Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sensory Walks with Kids

Don’t relegate sensory explorations of nature to preschoolers. Sensory activities are fantastic observation actions that go beyond noticing nature with our eyes alone. Becoming aware of the world around us with our senses is a mindfulness technique that even adults can use to reduce stress. So much information from our surroundings enters our brains that it is forced to filter out or push aside many details. By aligning with our senses, we are directing our brain’s focus toward what is important to us.

Single Sense Exploration – Focus your walk, or part of your walk, on investigating the area with emphasis on one sense. Pay more attention to the odors you walk past. Notice the different sounds and try to individualize each noise so it is more than just background chatter. Run your hand over the dew on the grass, the bark of trees, the delicate-looking flower petals. Give your child a challenge to notice 10 or 25 different smells, sounds, textures, colors, or interesting things to look at.

Notice 5 – During a walk, stop and call out, “Notice 5 smells/textures/sounds/colors (you, as leader, will select one).” Each individual, or everyone as a group, plants their feet in place and calls out five things they notice connected to the sensory mode you selected. Doing this once during a walk is sufficient to avoid haranguing those with you. Adults should play along with children.

5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – Once during a walk, do a sensory countdown. Ask for five sounds, four colors, three smells, two textures, one interesting thing that you are looking at. You can shuffle around the senses so each time you play this, children and adults are focusing on different senses.

Select one of these activities to do on a walk, even if it just up the street to school. You can also try some Listening to Nature Activities. Your walk will seem richer as you notice things that you may have walked by dozens of times in the past. This may become such a part of you outdoor routine, that you children will lead the activities or you (and they) will find yourselves doing them on their own.

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