Your Guide to Exploring the Great Outdoors with Your Child
As the weather warms and Summer approaches, most parents are planning fun outdoor activities with their children. For a child, everything is new and even the tiniest things are interesting and exciting. In today’s technology-driven world, exploring the great outdoors is an opportunity for children to actively engage in learning.
Children are natural explorers. They like to run, jump, dig, climb as they discover new places and use their senses to explore. As with any outdoor exploration, it is important to set some basic boundaries so that children can discover their surroundings in a safe way.
Here are some steps you can take to guide your child’s exploration of the great outdoors:
1.) Explore Safely. Joining in on the fun with your children is a great way to keep an eye on them. Before you begin, dress appropriately and teach your child the basic safety rules of the outdoors. There is usually no need to restrict children and it is best to keep the safety rules simple. Children rarely do something that makes them feel uncomfortable.Here are some additional precautions to consider:
- Be aware of the environment and the wildlife that lives there.
- If shoes are left outside, make sure they empty their shoes before putting them back on.
- Be cautious of lifting boards, or rocks to find animals and insects, as well as being careful not to disturb the surrounding environment.
- Recognize different poisonous plants, such as poison ivy and poison oak. Take the necessary steps to disinfect if your child should come into contact.
- Always remove all trash you may bring on your outing.
2.) Let children choose what they want to explore. Let children discover their surroundings without offering any suggestions. Allow them to run, build, climb and dig. Digging is a great way for children to use their senses to learn about different soils that pertain to each environment.
3.) Touch, lift and look under. Children need to touch the natural world to more fully understand it. Gently touching an object with one finger, such as nudging a frog or a grasshopper may be helpful. This will help your child learn how animals move. Looking at the underside of a log and carefully replacing it helps children to understand which creatures may be living under that log and the importance of not disturbing the habitat.
4.) Guide children to reflect on the observations they have made. The best learning occurs when children come to conclusions for themselves. Ask them questions about what they see, feel, hear and smell. Another way your child can reflect on their observations is by keeping a field journal where they can write about, or draw their surroundings and the different wildlife that they observe.
Donna Satterlee, Grace Cormons and Matt Cormons (2022). Explore the Great Outdoors with Your Child NAEYC, (1).