One of our favorite things to do all year round gets us out of the house and costs us nothing. We call them “Nature Walks,” and we never get tired of them because there are endless ways to do them. In general, though, a Nature Walk consists of walking to a location while gathering leaves, flowers and interesting plants along the way. Sometimes we’ll collect them in a basket, sometimes we’ll just hold on to them. When we get back from a nature walk we examine whatever plants we’ve collected, talk about them, and put them in a vase to enjoy. Zorro also loves when we go on Nature Walks, though he probably refers to them as “Salad Bars.”
A Nature Walk is different from a regular walk because I try specifically to point out the names of plants that I know, or talk about what a seed does, or comment on the weather or the seasons. When we’re on a Nature Walk we pay special attention to all things nature and I save up all my patience to answer her many many many “why” questions.
It’s great just to get outside but it’s fun to discover nature. I live deep in suburbia but I we can still uncover all sorts of bugs, birds, and different kinds of plants. Usually we’ll walk from our house to a field near us that has sunflowers, or to a local park, but sometimes we’ll just roam the neighborhood with no goal in particular. She is allowed to pick any plant or flower on our property (except Mama’s poppies!), but when we’re walking through the neighborhood she can only collect plants that grow in the cracks of side walks, or have fallen onto the ground, or form empty fields. I do admit, though, we’ve plucked a few leaves from abandoned houses, but we respect other people’s properties. There’s enough nature to go around so we never come back empty-handed.
City dwellers might have to get a bit more creative in what and where they collect, but most cities have public parks or gardens, and even in the city nature is everywhere.
There are a lot of different variations on Nature Walk. Each time you leave the house you can have a different focus and try to notice different things:
- Are there clouds in the sky? What kind? You can talk a bit about the water cycle or just talk about their shapes and what they remind you of.
- Do you see people on your walks? Do you know their names? What are they doing? Can you guess?
- What animals do you see? Pets? Can you talk about that dog breed or type of songbird?
- My parents taught me a lot about plant names, which I didn’t realize was unusual until I started talking about them and realized no one else knew what I meant. I’m trying to pass this knowledge down to Isobel, and I’m proud every time she says, “Look at our Crepe Myrtle!” I found a few nature guide books while thrifting so I can identity more.
- Walk in a different neighborhood. I’ve driven to another part of town so we could collect different leaves and talk about other kinds of trees before. This is a great option if your immediate neighborhood isn’t safe.
- I encourage nature walks year round when weather permits. It’s great to get outside and we can talk about how different it is in winter versus summer. We don’t have snow here so your mileage may vary.
- When you are walking through your neighborhood it’s a great time to mention street names, your relationship to different locations such as Grandma’s house or the grocery store, and the city or town in which you live.
I never get tired of the bouquets we make while on our Nature Walks. They are always interesting and unusual and Isobel is so proud of them.