I was lucky enough to spend a wonderful week down in the beautiful area of Whitby (England) recently while on holiday with my family. We stayed in a house that was right next to the river, and me being me spotted so many opportunities for learning that I just couldn’t resist blogging about them!
There were no children with us on this holiday – so I roped the adults into playing with me – and we all had a blast!
So! Here are some of the ways that you could use the natural environment around a river to promote some learning and development within children:
This may seem like an obvious one to start with but there are so many different types of birds, fish, insects and other creatures to be found around the river. Why not introduce some wildlife books or spotter sheets for some literacy and language development.
Observing the tides
You can discuss how the tides change and the river moves. Is the tide always in at the same time of day? What does it look like when the tide is out?
Sounds and sights
Take some quiet time to listen to the water. What words can you use to describe that sound? Trickling? Wooshing? Swishing? Can you hear any birds or ducks? Also, what can you see? Look at the colours of the water and the reflections in it. Maybe even get creative and have a go at painting or drawing the wibbly wobbly reflections that you can see!
A very simple activity – throwing stones helps to develop a child’s physical co-ordination and control. You can also look at the way that the stones create splashes in the water, and the ripples that follow. Bring in some lovely ‘real life’ maths by looking at the size of the stones – does it make a different splash if we throw a big/ small one? What shape are the ripples? Watch as they grow larger and larger.
Another fun way to use the pebbles and stones that you may find is to make stone sculptures. This involves creative thinking, problem solving, fine motor skills and co-ordination. It could also involve team work and co-operation if children decide to work together.
The sculptures that you create, or through using other materials can cast wonderful shadows! Why not try to trace them onto paper or using chalk onto the path/ surface. An interesting extension to this would be to observe the shadows at different times of day and see how they change (growing longer or shorter). This brings some maths and understanding of time into the activity.
Continue to use your stones and pebbles by using them for measuring. Here we compared the stones and decided to line them up from largest to smallest. This involved mathematical thinking and decision making. Another way to use the stones could be to create the longest line possible and then measure it in footsteps. Or to line them up against something/ someone to find out ‘how many stones long’ they are.
Climbing and Physical Play
We were lucky enough to find this wonderful heavy piece of driftwood by the river, but there are always wonderful banks or large stones which children can climb on/ over. Be sure to let them take some risks – but risk assess carefully (and don’t let them fall in the river!)
This is always a favourite of mine! Using anything and everything around, let the children create their own masterpieces. These could be actual pictures, or just patterns and arrangements. Let their imaginations run wild with different textures, colours and materials.
I’m sure that I’ve only scratched the surface of activities and experiences to be had down by the river! Please do comment or tweet to me at @EarlyYearsIdeas with any of your own – I’d love to read them!