When fall finally rolls into town, we’re all ready for it! The dog days of summer have come and went and we are ready to start nestling down in our cozy sweaters and fall boots. It’s also a time when people love to be outdoors. The beautiful leaves are changing colors and beginning to fall, the air is crisp and fresh, bonfires are to be had and chili is to be made. It’s the perfect time of year, especially in Michigan! To get your kids outdoors and active when the weather starts to dip, why not entice them with a fun fall scavenger hunt? There are all types of things they could look for and places to go do them. You could explore a nature center, a metro park, or even simply your own back yard. Not only will the kids learn about science, but you can also incorporate math and maybe learn a bit about history too, depending on where you decide to hunt. Encourage kids to really take in the beauty and nature around them and look at things with a keen eye. You may want to pack along binoculars, bug catchers, and magnifying glasses so they can observe what they see. Sometimes all it takes is looking at something in a different way to spark a love of nature in someone! Also, make sure to bring along a pencil for checking off the found items and a little Ziploc bag to bring home found treasures! Scavenger hunts can be fun for all ages, too. Even the tiniest of kids can forage around looking for easy to spot things. As your children get up in age, make the hunt harder and include things like certain types of leaves, hard to find nuts or berries, and different types of animal tracks. It really is a fun event for all in the family, regardless of age! We’ll provide links at the bottom to free printable scavenger hunt pages for your younger children, but if you have children that are older in age, don’t fret because there are plenty of ways to get them immersed in the outdoors too.
Middle SchoolersAs the parent of a tween, it can sometimes be a challenge to get them motivated and off the video games or phones and into the outdoors. If there’s something else that we know about tweens, it’s that they love to eat, so pack some of their favorite foods and hit the road. Pack a lunch and make an afternoon of your adventure! Drive a little bit to a new state/metro park where there is lots of room to roam and places to discover! Next, try to look for new things, like fox tracks or unique birds that are native to that area. Kids this age will get bored if you make the scavenger hunt too simple. Asking them to look for harder to spot items will make your exploration that much more fun. If you have a tween who is resistant to the idea of a scavenger hunt, then take the lead and point out interesting or unique things along your walk. This will get them learning about their environment in a more subtle way. Have activity trackers? Another way to get your middle schooler interacting with the outdoors is to put those puppies to use and have a good, old-fashioned competition! See who can get in the most steps by taking different paths to the creek or who can get their heart rate pumping when choosing the hilly trail instead of the flat, lower level trail. Hiking is a sure fire way to build up your appetite so take a minute to meander over to the lake or a favorite spot you found along your path and have a picnic lunch. If you’re by the lake or pond, you could discuss what type of fish you think are in there, how different species affect the balance of the pond, and perhaps you could even discuss the types of boats you see on the water and why people chose to cruise on a kayak or sailboat versus a speed boat. The opportunity to learn and engage your child is everywhere you look when you are outdoors. Nature is your classroom and everything provides a learning experience!
High SchoolersGetting your teens out for a fall nature hike is a bit easier than it is for those in the tween years. Often times, they are up for the exercise and enjoy a change of scenery. Offering to bring a friend or two along never hurt either! Instead of having a print out of things they are looking for, keep your teens involved by stopping to point out things along the way that you find interesting or that they could research. For instance, if you find a patch of unique greenery, ask them if they know what it is. If they don’t, you could encourage them to bring out their cell phones, do some detective work, and determine what it is. Same goes for determining what type of trees are in their forest around them. Are the leaves broad or narrow? Soft or needle-like? Is the plant they see poisonous or okay to touch? Can they identify a bird just by their song? The questions about things they will encounter are vast and by asking them to research and find out the answer, everyone will be learning!
Keep an eye out for the following and try to get your high schooler to identify them:
- Rivers and where they flow
- Various types of seeds or pods
- Animal holes or homes