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Because observation is such a basic learning tool, springtime provides an ideal climate for learning outdoors. A nature walk or a picnic provide excellent opportunities for discovery, observation and discussion. Here are some suggestions for using a stroll outdoors as a vehicle for expanding vocabulary, practicing listening and memory skills and pointing out basic concepts:

1) Devote a portion of your walk to "listening." Talk about what you hear (birds singing, leaves rustling, water running). See if you can locate where the sounds are coming from.

2) Explore the textures and smells you find along the way. Touch the rough bark, the smooth leaves, the soft moss and hard rocks. Smell the sweet flowers and the dusty road.

3) Compare the trees, animals, flowers and rocks you observe as same or different in color, shape, and size.

4) Use such descriptive words as above, below, between, under, next to, inside, small, medium and large in making reference to the things you discover.

5) Look for tracks and "houses" of animals. Talk about where the animals live, what they eat and how they stay warm.

6) Discuss the "best parts" of your trip when you get home. It's not only satisfying to recall fun events together, but such reminiscing is also good practice for your child's memory skills.

Have an enjoyable and productive spring.

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care -

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