When our family lived in the city, we were fortunate enough to have a Waldorf school to send our older children to. One of the most beautiful components of the Waldorf approach to education is fostering a lifelong and, in a sense, sacred bond with nature. The changing seasons are referred to the ‘rhythm of the year’ and the curriculum, the classroom environment, and the school celebrations are all in sync with what is happening outdoors. Our children also spent a lot of time in nature with their class via extended, all-weather outdoor play each day and weekly nature walks. Ironically, with a busy family schedule, and a new way of life in a public school, our kids spend less time outdoors now that we live in the country. We try to make up for this with regularly scheduled family hikes, especially as the seasons shift and change. Today, we want to share a fun activity that we’ll soon enjoy – a sensory scavenger hunt for Spring.
We created this checklist to print and color, and take along on your next Spring hike. Just click on the image below to download and print the PDF. You’ll see that the hunt requires all of the senses, and includes some gentle rules that parents should help young children pay attention to. Our older children are now excited about photographing elements of our hikes, and so we help them balance their need to capture a moment digitally with the beauty of capturing moments in real time, by observing the moment before them. Warning – if you have tweens like we do, suggesting that you hold on to their camera phones for a little while may result in some serious eye rolling.
Be prepared to get dirty! This was another beautiful thing about our former Waldorf school – the teachers had us send a bag of spare clothing, socks, even underwear for the kids so that if they got messy during outdoor play, they could change. Their coats and boots would be just caked in mud by the end of the week, but the children were always spent with exhausted delight come Friday. If you can’t learn to appreciate the messy beauty of life in childhood, when can you? Pack some old cardboard or a tarp in your trunk for muddy rain boots, pack water-resistant jackets and pants. Even an entire change of clothes isn’t a bad idea at this time of year.
When we hike, we generally like to observe nature and leave things as we found them, but we usually allow each child to search for one treasure to display on the nature table that lives in our dining room. The nature table is a small display that we change with the seasons and features both natural treasures and handmade decorations that honor the celebrations of each season.
After your hike, enjoy some quiet time together to unwind with a hot mug of something yummy, or better yet, a bowl of homemade soup or stew. I’ve included a few links below to some great sites for free coloring pages. We use our scrap printer paper to print these out as we need them to help the kids, and us grownups, unwind. You can also encourage your older children to record their impressions and ideas in a nature journal where they can draw, record their findings or write poetry inspired by nature.
Right now, we’re bracing for a Winter storm, which always seems to happen here in Canada as soon as Spring arrives. Once the weather has cleared, I can’t wait to try this scavenger hunt with our own little (and not-so-little) ones.
Some Free Coloring Pages
Clicking on the images below will take you to the website where we found them, where you’ll find lots of great options to choose from.