Winter Nature Walks
Taking a Winter Nature Walk- Family-Style
This time of year many of us are looking out our windows and seeing lots of rain and snow. Not exactly the ideal time to get outside as a family to take a nature walk but with a little preparation and determination you can make this a great time to experience the outdoors.
The trees have lost their leaves and the world looks different, even the most familiar of places is a different scene in the winter.
So are you ready to do some winter hikes and nature walks? Looking for winter nature study ideas? Would you like some winter inspiration? I have gathered lots of my own lesson plans, ideas, and resources into a great page for you to read.
"We speak of winter as bare, but this is only a contrast with summer. In the summer all things are familiar and close; the depths are covered. The view is restricted. We see things near by. In the winter things are uncovered. Old objects take new forms. You analyze and gain insight."
The Nature Study Idea, L.H. Bailey. Written in 1909.
Family Hikes in the Snow
Important Things to Remember for Winter Hiking
*Check the weather forecast.
*Know when to turn around if weather or terrain becomes unsafe.
*Always leave a planned itinerary (stick to it) with a family member or friend.
*Wear appropriate footwear and clothing. You should think about dressing in layers.
*Snacks and water are just important on a winter hike. I usually work up a sweat and a drink of water is a welcome break after a few miles.
*Leave a dry change of clothes in the car in case you need to swap out wet clothing after a fall.
*Don't forget to bring tissues or handkerchief for cold noses.
*If you plan on taking photos, wear a thinner glove so you are not always putting on and them removing your gloves.
Winter Walks: Ideas for Study
Here are some subjects to study while you are on your winter nature hike:
1. Trees-look at the shapes of the trunks and branches, notice which trees are evergreens and which are deciduous.
2. Birds-this time of year the birds are still active
3. Clouds or the weather-perfect time to learn about the various types of clouds
4. Mammals-tracks are visible in the mud and snow
Don't Forget Your Camera!
Snow Shoes Give a Whole New Experience
As our family has gained experience in winter hiking, we have enjoyed wearing snow shoes to take us places that are more isolated and wild. We take our favorite summer hikes and see what they look like during the winter.
Snow shoes don't take much time to learn to master and once you get the feel for walking in them, you feel a sense of freedom to go places where there is a lot of snow.
We have been able to see lots of animal tracks as we hike through the snow. Our boys like to use their observation skills to learn more about winter wildlife. With a pair of snow shoes you can soon be away from all other people to experience the winter woods like never before.
Check your local area bookstores for snow shoe maps and trail ideas.
Snow Shoes on Amazon - A Great Investment in Winter Hiking Adventures
We purchased our snowshoes at REI but there are plenty of local places you can purchase a good snow shoe. They are more lightweight than you imagine and easy to adjust to your normal snow boots. We spent around $100 a pair for ours three years ago and they are still in perfect condition after lots of miles of hiking.
I highly recommend investing in a pair as part of your winter sporting gear.
The size of snow shoe you purchase is dependent on your weight so make sure you check for proper size.
Love My Snowshoes!
Compass Basics for Hiking - Navigating Using a Compass
This is for more advanced winter hikes using a map and compass. This video will give you a basic idea of how to get started with this helpful and important skill if you are going to go hiking in the woods in the winter.
Experience Winter at Its Best
Tracks in the Snow
Observing Nature in Winter
Nothing can bring more excitement than to find some great tracks in the snow. Our family has fun imagining what animal has been out making tracks for us to see. We have been able to identify quite a few animals as we gain experience: Snowshoe Hare, River Otter, Squirrels, Deer, Dogs. We have also found quite a few sets of tracks that we aren't sure about so we purchased a field guide specifically for mammal tracks. This has opened up a whole new opportunity for winter nature study.
Field Guide for Animal Tracks
This is a little heavy to carry in a pocket but if you are carrying a day pack it is a fine guide to take along. More often than not, I opt to leave this in the car and use it with my photos to identify tracks we find. I would love to find something a little more portable but in the meantime, we really like the thorough coverage for each animal and the photos.
You can also use this one year-round so it makes a good investment.
This is a wonderful tool for identifying trees in the winter season. The silhouettes of trees give us readily observed clues to the tree's identity. This compact nature guide will fit in a pocket or a day pack as you hike or snowshoe your winter woods. I have used this book with my family for many years and highly recommend it!
Peaceful Winter Woods
What do you need to take on a hike?
General Items We Take On a Nature Hike (any time of the year)
So you are ready to take that nature hike and you don't know what to pack in your daypack. Here are a few tips that I can give to help you get started.
Must Haves for your nature journal:
1. Journal: I prefer smaller spiral-bound with heavy drawing paper, no lines
2. Small pencil box with assorted colored pencils. Watercolor colored pencils are a great choice
3. One or two sizes of paintbrushes and a small cup for water
4. Pencil sharpener
5. Ziplock bags for items you collect
6. Magnifying lens
7. Field guides if you are going to do your identifying on the trail otherwise leave them in the car for when you return
8. Snack if you are going to be gone for any length of time
9. Wet wipes in a small baggie for easy clean-ups
10. Small First aid kit
11. Map of area
12. Camera! I never leave home without my camera to capture images of things we will want to research later or to remember to for our journals.
Fun to have but not necessary:
2. Plant press
3. Net for insects
4. Digital camera for the kids to carry in their own pack.
5. Small containers for catching critters
Necessary items to have at least in the car:
1. Bottles of water
2. Change of clothes, just in case (including shoes and socks)
3. Sunblock and/or insect repellant
4. Towels or blanket in case you need a place to sit or something to dry off with
Most importantly, take along a really good attitude and leave yourself open to whatever the experience brings. Allow your children to direct you to things they find interesting and then share in their excitement. A good nature walk is pleasurable for everyone and allows you and your children to develop a relationship with our Creator. The best times I can remember with my children are the times we just took it slow and easy, looking for the little things that most people pass by. Turn over a rock and see what's underneath. Look up in the branches of the trees and see if you can find any birds or other critters. Sit quietly by the edge of a pond or stream and see what comes along. Breathe the air and enjoy the day.
Check Out My Blog For More Nature Study Ideas
- More Nature Study Book 2 Winter Wonder
Ten completely new challenges using the Handbook of Nature Study. See a Sample Challenge. 13 notebook pages and 5 coloring pages 17 Upper Level notebook pages for advanced or experienced students 11 Charlotte Mason style exam questions Complete list