by Alix Tonsgard
As winter approaches, one thing that I am trying to be mindful of is not using up all of my best indoor activities prematurely. There is still so much learning to capitalize on outside! A simple strategy that I use is building a learning activity into something that we already enjoy doing together like taking a walk.
Scheduling time to take a break from meetings to walk outside with my little guy does a world of good for both of us and all of the natural materials falling from trees and fall decorations in our neighborhood present us with endless opportunities to build math and language skills and strengthen other areas of development too!
Here are a few things to try:
Take a bag or a wagon and collect natural objects like acorns, leaves, pinecones, whatever your little one finds interesting. When you get home talk about their attributes. Can you find ways to categorize them based on this discussion? Maybe some are smooth and some are bumpy. Once you have divided them into categories you can count them.
Maybe your child is interested in looking at decorations. You can create a scavenger hunt and let them mark off the objects as you go. For a younger child keep it simple and involve them in the creation of the list. “Today we are going to see if we can find a pumpkin, a spider web, and a red tree.” When they find each thing let them mark the paper to work on those fine motor and early literacy skills! An older child might be ready for an additional challenge like counting and recording how many of each object they can find.
Follow your child’s lead and let them guide the learning. You might be surprised with where their interests and ideas take you. And remember, the most important thing is that you have fun and enjoy time together. If what you and your little one need today is just a quiet walk then honor that. Walks can also be a great time to check in and talk about your child’s feelings.
Alix Tonsgard is an early learning specialist at the DuPage Children’s Museum.