Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Weaving Weather-Proof Adventure Walks

by Kim Brooks

Children have a natural affinity towards nature.  Dirt, water, plants, and small animals attract and hold children's attention for hours, days, even a lifetime.  -Robin C. Moore and Herb H Wong

It's raining!  Yes!  That means today's walk will be full of lively smells, water drops rolling down our cheeks, the soft sound of rain sliding off leaves, watching shiny worms climb to higher ground, noticing how gravity pulls the rain down but the breeze pushes it sideways.  Everything is shiny, fresh, damp, and different then when it was sunny!  The rain has brought us a brand new hike on the same trail we walked yesterday!

My daughter and I are sure to get outside everyday.  We hike, explore and walk in our neighbourhood and beyond with her on my back in a woven wrap or our favourite soft structured carrier.  On the tougher teething days or when she's really tired she's on my chest.  As she's gotten older and become more interested in her surroundings, our walks have become a great time to chat about what we are seeing, hearing, smelling and touching.  Sometimes we're just quiet and leave each other to our own experiences. 

Ottawa's beautiful paths, trails and neighbourhoods offer endless opportunities to engage with and breathe in nature.  Our city's warm, hot, cold, rainy, snowy, windy, breezy, beautiful, frigid and sometimes challenging weather only adds to the string of ways we can weave new walking adventures every day.

I wanted to share a few fun ways to create your own adventure walks with the changing seasons and weather as your inspiration!  These activities and ideas can be used for any age group - even a baby will reach out and touch colours you point to for example.  Use these activities to spark conversation with older toddlers and to engage your 3 month old in his/her environment.

Rainbow Chips:  Head to the paint store and collect a pile of paint chip cards, the ones with all the shades of green, blue, yellow, pink, orange etc.  Cut them up into individual pieces and take them with you on your next hike or walk.  See how many colours you can find in nature - it's amazing how many colours there are once you start really looking!  Lichen, tree bark, leaves, flowers, even all the different grasses are different colours!  If you don't have paint chips, use the clothes you are wearing (or even your wraps!) and see if you can find those colours in nature.  Every season has a new colour palate!

Magic Paintbrushes:  Bring a paintbrush with you on your next hike with a bottle of water.  Use the water as "paint" and see how things in nature change when they are wet.  What new colours do you see?  Does the rock change colours when it's "painted" with water?  Do cedar trees smell different when they are wet? You can also use a spray bottle and "spray paint".

What doesn't belong?:  Toddlers can point out things that don't belong in nature like garbage, pop cans, and plastic bags.  Bring along a bag to safely put those things in an put them in the garbage or recycling box when you get home.

Touch Touch:  Reach out and touch tree bark, leaves (avoiding certain ones of course), rocks, soil. My daughter loves grabbing tree branches and exploring them.  Ask your baby what it feels like?  "Is it rough?  Is it cold?"  My daughter doesn't say anything back other than "ba", but she is learning about her environment hands-on.

Mud/Snow/Sand Tracks:  Look closely and see if you can spot any animal (or human) tracks.  Are those bird prints in the snow?  Has a squirrel pulled apart a pinecone on that nearby rock?  Can you see the trail left by the worm in the mud?  How many spider webs do you see?

Tea Cups:  Bring a cup with you on your hike and ask your toddler to make you a cup of tea that smells delicious.  Using the smells he/she finds in nature (soil, cedar, moss etc.) he/she can make you a cup of tea.  Breathe it in and talk about all the scents.  This can work well if your child is on your back so she/he can reach out and smell different items in nature.  Of course, it's always great to get down and explore too!

Home Sweet Home:  Can you see any homes?  Who lives in that nest?  What about that ant hill? What lives in that hole in the log?  Who lives in that pile of leaves?  How many spider webs can you see along the sidewalk?

As we carry them in our wraps, slings and carriers, let's engage our children with nature.  I hope these ideas offer some inspiration for your next walk in the woods, on Bank St. or along the Ottawa River. The joy of nature is that it manages to be everywhere - see how many plants and dandelions you can find growing in the cracks in the asphalt on your neighbourhood streets!  

Grab your umbrella, put on your giant down jacket, slop on the sunscreen, find a tuque, wrap your baby and weave yourselves an adventure no matter what the weather!

Happy Babywearing!

As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen un-selfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.  -Valerie Andrews

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