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It’s tempting to burrow into our cozy homes and tuck nature walks away until spring arrives – but there is a lot to explore and learn about in this magical season! When dressed properly with a few ideas up our down-filled sleeves, nature walks in winter are a warm and rich activity – mittens, cocoa, the smell of pine and spruce… it’s a lovely sensory experience!
No need to go far – try venturing out to a nearby park where you can find one or more species of conifer (evergreen) trees and try some of the following ideas. Be sure to bring along a pouch or container to collect cones and needles for craft and kitchen projects later in the day or week.
Touch various types of needles; how are they similar and different? Are the needles flat or round? Long or short? Does each attach directly to the branch or do they protrude in a group?
Try climbing the trees! Conifers make great climbing trees because their branches often create a sort of living ladder for littles to climb up and down.
Look at bird’s nests, birds, animal tracks and scat around the trees. What species can you identify? Would this particular tree be a good shelter for certain animals or birds?
Listen to trees in the breeze, the quiet, the life around the trees. What do you hear? What do you not hear?
Smell the crushed needles and the cones. How are they similar and different?
Find a special spot you can return to regularly that your children can connect with in a personal way. Go back to the same spot in each season – witness and discuss how it’s similar and different. Make a sketch of the same spot in each season to capture the changes.
Set up either a double dish like the one in this photo, or two small bowls. Place small conifer cones in the left side, and your child can use tongs or their fingers to transfer the cones from left to right (this is a great pre-reading activity as we read from left to right on the page).
Take a closer look at your harvest using a microscope – examine specimens of different varieties of trees. Make sketches or try making a chart to compare and contrast what you observe about the different evergreens.
Check back for these related activities in the coming weeks:
Conifer Craft Activity: Collect various evergreen cones and check back over in our Kids section next week for a great conifer cone craft.
Conifer Kitchen Activity: Collect needles from trees such as pine and spruce to bring back to the kitchen for a tasty and nourishing treat. Check back to our Kids section in the coming weeks for a great recipe project!