission to find everything on that list during your walk. They can then either bring the items home, or channel their artistic side by sketching the trees, flowers, birds or insects they discover whilst on the walk itself. The perfect way for them to engage with focus!
Learning for the Future
As always at COGO we like to return to the learning and development outcomes of any activity we talk about or include in our residential itineraries. Participating in a nature trail encourages children to explore and take an interest in their environment and learn to identify varying types of plants and wildlife.
Overall, the nature trail activity fosters an understanding of life systems in place within the environment as well as demonstrating the impact humans have on wildlife and their habitats, which we believe is essential for them to understand now in order for them to protect their futures. The activity is also super fun and perfect for all the budding David Attenboroughs out there!