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Take a walk on the wild side with your kids



Easy nature walk ideas

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The Hudson Valley offers an abundance of nature areas to explore from state parks, to municipal nature paths, and from neighborhood preserves to your own back yard. The walks can take an hour, up to three, depending on the age and interest of your child. But, rest assured, that despite any pushback from your kid, once they’re on the open road, their attention will turn to leaves, plants, flowers, butterflies, and any other surprise that comes their way.

Of course, a little preparation is good. We’ve listed some of the important things to consider that make your nature walk adventure very easy-peasy.

How to dress:
Make a note to check the day’s weather for any drops in temperature or pop-up storms.  Kids should be wearing close-toed shoes for sure, and a hat and sunglasses if it’s going to be particularly sunny.

Items to pack:
Each child should have a backpack to carry the treasures they find, a water bottle, hand wipes, and a few healthy snacks, like trail mix, or granola bars to keep up their energy. Just don’t over pack the bag which will make it difficult for them to carry. The adult in the group can take some of these items.

Store a small towel in the car in case your little one decides to jump in some puddles along the way.

Safety items:
A travel first-aid kit for sure. Before setting out, apply safe sunscreen to areas exposed to the sun, and a kid-friendly insect/tick repellent. 

READ MORE: Three books to encourage healthy outdoor play

Here are three great ideas for making the nature walk memorable and safe:

1. Invite your child to lead
If you let your child do the leading, you can keep an eye on them, while letting them decide when to stop, and when to walk on. Ask them questions about what they are looking at, and let them describe it to you, as you “pretend” to not know anything about it.

If you can, leave the stroller in the car and allow your toddler to walk on their own.  Let them explore their world, at their level, whether it be a pine cone or a leaf.  It may make for a slower walk, but a richer experience for your little one. 

2. Create a nature collection theme
Before starting out, decide on what you might want to look out for, maybe things that fell from the trees.  Or small interesting stones.  It will make it more enjoyable when your child finds something that belongs in the collection.  When they are brought home, it can be set out in the backyard as a reminder or on a window frame shelf.

3. Play the Quiet Game
The forest, or any nature area, will have new sounds for young ears.  It’s fun to stand quietly and listen to a hawk fly by, or listen to the buzzing of insects around a tree. It teaches “mindful listening,” which can become an enjoyable pastime for kids. It’s also a welcome break from the loud and fast paced world we all live in. Maybe bring a pad and pencil to note down the sounds that they identify.

Author MJ Hanley-Goff, parent and former activities director for a summer camp in Orange County.



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