It was a perfect morning: candy-puff clouds dotting the blue, blue sky, the water twinkling in the sunshine. L and J stood quietly for a second or two at the water's edge and then proceeded to collect rocks. L would stand at the very edge of the water, then hoist a rock overhead, and drop it into the water with a satisfying plunk. D and I enjoyed the time to ourselves as this game literally kept the two of them occupied for 15 minutes.
When they started to tire of the rock-throwing game, I challenged them to a search-and-find. This is one of my favorite outdoor activities with young kids-it's so great to help them develop focus and notice details. The game is great for any age, you can tailor the details to what you think your kids will be able to find. "Can you find a rock with stripes?" I'd ask. Then they would each wander, head bent, searching, searching.
The choices are virtually limitless with a game like this. I had them search for:
- spotty rocks
- the tiniest rock you can find
- the biggest rock you can lift with one hand
- a round rock
- a gray rock
- a white rock
- a rock that wants to be in the river (and of course, they happily obliged the rock's desire)
- a rock that feels smooth
- a rock that feels bumpy
And on and on. The game can turn into an organizing game, a matching game, and a classifying game too. (if you want to get all academic) Of course, they are also learning about textures and other physical qualities. It's also great to let them come up with the categories and the adult to do the searching. Like I said, it's a nice way to help little ones develop the ability (and the practice) of noticing details. And of course, you don't need to use rocks-just use whatever's there: leaves, flowers, etc. Try it! Let me know how it works for you and yours.