Pirates aren’t the only ones that look for treasure. And there is treasure in the natural world. Many psychologists are finding that kids and adults need time outdoors. Camping is an ideal time to encourage this bond with nature. More than just readiness for kindergarten, this will be part of your child’s future.
One way to reinforce the connection with nature and treasure is to go on a scavenger hunt. Even very young toddlers like to explore and discover. Some things to look for are:
- a pine cone,
- a piece of bark or wood,
- a twig (with 2 arms)
- a round rock (or smooth, flat, etc.)
- a feather
- a seed
- a leaf
Some items to find but only look at might be a spider web, a flower, a bug or worm, and other forest creatures. In addition to appreciating nature, there are such kindergarten readiness skills as careful observing, remembering 2 or 3 or more things at a time, matching an item to the category, choosing, explaining, meeting a goal, and more. This scavenger hunt is finding that learning can be fun and exciting. Wood…er, my apologies, would you agree that’s a real treasure?
Once the tent is up or the camper parked it’s time to explore. I often thought that one reason pirates are so popular with kids is because they share this same urge to explore. But this need to discover can be a big help when it comes to readiness for kindergarten.
When kids arrive at school, they need to find their way even just from the door to their classroom. At first, they only need to locate and remember different areas of their class but soon they will learn about going to the library, music room, gym and playground. After a few months, some kids may have memorized the drive to school and will question any changes! But long before that, we can help little ones practice building up a mental map of where they are.
One way to practice is to take a walk around the campsite and see what’s there. Is your campsite in the trees or an open space, by itself or with others? You may need to locate the nearest restrooms. Find the area for garbage and trash. In case your campsite does not have water hookups, where is the water tap or pump? As you and your child walk around, talking about where things are and how to find them helps to focus attention. Notice if there are landmarks like big trees or flags or colors. Far and near are important vocabulary words and easier to understand with experience. Left and right directions are more challenging and need lots of learning.
Exploring and mentally mapping the camping area is great practice for kindergarten readiness. Maybe we could say this is feet-on learning instead of hands-on?
No, this isn’t a blog about dogs. I’m still posting about fun and learning when camping. This bog combines science, art, and, of course, readiness for kindergarten. Camping usually involves a place where there’s trees. For another woodsy idea, try bark rubbing with your child. An adult is needed to hold the paper along with some wax crayons or charcoal. A left-over piece of wood from the campfire will also work–check that it’s cold!
Hold the paper against the bark of a tree and have your little one rub with the charcoal or crayon; peel the paper off the crayon and hold it on it’s side. Use another piece of paper and try a different tree. With your child, discover how some trees have smooth bark, like the birch bark that’s also used for making little canoes, and some have very rough bark like an oak. If possible, find a third tree and compare. Is it smooth or rough? Is it the same as one of the others or is at different from both of them? The bark rubbings should look different, too, and show the texture of the bark. Can you match the picture to it’s tree? Grownups can write the name on the paper.
This activity encourages kids to practice their observation skills as they check the bark on trees. They are also using their sense of touch as they explore the various textures of barks. There’s lots of language and new vocabulary as the kids talk about what they are discovering. Plus, they are developing a relationship with the natural world. This camping fun and learning is barking up the right, that is the kindergarten readiness, tree.
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