I know in our household the first signs of spring are always very welcome! With a very energetic toddler, getting outside more often to expend some of that energy is very valuable. Winters in the Pacific Northwest can leave everyone feeling a bit stir-crazy at times, especially with the amount of snow and rain I had this time around.
Taking the time for family outdoor activities allows our little guy to run a little more freely, talk at his more preferred volume and just get some much needed fresh air. It also allows him to explore and observe the world around him, which he very much enjoys doing. Those of you with toddlers know that taking a walk with a toddler is always an adventure and never a short endeavor. It also happens to be a great time to engage in brain-building moments that help them discover their surroundings and learn about how things work.
It may be simple, but even just taking the time to observe a large group of ants around their colony and a spilled ice cream cone offers a great opportunity for kids to learn. Sometimes, I’ll ask him to see if he can count all the ants or where he thinks they’re going. I might mention how ants are actually very strong and can lift objects way bigger than they are or how every ant in the colony works together to gather food and feed everyone else. All of this is to try and get his brain working and to get him to ask questions and hopefully then investigate further to find out the answer on his own.
I try to use these simple everyday moments that just happen on a walk to the park as tools to help him build his critical thinking skills. The more questions he asks and the more things he observes the more he is learning and discovering about his world and his place in it. And the fact that he’s doing it in a fun and relaxed atmosphere means he gets to enjoy it and doesn’t even realize he’s learning.
One of the keys I feel is allowing him to come up with the questions naturally as he sees and experiences things. As much as possible, I try to let the walk go on his terms and at his pace. This can be radically different from the pace and idea that parents have about a walk…but when I take the time to let the walk be at his pace, I notice a much more thoughtful and appreciative little boy. This is when he comes up with some great questions and really starts to build connections with his world and his place in it.
Walking to the park is one great way to foster every day brain-building moments, but there are plenty of others:
-Taking a drive and observing the different cars that go past
-Looking out in the backyard or up in trees in the apartment complex for squirrels and birds
-Finding little puddles around the road or near the grass and looking at what might be living inside them
-Throwing rocks in the lake or river and noticing the different sizes and shapes of rocks and the different splashes they make
So as the weather starts to warm up and the rain (hopefully) starts to fall less frequently make sure to take your kids outside for a short walk and have fun discovering them discovering their world.
For more articles from this author, check out his blog at This is Fatherhood!