Hi Nature Lovers,


These are my favorite leaves! They are pointy and I love pointy things.
— Riley

I love exploring the park after a refreshing rain! All the colors appear their most vibrant, the air is cooler, and the park seems to be hushed. All of these conditions today created the perfect landscape to host a sensory walk for several young naturalists.

As we began our sensory exploration, we took our usual trail to the "secret" park location we like to explore that the kids have named Bugville. However, on today's walk, the group explored with extra care and mindfulness. We made sure to take slow, quiet steps so we could hear and see all the park had to offer our senses. The children noticed the wide variety of leaf shapes, a juvenile robin rubbing its beak on a tree branch, a slug slithering through the mud, moist moss on a decomposing log, fuzzy mushrooms, spider webs hidden under a tree trunk, and bright orange and yellow flowers peeking from the forest. 

As we explored the trails, the group worked together to create a Sensory Map of the areas we often explore in the park. Every time we stopped to touch, smell, see, or listen to something, we sketched it on our map, including descriptions of how to explore each object. "The big rock is round, hard, and cool when you touch it. You can see it when you walk down the path and can sit on it!" 

Our simple map quickly grew into a colorful exploratory masterpiece with sketches by everyone in the group, quotes from the children, and directions for the person following the map. I can't wait to create more of these with the children throughout each season and notice how different senses are highlighted in different times of the year. Seasonal Sensory Maps of Prospect Park created by and for children! (I see a possible book publication here!)

This particular walk was a much needed reminder for me, both in and out of my outdoor classroom, to slow down and ground myself in the details of my landscape. Separating the often chaotic sensory explosion of living in New York City is a difficult practice but is one that can make our experience here all the more meaningful and rich. I'll leave you with a quote from Rachel Carson's The Sense of Wonder that I often return to when I need a little reassurance in my teaching practice. 

Exploring nature with your child is largely a matter of becoming receptive to what lies all around you. It is learning again to use your eyes, ears, nostrils, and finger tips, opening up the disused channels of sensory impression.
— Rachel Carson


The next time you are out with your child and are not on a strict schedule,  simply walk at a slower pace and let your child's wonder and curiosity lead you. When your child stops to examine something or explore an area, let them take the time they need to do so, not rushing them to the next thing. You will begin to notice details of your everyday environment that you never noticed before! A short sensory walk can be a great way to calm a child that is upset or anxious. Invite them to describe one thing they can see, hear, touch, and smell.