Do you feel inspired when in nature with your child? Taking a nature walk is such a fantastic activity to do with a child, it's free and the learning opportunities are endless.
The Montessori theory is that as soon as the child can walk we should allow them to do so as much as possible. It's freedom of movement. Once the child starts walking all Montessori parents are encouraged to take them on nature walks. For a very young child this could be down the driveway. As the child gets older and more capable the nature walks can get longer.
The main element of a Montessori nature walk is that the child is to be allowed to walk at their own pace, to be able to stop and admire what and when they like. This can be difficult for parents however setting aside as much time for this as possible is recommended. Maria Montessori said the child should be able to go for walks like this and be guided by what appeals to them, to pass from one discovery to another.
If you are taking a nature walk frequently you may want to mix it up a little. Here are a few ways we make the most of our nature walks.
- Make a nature walk a part of everyday life if possible or a part of a routine or rhythm.
- Take a familiar route, this can allow the child to become familiar with their local environment, they can observe the same animals, trees in different seasons.
- Take a listening walk. You don't have to or want to be talking to your child the entire time. Try to listen to the sounds of your neighbourhood and encourage your child to do to.
- Use all senses, take some time to breathe in deeply and note any neighbourhood smells.
- On occasion go somewhere beautiful. Take a walk through the local botanic gardens or to a national park.
- Become familiar with the local flora and fauna. It helps to know the basic species of birds and trees, you can then pass this knowledge on to your child. For a young child this will help not only to expand their knowledge of their environment but it will also help to expand their vocabulary.
- Introduce older children to a local guide (I love the Fandex concept for younger children). The more localised the better. Giving a child a guide of all birds in America is a bit much but there may be a local guide for your area. Choose the guide you think will interest your child. We currently have an insect guide for insects in our city and my children love it. They try to identity everything from bees to ants. There are all sorts of guides to explore for things like butterflies, birds, leaves, spiders and trees.
- Once the child takes an interest in picking up leaves, feathers, stones, seedpods or small sticks or natural treasures and wants to bring them home, encourage the child to take a small pouch or shoulder bag. Be careful not to be destructive to the local environment, be careful of poisonous plants and try not to pick living flowers. We want to teach our children to be respectful of the natural environment. The small collection of items bought home can contribute to a nature table/shelf/tray. These items can be studied further at home. Observe how it changes over the seasons.
- Bring along a magnifying glass or binoculars. Once the child is familiar with the the use of binoculars or a magnifying glass, consider taking these on a nature walk. While not necessary they allow the child to make observations they couldn't otherwise.
- Take a night walk or an early morning walk. By going into the neighbourhood and nature at different times of the day it's likely the child will make different observations.
- Walk in all weather conditions. While dressing appropriately a nature walk while it is raining will be a very different experience to walking on a sunny day or perhaps while snowing!
- Take a camera and allow the child to make some observations through photographs. A polaroid camera is perfect for this purpose or perhaps an old digital camera if the child is using it frequently. If you hear distinctive noises you could consider making some sound recordings and replaying them back at home.
- Take some paints or pencils and start nature journalling. This doesn't have to be a formal process, perhaps begin by picking a nice place to sit, perhaps have a picnic and take some time and encourage the child to observe and record their surroundings.
- Pay attention to what interests your child. A child particularly interested in butterflies may like a butterfly book, finding our what interests your child can be useful in many ways.
- Take a friend or family member. A young child may like to take a Grandparent or friend on a nature walk and tell them all about their neighbourhood.
Nature walks are not all about nature. The child may find some road works or a construction site to observe. It may be a good way to get to know people your neighbourhood, local buildings and landmarks. Most of all nature walks should be regular and enjoyable!
If you would like to share a Montessori inspired activity or environment please feel free to join our weekly Montessori at Home link up below.