PRIME TIME WITH KIDS: It’s important to walk and talk with kids

Donna Erickson Distributed by King Features Syndicate
“Look! The snails make trails,” observes 4-year old Oskar Nelson on walk with his family near Elbow Lake in Washington. (Photo by Karl Nelson)

“Look! The snails make trails,” observes 4-year old Oskar Nelson on walk with his family near Elbow Lake in Washington. (Photo by Karl Nelson)

Mom: Listen to the birds tweet, isn’t that sweet? What do you think they like to eat?

Child: I see one fly to the other side of the street. Isn’t that neat?

Mom: Maybe she found a tasty treat!

Stepping outside with young kids for a fall walk is a time for discovery, conversation and even a little Dr. Seuss-like rhyme banter. Engaging verbally with children as you stroll is not only fun, but an active way to build vocabulary and language skills. Educators agree that even the youngest of children benefit from hearing and participating in conversations with adults. We need to be intentional and take advantage of every opportunity to talk with kids. Granted, distractions abound, making it easy to not be present with them despite our proximity. But there is no substitute for positive, fun talk.

Set aside your cellphone and mental to-do list for little while, grab your jackets and focus on getting a dose of nature (and rich conversation) with kids.

Here are three ways to engage verbally:

  1. Pay attention to simple things right in front of you.

When something catches your eye, use descriptive language to build vocabulary. You might begin at the street corner. Ask your child to describe the sign. What word do the letters “S-T-O-P” spell? What colors do you see? Then you might tell them its shape is an octagon with eight sides. Who do they know who is 8 years old? Now let’s count to eight and find eight pretty red leaves on the sidewalk.

  1. Make walk time, rhyme time.

Have your child describe what they see using words that rhyme.

“What color are the leaves in the trees? Some are yellow, some are green. I wonder what that might mean.”

“It’s nice to walk and whistle, but don’t pick a prickly thistle.”

Or, if a squirrel crosses your path, “Look at the little guy scurry, why do you think he is in such a hurry? I think he is looking for some nuts to store, before the winter winds begin to roar.”

  1. When you get back home, create a simple story of your walk together.

You could even add a few imaginary happenings like the green dragon that was hiding behind your neighbor’s garbage can, or the mail lady who flew from house to house.



Donna Ericksons award-winning series Donnas Day is airing on public television nationwide. To find more of her creative family recipes and activities, visit and link to the NEW Donnas Day Facebook fan page. Her latest book is Donna Ericksons Fabulous Funstuff for Families.



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