COVID-19 has presented a unique set of challenges, especially for families with small children. My family is no different. My three-year-old daughter, Nora, usually enjoys busy days, playing with friends at preschool and/or daycare, sharing greetings with those we encounter running errands, and making new acquaintances when we play at the park. Sadly, almost all of our normal routines have changed. At her young age, Nora realizes our daily lives are totally different, but she does not understand why.
Although I am (mostly) content to stay at home, my energetic little girl is practically climbing the walls, the furniture, and anything else she thinks she can master. After our first week at home together, I knew that I needed to dig deep and find new experiences and activities to help Nora release pent-up energy (and, to maintain my own sanity). Like many parents, I am concerned about the learning and socializing opportunities that were eliminated when the school year ended abruptly ahead of schedule.
To alleviate these concerns, we started taking our dogs on daily walks, something that was easy to do with the North Carolina weather. As we walked and enjoyed the fresh air, Nora happily waved and shared greetings with our neighbors. I quickly realized, though, that to ensure we both continued to look forward to this new routine, I would need to make our walks a bit more interesting. Thankfully, my friends at Hatch Early Learning came to the rescue with a great idea: Scavenger Hunts!
Scavenger Hunts have been the perfect solution! The concept adds fun and infinite learning possibilities to our daily walks, and the beauty of this activity is that you can easily tailor each one to meet your child at his/her level. (Bonus: they are FREE!) I start each scavenger hunt by coming up with a short list of four or five objects for Nora to focus on each day. (For example: one flower, two leaves, one rock, a small bird, and two stop signs.) I typically bring my phone so we can snap a few pictures. Recently we began bringing a small bucket so Nora can collect her ‘treasures’ as we explore. This allows us to revisit our daily adventures later.
Some days I shift our focus to expanding Nora’s vocabulary, sharing descriptive words such as bright, fuzzy, fluffy, or squishy. In addition, I make sure to name each item Nora points to (and/or otherwise expresses interest in), words such as gravel, cement, driveway, and so on.
Other days, I shift the focus towards math skills, like identifying shapes and patterns, comparing sizes (“That tree is smaller than the other tree”), and counting the number of steps we take (up to 20). The variations are endless, which makes for a new adventure every day. I also love the flexibility scavenger hunts provide; if Nora’s attention span is shorter than usual, we can reduce the number of items in the search.
While the stay-at-home orders have been difficult, this season has afforded many of us the time to do things we intended but didn’t get around to. (I finally finished a book that has been awaiting a read since last summer!) As a parent who typically works all day, I am usually limited to a few short hours to spend with my daughter. This season has provided ample opportunities to slow down and savor experiences we may not have had otherwise. I appreciate the privilege of daily walks with Nora; seeing the world through her eyes is a monumental way to remind myself that, despite everything, we live in a wonderful world!