Natural Treasure Hunt

My sons needed some encouragement to get outside yesterday morning as the day was gray. My oldest is obsessed with TV, so I told him to collect these items before he could watch any. During the process he forgot about watching TV and became totally engaged in the activity. While I started the list, he soon asked to make the pictures himself (none of my kids read yet). I was impressed at the textures that he put into the bark, and at his suggestion to add mushrooms to the collection items. I liked that this activity incorporates number recognition, following a list, using pictorial "reading" skills, and of course, nature.
The boys found their magnifying glasses and spied all around the yard. They found quite a few items not on the list, most of them alive. I had a long conversation with one about where to find twigs (underneath the pine trees), the difference between evergreen trees and deciduous trees; he ran to every tree in the yard and asked about it - we talked about broad flat leaves vs. small fine needles in clusters. After the collection period, they enjoyed taking everything out of the wagon and comparing the list to the items. As it turns out they had forgotten a few of them and eagerly searched out those last couple of objects.
I have used this activity in the past as a way to get the kids out in the wintertime, when it's really cold and they need something short - in those cases you can just pick 3 or 4 things to get such as a dried up leaf, 2 pine cones, and 3 snowballs, and maybe one of those mittens that you left outside yesterday! In the autumn I've asked them how many different colors of leaves they can find. This has been an interesting excercise in the spectrum (one brother calls it yellow, another insists that it is brown - discuss!).
Usually my children need no incentive to go hiking, but if they were reluctant, introducing a list like this might sweeten the deal.

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