Summer is in full swing and as the novelty of being out of school begins to wear off, most parents are bracing themselves for the inevitable “I’m booooored” that is just bound to come out of their children’s mouths soon. Here are some ways to get your children outside and enjoying the natural surroundings of Bradley Beach, NJ and the Jersey Shore:
- Go on a Bug Hunt Equip your child with a baby food jar or bug jar and encourage them to look for natural life around them. Look under leaves & stumps (be sure to turn them back over), on tree trunks & leaves and in flowers. Handle the bugs gently and let them go when you are done. Name your favorite bug according to its colors, the way it moves or something different about it.
- Listen to the World Around You Have your child sit and listen to the sounds of nature by closing their eyes, and counting on their fingers the different sounds they hear. Compare natural vs. unnatural sounds. Try this in several different habitats such as in a field, near a pond and in a forest and compare the kinds and numbers of sounds heard.
- Look at Nature Before a visit to a park, have your child decorate two toilet paper rolls. Staple them together to make mini-binoculars. Take them outside for a game of “I Spy” looking for items from nature. Look for things near by, in middle range and far away.
- Get a New Perspective Have your child lie face upward under a large tree. Have them look into the branches. Can they see the top branch? What patterns can they see. What other things are present? They can pretend to be the roots of the tree in the soil. What do they feel like? What animals can they see moving around in the tree?
- Use Imagination Choose an area with natural ground coverings such as leaves, cones, wild grass etc. and sit down. Give your child 6 short pieces of straw or toothpicks. Have them pretend to shrink down to the size of an ant with you. Their job is to lead a nature walk for creatures the size of an ant by choosing 6 interesting things along a one meter stretch of ground. Encourage them to use their imagination!
- Wet Noses Wet the underside of your child’s nose with a small wet sponge. This improves their sense of smell just as it does for deer and rabbits.. Find familiar smells such as flowers to try, then go on to other things like rubbing a leaf between your fingers and smelling or scratching a pine needle. Also try moss, bark, pitch or grabbing an handful of leafy soil etc.
- Discover Color in Nature Get 10 old paint swatches of various natural colors from a paint store. Cut them into individual squares and take these and your child to a natural area. One at a time, have your child look for each color in nature. You will be amazed at what colors you can find if you really look!
- Touching Nature Blindfold your child and lead them to a tree to get to know it by feeling the bark texture, finding branches and any other way to recognize a specific tree without looking at it. Still blind-folded, lead your child back to where you started. Now take off the blindfold and have them try to find their tree using their sense of touch to confirm it. What other senses helped them to locate their tree? (sounds, sense of balance, smells, warmth etc.)
- A Night time Experience Go with your child to a safe natural place at night. Cover your flashlight with red plastic so you won’t startle the animals. Try out some of the ideas above to learn about plants & animals of the night. It takes about 20 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust from bright light to darkness.
- A Rainy Day Experience Dress to stay dry but with your hands free (no umbrellas) and go out on a rainy day with your child. Peek into puddles. Listen for bird & frog calls. How many kinds of raindrops can you see? Can you find plants with a drip tip? Try to find out where animals go when it is raining.
Please call me at 732-775-2774 or visit my website www.PatrickParkerHomes.com to learn more about making the beautiful Jersey Shore your family’s home town.