by: Nicole Teschner

My 4-year-old is currently fascinated by rainbows, especially since there have already been a few summer sun showers resulting in rainbows this season.  To add layers of understanding and interest to our rainbow sightings, we have read all the children’s books in our library that have anything to do with rainbows, we created our own rainbow with a bowl of water, a mirror, and a flashlight, and we have listened to several versions of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” a “zillion” times (my daughters term).  
However, since our favorite thing to do is be outside in nature, I created an opportunity for us to go on a nature walk/scavenger hunt  to create our own Nature Rainbow.  Walking, collecting, and sorting items by color was right up her ally, and it ignited questions about plant identification and questions about how flowers and fruits grow from plants/trees.  
What’s great about this activity is that it doesn’t really need anything other than the free printable and the ability to go outside.  
Our nature hike consisted of walking around our neighborhood (urban setting) and a nearby park/forest preserve.  Even my 12-year-old was eager to walk and help us locate some of the harder to find colors in our area.  As you can imagine some colors (like green) were quite easy to find, while others (like blue) were a bit more difficult.  Here are some suggestions to prepare and make the nature walk easier for both you and your little one: 
  1. Depending on your child’s age, you might want to survey where you are going to walk prior to your excursion so you can identify what colors are abundant and where you can find some of the more obscure colors. We frequently go for walks around our neighborhood, so on the days prior to doing this activity, I made a mental note of where we would find some items, so I could steer us in the right direction if my kids got stuck. 
  1. Talk to your kids about respecting places or items that would be inappropriate to pick or take from.  While the forest preserve was all wild and fair game, our neighbors flowers were not.  Prior to setting out, we had a discussion about what not to pick, like flowers that others had planted. Another guideline we have in place (we do a lot of nature hikes!) is when pulling a leaf off a tree or shrub, we can only take one and we try to take it from the lowest branch or underbrush.  We want to be respectful of the environment and others while still fostering a tactile connection to nature.  
  1. Have a back up for harder to find colors.  I had a feeling blue was going to be tough.  Since my daughter has a love for blueberries, I made sure we had some in the kitchen for when we came back from our walk. When we came up a little short on blue nature items, I helped by daughter recall how she had eaten some blueberries right from a bush before and that we had some in the kitchen that were just picked.  She was more than happy to use them to finish her Nature Rainbow.  Next time, I will be sure to plant some blue plants and flowers out front!   

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nicole Teschner

I am a a school psychologist turned homeschooling my of three. While I continue to assist in academic research pertaining to education and learning, most of my time is spent supporting my kids’ self-directed interests and keeping my family active and outside.  We are a full spectrum family with varying strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and interests, so our life can get a little chaotic, but if you know anything about chaos theory (and I know very little), there is order and great beauty to be had.  On a personal note, I love animals, books, coffee, yoga, the ocean, and light-bulb moments.  Oh, and did I mention I love books?! It might be more of an obsession.  Read more of Nicole's blogs at: Grounded Learning

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