No matter what the weather, we have always liked to get out of the house everyday. When my kids were little, going for a stroll was one of our favorite things to do. A toddler strolling activity that allows your little one to be a nature explorer is perfect for when you need some fresh air!
Go on a stroll with a purpose!
I once had a cross-country coach who said “you can walk, but you must do it with a purpose.” While I’m pretty sure he trying to motivate me to finish with a time that would benefit our team, his words resonated in my mind when I first became a daily walker as a stay at home mom of a 10 month old.
Soon into my daily walking routine I realized our walks could be multi-purposed. In addition to being great exercise for me, these walks provide us an opportunity to observe the world around us, practice vocabulary in conversation, and learn as explorers on a nature search.
How to plan a nature explorer walk
The Nature Explorer Toddler Activity is one of my favorite play plans because it can be repeated frequently with little modification. It is absolutely free and is enjoyable for babies, toddlers, older siblings and parents.
As you prepare for your walk, talk with your child about what you will be searching for and collecting.
Keep it simple so you will be successful!
You want to choose something that your child can identify easily. Plan to search for a specified number of objects. (Make sure to consider the amount of time you will be walking when you plan the number you are working to count toward.)
My go-to plans were to find 5 different types of leaves or 5 different types of plants.
When my sons were toddlers, I would a basic review reminding them that plants are things that grow and leaves are part of a tree. Pointing out a few of these items to them as examples of what we would be searching for on our walk helped to provide understanding.
Guide your nature explorer in the search
As you set out on your walk ask your child questions to prompt their search.
If we were explorers on a nature search for leaves I would ask the boys, “Do you see any leaves?” as we pass a tree. I give them time to respond with pointing for my youngest and pointing and attempting to say “leaves” by my oldest. (For the record, the first time we played, my younger child did nothing but look around, but with repetitive modeling and playing of this game, he caught on and actively participated.)
If we were explorers on a nature search for plants, I would state, “I wonder if there are any plants around here,” as we approach greenery. Again I wait for my kids to identify a plant near our path.
We collected a sample of the object and let the boys touch and smell it. I made sure to point out the color and say the name of the object (if I know it) such as, “Wow! You guys found a green maple leaf.”
Once they had a chance to examine the find, we added it to our collection. Then we reviewed how many things we were searching for and how many we have left to find before we continued on our search.
Continue the activity at home
When we returned home, I laid out each item in our collection for the boys to examine again. We counted how many objects we collected as nature explorers. As they touched the different objects, I made comparison statements such as “This brown leaf is dry and crunchy, but the green leaf is soft to touch.” Another option was to have them compare the objects by asking questions like “Which leaf is the biggest?”
My little guy touched each of the objects and clung to his favorites. My older toddler responded with “ooh” and “ahh” as he explored the differences. He worked to answer questions and communicate responses in his increasing toddler vocabulary.
Often times I taped the items to a piece of paper when we finished the examination of our collection. This made the object available for review later that day.
Everyone can be included in the nature explorer toddler activity!
The best part of this activity is that when my husband returned home from work in the evening, my older son would bring our treasure collection to him and work on talking with him about the adventure.
The visual cues provided a conversational point for my husband to ask questions about the activity, which allowed my older toddler to recall memories and learning from earlier in the day. Even our little guy would smile when Dad pointed at the objects on the paper and exclaiming, “Wow! You were quite an explorer to find all of these things!”
Nothing beats an easy, free activity that includes everyone!
- cognitive development: counting and identifying colors; comparing size and texture
- communication skills: pointing at objects; giving direction; naming objects; expressing differences in objects;
- social skills: sharing collection and experience with another person
- engaged senses – touch, sight, smell
- To work on measuring skills, search for specifically sized objects (such as the size of your palm or the size of your child’s foot).
- Learn about color shades by collecting items of one color and then putting them in order from lightest to darkest.
- Discover translucent properties by kids shining light through each of the leaves to see which allow light to pass through.
Level of mess: