By Colleen O'Connor
Most children will find plenty of fun things to do at a picnic, especially if you visit a beach or playground. However, with a bit of planning you can turn your outing into a learning experience, too. Try these activities this summer:
Nature walk: Look for different plants and animals; discuss them in an age-appropriate manner. Some children might enjoy explaining how two flowers differ from each other or why they think birds chirp. Older children can use a field guide to identify the species you encounter. Ask them to draw or take notes to create their own guidebook at home. Gather items for a leaf collection or nature collage, too (be sure not to pick live plants).
Orienteering: School-age children can practice skills such as map reading and navigating. Pick up a trail map at the park office, or have the children draw their own as you explore. Some parks offer geocaching. You can also put similar skills to use by challenging children to find routes across the playground: the one that requires the fewest steps on the ground or uses the most ladders, for instance.
Animal games: Challenge children to move like different animals do: snake, bunny, crab, etc. Talk about where different animals live and which ones you might see today. Look for nests, burrows, footprints, and other clues.
Earth care: Bring along gloves and garbage bags to do a bit of trash pick-up. Even young children can learn lessons about taking care of the environment and keeping parks clean. To make the work more fun, play games to practice counting or colors as you find trash.