“The other kids always get to do things because they are bigger!” This phrase is used often. Planning a nature hike for your kindergartner and his or her friend can be fun. You might get to bring a friend, too, but no big kids are allowed on this event.
Set aside a special time for the hike. Mark it on the calendar, and chat about it now and then, to reaffirm the date. There are several things that should be done to guarantee a success. Much of this information I learned from being a Scout leader, Den Mother, and 4-H leader. There are websites available for additional tips, or specialized information.
Plan the site
You won’t have to go far for this special hike, but take it outside the yard. If there is a safe park nearby, or a neighbor is willing to let an adult and one or two children look around, that is good. Any place has the potential for discovery; the main idea is to give the kindergartner the opportunity to see an area other than home.
The University of Maine suggests that you visit the site prior to the event and define the area to be explored. This gives you an opportunity to prepare for possible questions. Select objects the children will enjoy searching for and are in plentiful supply, such as flowers, rocks, or insects. Set rules about touching the treasures. Carry a camera so they can “take” untouchable finds home with them.
Each team member should have a pail or bag to put removable treasures in. Carry a backpack with snacks and water or juice, a cell phone, waterless hand sanitizer, Kleenex, and a first-aid kit. If you are taking another child with you, and the parent is not joining the trip, get a signed release for medical care, which also lists the parent or parents’ work, cell, and home phone numbers and the child’s doctor and medical plan, with medical record number.
Thirty minutes of investigating is usually enough for a kindergartner.
Setting the stage
Make a picture list for each child on what might be found. Write the word of the object under the picture. Talk to your group about where you are going, and what you might encounter.
Sometimes it is fun to have a list for the adults, also. This helps avoid them searching for the younger team members’ items.
Education.com has a game designed for kindergartners, called “Play FIND IT!” If you are in an area that can be set up in advance, place items so the children can find them. This is also a good Plan-B activity, in case it rains on your big day. The hike can be moved indoors, with a search around one or two rooms.
Stay close to the children, for safety’s sake, but allow them room to make a discovery. If they find something not on the list, but interesting to them, discuss it. Take a picture if they want to research it further. Write it on each list, so that everyone can check it off. Encourage discussion of what is found. Reinforce colors, numbers, and names of things they see.
After the hike, take a break with a snack, and a bottle of water or juice. Use the break time to discuss what was found, and its significance. Repeating things reinforces memory.
Allow some free time for the children to search a bit more, or just run and have fun. Be certain they know how much you enjoyed the hike, and thank them for letting you participate in their discoveries.
Wrap it up
Clean the area before you leave it. Travel safely home. Plan another event. Say thank you again, both to the children and to the other adult in your party, if someone joined you.
4-H Connections, The Nature Hike
Alicia Danyali, Play FIND IT!