Do your kids crave nature? My little guy sure does. Let me be honest, as a mama of a somewhat accident-prone little boy, I’m sometimes reluctant to spend that much time outside. It’s much easier to stay inside and keep those little knees nice and clean. However, I know that outside play is absolutely essential for building my son’s brain and body, and so meaningful for encouraging his soul. That’s why I love being inspired by a Charlotte Mason nature walk! Being outside in nature is one of our favorite ways to spend the day, knee-scrapes and all.
Nature walks are also the cornerstone of opening up your child’s mind to early science concepts and ideas. Charlotte Mason, one of my favorite educators, once said, “It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation.”
Every child has the heart of a naturalist, born with the yearning to discover and explore. Let’s fuel that fire, mamas!
Here is my A-to-Z list of tips and inspiration to help you as you take on nature study as a family.
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Charlotte Mason Nature Walk A-to-Z
A-Attention to detail. Be sure to notice and compare details. It’s the details of nature that are often the most breathtaking! Examine the pattern of a spider web or the spots on a ladybug.
B-Backpack. Grab a bag for your child to be in charge of. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but make sure there is room to collect samples and hold a small notebook and pencil.
C-Connect the dots. One of the most astonishing things about nature is the way that everything- and I mean everything– is connected. Study how plants grow on other plants. Observe symbiotic relationships between animals. It’s all connected!
D-Diligence. Does your child have a question about nature that you just can’t answer? Don’t settle until he figures it out. Teach the diligent pursuit of answers and truth. Find a book, research online, ask an expert. Promote diligence!
E-Entymology. The study of insects is a subject I would naturally shy (or run!) away from. Take heart, mama. Don’t snuff out your child’s curiosity with your fear! (And yes, I’m preaching to myself on this one!) Grab a field guide and study bugs!
F-Flower anatomy. A Charlotte Mason nature walk lends itself easily to a number of engaging science experiments. Learn the inner workings of a flower!
G-Geology. The study of rocks and minerals is sure to interest both boys and girls alike. Discover the intricate cause and effect process that makes the rocks we live with.
H-Handicrafts. Paint with leaves, make a suncatcher with found nature objects. Build a fort from fallen twigs. Nature just begs to foster creativity!
I-imagination. One of our favorite nature walk activities is to spend time cloud watching. There’s nothing like seeing a child’s imagination light up as he envisions fantastic creatures in the clouds.
J-Jars for collecting samples. If you’re up for collecting bugs and insects, it’s a good idea to grab a jar for easy observation. I use a clean and empty peanut butter jar with holes punched in the lid.
K-Kite. Nature walks can foster a love of outside play! Bring a kite along for a breezy mid-walk break.
L-Leaf guide. Learning to identify trees and plants is a useful skill for any child. Bring a leaf guide along to help you spot the species in your neighborhood!
M-Microscope or magnifying glass. Don’t miss out on the incredible intricacies of nature. There is a whole new world waiting at the other end of a microscope or magnifying glass. Try this child-friendly microscope, or grab a magnifying glass from your local dollar store.
N-New friends. Nature walks are more fun with friends! Make it a play date and invite a few of your child’s friends along on your Charlotte Mason nature walk.
O-Ornithology (aka bird watching!). Being in nature is great for developing scientific skills. Pay attention to detail, identify color patterns, and learn about the beautiful world of birds together! Grab this reference guide to take with you on the go!
P-put it on paper. Use nature walks to practice the habit of observing and recording. Give your child a simple sketch pad and pencil, and let him get to work!
Q-ask big Questions. Instead of simple “yes or no” questions, start to add complexity. As you walk, ask questions that start with “who, what, when, where, why, and how.” For more questioning inspiration, read this post about how I used questioning as a teacher!
R-Bring a recorder. Use your phone to record the sounds of nature. Take a listen later in the day and ask your kids to identify what they hear.
S-Slow down. Kids, especially young ones are notorious dwaddlers. But you know what, when it comes to nature walks, that’s fantastic! Embrace the dwaddler in yourself and learn to stop and really soak in the nature around you.
T-Build a terrarium. What better way to understand nature than by re-creating it? Have your children fill a fish tank with nature objects, bug, and other items to recreate a specific natural environment.
U-Bring an umbrella. Who says a nature walk has to end when the raindrops begin? In fact, a whole new world comes alive when the puddles start to form. Stay dry under the umbrella as you observe worms, frogs, and other animals that take action when it rains.
V-Very comfy shoes. Nature walks just aren’t the place for those cute sandals. Get comfy instead so you and your little ones can focus on all the fun.
W-Make walking sticks. Want to get your kids excited to go on a nature walk? Help them find a branch and carve their own DIY carved walking stick.
X- eXamine a book. Especially for complex ideas like eco-systems and geology, books can be your best friend! Jot down questions that come up on your nature walk, then take a trip to the library to find the answer!
Y-Yearly traditions. Why not build in a few traditions into your nature walks? An annual pumpkin hunt. A first day of Spring bug race. Get creative!
Z-Zip it! Resist the urge to answer all their questions immediately. Instead, ask them a follow-up question. “Mommy where do worms live?” “That’s a good question, how could we find out?” That’s much more stimulating then a simple, “Under the ground, honey.” Try it!
Lace up your shoes and get those kids out the door! I can’t wait to hear how much fun you have with a Charlotte Mason nature walk!