The best spring nature walk and the literacy connection

Spring nature walks and the literacy connection

animals and insects language development literacy outdoor education play spring

We've been singing about Spring lately, and there's a lot to discover with your child as nature wakes up and welcomes the warmer, longer days. It's the perfect time to put on those wellies and go on a sensory adventure with your curious explorer. But it's more than a simple walk and spotting ducklings here. Through these activities, you can achieve an indirect learning objective without emphasising it to your child. Read on to know more.


Spring sensorial exploration

Engage your child's senses as you venture out by encouraging them to:

  • See: Look for blooming flowers in vibrant hues and let your child take (or choose) pictures of what fascinates them - a great conversation to have afterwards.
  • Hear: A listening walk can be a beautiful experience as your child hears chirping birds, buzzing bees, the gentle rustle of leaves in the breeze, and maybe even the distant croaking of frogs in a nearby pond. We love this activity because it activates important listening skills. Have fun imitating those sounds!
  • Smell: Take a deep breath and inhale the sweet fragrance of blooming blossoms and the earthy scent of damp soil. Which flowers have a stronger fragrance than others?
  • Touch: Feel the soft grass beneath their toes, the bark of a tree, and the coolness of a ladybug on their fingertip. Introduce a few new words to help describe the tactile experience, such as wet, rough, smooth, or tickly.

You don't have to do all these activities in one walk. It's always better to split up the theme to avoid information overload. For example, keep one day for a listening walk and another for a visual walk.

The idea is to provide your child with a rich sensory learning experience, as this will strengthen the development of neural pathways and play a vital role in early literacy development. 

  • Build vocabulary: As your child encounters new sights, sounds, smells, and textures, you can introduce and discuss descriptive words, but build them up in stages according to your child so that they benefit from what you tell them. For example, if your child uses one-word sentences, add an extra word or two to reply. Your child says, pointing to clouds, "Look!" 

You could say "Look clouds" in reply.

This breakdown shows us how to build up their vocabulary in stages:

"Look! Fluffy clouds."

"Look! Fluffy white clouds."

"Look at those fluffy white clouds."

"Look! Those fluffy white clouds are like cotton balls."

"Look! Those fluffy white clouds are like cotton balls in the sky!"

Improving your child's language skills helps their brain develop new grammar and vocabulary rules essential for literacy.

  • Develop phonemic awareness: The rhythmic sounds of nature – birdsong, buzzing bees, trickling streams – all contribute to their understanding of the sounds that make up words. Experimenting with listening and imitating different sounds as early as possible helps your child articulate sounds when they start to learn phonics.
  • Foster a love for language: When nature ignites their curiosity, their questions spark conversations and storytelling opportunities. They may ask you something you don't know fully, and that's okay. When children ask me something I'm unsure about, I'll always say, "I'm not sure, but we can look it up together". We're not only teaching our children team-building skills but also how to research and think deeper using books, talking to experts, or looking it up online.

Sensory Spring Scavenger Hunt:

Scavenger hunts don't have to be clipboards and checkboxes. Try a sensory scavenger hunt to make the walk even more engaging. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Sight Scavenger hunt: Start with a shortlist and look out for: 
    • a red ladybug
    • a fluffy dandelion seed
    • a green caterpillar munching on a leaf

Chances are your child will spot more than this!

  • Sound Scavenger hunt: Switch on your listening ears as you embark on listening out for:
    • a bird singing, 
    • a bee buzzing, 
    • the wind rustling through the trees.

What else can you hear?

  • Tactile Scavenger hunt: This sensorial experience gives a rich insight into their experiences. Look out for:
    • a smooth stone, 
    • a soft flower petal, 
    • a rough tree bark.

Perhaps they might want to collect a "treasure" they like the feel of.

  • Smell Scavenger hunt: This sensorial learning experience can ignite those thinking skills. Look out for:
    • freshly cut grass, 
    • blooming flowers (if appropriate), 
    • pine needles from a fallen cone.

Beyond the walk - creative post-walk activities

The learning shouldn't stop after the walk, as your child will be refreshed and inspired to explore more. Here are some ways to extend the experience:

  • Nature Art: Back home, use collected treasures (leaves, sticks, pebbles) to create collages or sculptures.
  • Sensory Storytelling: Create a story using the sights, sounds, smells, and textures they encountered on their walk.
  • Nature Journaling: Encourage children to draw or paint what they saw, using descriptive words to tell their story.

And this is why we're singing about Spring. Spring is about deep sensory exploration with indirect learning opportunities linked to language and literacy development, which we love! Undoubtedly, it should be a fun-filled adventure, and these ideas show how simple it is for you (with hardly any prep) to add a rich learning experience for your child. Perhaps you are already doing some of these activities, and it is always great to know what learning benefits you are achieving with your child. You'll be nurturing a love for the natural world and laying the foundation for strong language and literacy skills. So, put on those walking shoes, grab a magnifying glass, and get ready to inspire your little one with the magic of Spring!

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