by Krista Dooley
As kids explore the place they call home, they become familiar with the plants, animals, birds and bugs that live alongside us in nature. While hiking, children often notice events and details overlooked by adults. One great way to capture those moments in nature and to encourage your child to hone his or her observation skills is to make time for art on your next hike.
Your kids will love putting their creativity to work outside and, you will be amazed at what your children can create, when given the chance to use their imagination. These moments of observation and exploration can make a long-lasting impression on your child, influencing how they relate to the natural world in the future.
The next time you are on your way out for a family hike, make the experience even more meaningful by encouraging your child to have a creative connection to nature. You can focus on any one of the ideas listed below, or take a mixed-media approach and try them all.
Your child may want to take natural objects home at the end of a hike. Bring along a sketch pad and pens, and that shell or crab or wildflower that she wants so badly to take home can become a still life instead. Drawing encourages keen observation: counting leaves and petals, looking at positive and negative space and making comparisons between different aspects like shapes, proportions and texture.
Make or pack a notebook just for your child to document his or her experience throughout the hike. You might try mapping the various features along the route or drawing animals seen from the trail. If you have more than one child, each hiker should carry his or her own notebook.
With a little watercolor paper and a paint set, kids transform into landscape artists. Encourage your child to notice the rainbow of colors nature provides. As a bonus, watercolor paint dries fairly quickly and is easy to clean up.
Through the camera lens, young hikers are empowered to focus on their point of view in nature and capture moments of their hiking adventures. Photography allows kids to explore composition and see the contrast of shadow and light. Collect your child’s photographs and create a photo essay about nature or the places trails have lead your family or any other theme, the options are left to your imagination.
Children’s words can be so honest about their feelings of an experience in nature. It’s easy to take some time and provide moments to write about a hike. With paper and a pen or pencil, encourage your child to look closely at a plant and describe what he sees. Imagine who lives in the hole in the trunk of a tree or create a haiku about the creatures in a tidepool.
This article originally appeared in Washington Trails magazine.