Winter Nature Walks for Conifer Fun
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 comfortably 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.
Winter Walk Tips
- You don’t have to go for an hour-long walk to experience the benefits of time in nature. If you’re new to nature walks, start out with a short 10-minute walk and work up to one hour or longer. Even ten minutes gets kids moving, breathing fresh air, and connecting with nature.
- Purchase a pair of really good wool or synthetic wicking socks. Keep them with your gear by the door, rather than in your regular sock rotation. These will give kids’ feet added warmth and comfort for your winter walk and they can make getting ready to head outside a special experience.
- Pack some hot cocoa or tea and a nourishing snack – bring this out at your half-way point for an added energy boost that will get you through the return walk home.
Explore using four senses
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. Be careful!
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?
Things to explore and learn about
- Try identifying different types of conifers using needles and bark
- Birds nesting and visiting various conifers
- Animal tracks and scat around the trees
Find a special spot you can return to regularly that your children can connect with in a personal way. Take pictures and 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.
Winter Nature Walks: Conifer Activities
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 magnifying glass or microscope if you can find one – 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.
*Originally published January 5, 2016