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family science

A Toddler’s Sensory Journey in Nature Starts with a Canoe

Theo collects rocks

This morning we tried a new experience together. We’ve taken Theo on touristy boat trips before, but this is the first time we rented our own little canoe and paddled around alone as a family. You can read the Kids Busy Blog post and see more photos here. I wanted to share here on Kid Naturalist more specifically what the experience was, like in terms of our young child’s interaction with nature.

Our canoe trip was a brief 45 minutes before Theo grew restless. But in that period of time, he had the following experiences:

  • paddling a canoe through crystal-clear water, with mossy rocks visible below
  • feeling the rocking of a boat on the water
  • switching seats with Mommy on a narrow, unsteady boat (a balancing act, for sure)
  • watching how the action of the paddle on one side or the other steers and propels the canoe
  • guessing what lives inside a giant drainage pipe (he wagered it was a chipmunk)
  • peering through two drainage pipes to the sunlit openings on the other side of the levee
  • hollering into the pipes to hear echoes
  • seeing a large rock that had been placed inside one pipe, and a large spiderweb in the other
  • throwing said rock into the water and hearing its splash
  • holding a strand of the water plant elodea and tossing it back into the water
  • hearing the chugging machinery sounds coming from the dam
  • poking a dead seagull with a stick
  • running his hands repeatedly through the chilly water
  • viewing a red-tailed hawk eat a small prey animal atop a lamp post, a great egret fly overhead, and a grebe float on the water nearby
  • witnessing dozens of swallows zooming in and out of mud nests affixed under a man-made walkway

Theo paddles a canoe Theo watches the swallows

After docking our boat, we cruised along the water’s edge for a while, through dried winter foliage and spring’s first blossoms. Theo then enjoyed:

  • selecting and collecting rocks into his small bucket
  • throwing rocks into the lake while being guided to avoid hitting the bold Canada Geese nearby
  • peering at purple flowers through a magnifying lens
  • climbing and jumping from a lifeguard tower
  • wading into the edge of the lake in bare feet
  • burning holes through dried leaves with the lens

Theo wades into the lake Theo and Daddy burn holes into leaves

It really doesn’t take much to give a child a rich sensory experience that connects them to the world around them. Just an hour or two in nature, and maybe a canoe.

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