Living in Northeast Ohio surely has amazing opportunities to explore the outdoors. Just within walking distance or a short drive, we have local parks and a National Park available for us to explore and enjoy. Taking a young child into these nature spaces will begin to instill in them the love, care, and excitement the outdoors has to offer. When taking young children to these places, you will need to take into consideration that their pace and direction may be unlike a hike you may take with a friend. While they may move at a slower pace, it does not mean they are not capable of traveling long distances.
Children under the age of three have a keen sense of small items. Seeing rolly pollies scurry under a rock can be fascinating. They may want to watch them, touch them or even pick them up. Young children are drawn to things like acorns, pinecones, and leaves, so take along a small bag for the child to collect these treasures. Walking with children down a path, hearing the crunch of leaves, wading through shallow streams or strolling over a bridge is an experience any child will remember and want to do again.
Each time these adventures are had, new discoveries will be made. Be sure to follow the child’s interest. Allow them the discovery and the “a ha” moments. Let these discoveries lead your conversations. You want your love of the outdoors to be contagious to your child. Express your love and excitement about the wonders they have found. Touch, smell, listen and see the wonders that await you in the great outdoors.
Things to do while out in nature:
1. Sit and watch. Observe a spider work in its web, see the ducks paddle and dip, and watch a squirrel scamper about the woods finding nuts.
2. Lift stones or roll logs and look what is living beneath.
3. Collect leaves. Count how many, sort by size or color.
4. Feel the different textures of tree bark…yes, go hug a tree. Does it feel rough or smooth?
5. Take a field guide with you and begin to name what you discover.
a. Maple tree, Grey Squirrel, Cardinal, etc. You don’t have to know the names of everything. Take a picture of things you don’t know and go home and do a little research. Discover and learn together.