Friday, September 30, 2011

Frugal Fridays: Nature Walks

Ready for his nature walk.
Did you know it's National Take a Child Outside Week? In celebration, I'm posting about one of Trey's and my favorite fun, free outdoor activities - nature walks!

Trey benefits from our nature walks in so many different ways.  First and foremost, he gets lots of much-needed fresh air and sunshine.  He also learns new vocabulary words, explores his environment, and builds a collection of interesting nature artifacts.  Most importantly, we have a blast spending time together in our neighborhood - without spending a dime!

No matter where you live, your family can take advantage of all the fun and learning a nature walk has to offer.  Just keep your mind open and your eyes peeled; even in the midst of the largest city, you'll still find plenty of interesting plants, insects, animals, and birds.

If you're heading out on your first nature walk today, be sure to follow these tips for a smooth, stress-free experience.
Wear good walking shoes.  I cannot stress this point enough.  If your family is going to take regular nature walks, everyone should have a pair sturdy sneakers that offer excellent support.  Walking in flip flops, flats, or any shoes that favor fashion over functionality, will leave you with sore calves and aching feet.

Dress - in layers - for the weather.  Don't just check the weather report; spend a few minutes outside before deciding what to wear on your nature walk.  Also, remember that walking is exercise.  After a few minutes, you'll be much warmer than when you began, so choose outer layers that can be easily removed, such as zip-up hoodies or open flannel shirts. 

Pack provisions.  Bring a bottle of cool, fresh water, and a small, healthy snack for everyone participating in the nature walk.  Good choices include fresh or dried fruit, nuts, cheese, and homemade granola bars.  It's also a good idea to bring a few toys along for your youngest walkers, who may lose interest while older kids are still busy exploring.

Bring a stroller or wagon.  Nature walks are fun, but they can also be exhausting.  Young kids will need a break from walking every few minutes, and you don't want to end up carrying them.  Plus, a stroller or wagon gives you plenty of space to store snacks, toys, and discarded outer layers.

Talk, talk, talk.  Point out everything interesting you see - a cool mailbox, an exceptionally pretty flowerbed, a shiny rock.  Take turns thinking up the best (or silliest) adjectives to describe a unique-looking tree.  Invent crazy names for birds you've never seen before.  Make up a story about the rusty old car parked in someone's driveway.  You'll be amazed at how easy it is to let your imagination run wild.

Take pictures.  Document your nature walks by snapping photos of the different weird, wild, amazing things you see along the way.  Print a few photos to use in a scrapbook, or as the basis for an art project.  Encourage older kids to research interesting facts about the plants and animals you photograph.

Start a collection.  Older kids in particular will enjoy taking "samples" from their nature walks - rocks, leaves, pine needles, acorns, feathers, and so on.  Display your treasures on a special shelf in your home, or use them in arts and crafts projects.

Have fun.  No matter how long you walk, or how much you learn, if you and your kids aren't having a blast, you're missing the whole point of taking a nature walk.  If you need to choose a shorter route, or walk at a different time of day, or let your kids spend more time in the wagon - do it.  You'll all be much happier.
What are your family's favorite frugal activities?  How do you have fun outdoors?  Do you have any tips for making nature walks more enjoyable and/or educational?

For more frugal living tips, visit Life as Mom.

For more about Take a Child Outside Week, visit Jersey Family Fun.


  1. I used to go hiking two days a week (Tuesday and Thursdays). It was a huge group (100 or more people). But they'd all break into much smaller groups (6-8 groups) and they'd do various levels of difficult. Some groups would do steeper or longer trails.

    For me, I'd choose the longer trail and often run or jog it. And man, it was a lot of fun too!

    But I've since relocated so I don't get to do that as much. I go to the gym now, but it's not the same. I'm told there's some local areas, I just haven't explored them enough to feel comfortable doing a late night run. Last time I tried that I twisted my ankle, heh.

    I will soon though. Getting outdoors is just too much fun and like you said, it's refreshing!

  2. That sounds like a lot of fun (the hiking, not the gym - I hate the gym, LOL!)


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