- Ages: 3-10+
- Materials: tweezers, container to hold found objects, magnifying glass (optional)
- Time: 30 minutes
- # of Kids: 1 or more
Just by adding a tool—in this case, tweezers—to the mix can turn any kid into focused, fired-up explorer. Without you telling kids to do a thing, handing them a tool signals that this time together is special, and using a tool naturally make kids more attentive, observant and confident as they spend time with you outside. Tweezers, in particular, get kids to slow down a bit and look more carefully at small treasures and, as a result, make all kinds of discoveries. Plus, tweezers are great for developing fine motor skills.
- Self Control/Focus—By using tweezers, kids have to act more slowly and deliberately, attending to details and blocking out distractions.
- Fine Motor Skills—As kids grip, place and squeeze tweezers to pick up treasure outside, they develop the strength and skill they will need to perform tasks like using fork and knife or catching and throwing a ball as well as tasks essential for higher level learning like writing and typing on a computer.
- Self Esteem—Kids feel empowered with their own tweezers and your trust in them to use them. Everything they collect on this walk is a reflection of their interests, which is especially esteem-boosting when you ask about what they’ve collected and appear genuinely interested in what they have to say.
- Science Concepts—Tweezers help kids discover the world of smaller things that make up the natural world. As they attempt to pick up objects of various sizes and shapes, they also gain experience with essential concepts in physics like weight, leverage and pressure.
- Prep—All you need is tweezers, and you can get them or make them. There are some science kits for kids out there, but we tend to find that the tools themselves don’t work as well or, in many cases, last as well as the real thing. As long as you AVOID tweezers with sharp ends or that are too difficult for little hands to hold and squeeze, kids can use adult tweezers safely. We use plastic observation tweezers in our classes, and you can buy those on school supply websites or amazon. We also found two cool ways to make tweezers out of straws and tape on the teachpreschool.org blog.
- Introduce the tweezers—
- Add suspense: It is always fun to add some mystery and intrigue when you introduce a new tool. One way is to have kids close their eyes as you put the tool in their hands to see if they can guess what it is/what it is for without peeking. Or, you can put the tool in a bag and have them guess what it is before they open it. The more hype, the more excitement. And, making a habit of this type of delayed gratification can actually give kids a chance to build self control as well as critical thinking skills.
- Give them time to practice: Before you start walking and collecting, give the kids time to play with the tweezers (this works out well for any new tool). You can lay out a bunch of objects of various sizes and give them time to see what they can pick up and what is tricky. For example, we've put out things like varius twigs & sticks, acorns, acorn caps, leaves, flowers, pebbles, wood chips, and chestnut seed covers. Stand back and watch, giving them plenty of time and space to discover their own way of using tweezers. If you notice them doing anything unsafe, though, get in there to show them how whatever they’re doing is unsafe and demonstrate a safer way.
- Let them hunt and gather—
- Hunt: You can tell kids it’s their chance to look for items that are really interesting to them, but that they can only pick up objects with their tweezers. If kids are struggling to use tweezers, make heir use optional. Then, set boundaries for how far they can travel. We always like to say you can explore as far as you like, as long as you can see me/one of us. The more independent kids can be during the walk, the better. You also may want to rule out certain dangerous items (e.g. broken glass, pieces of metal) or living small creatures (or at least encourage kids to be as gentle as they can with them).
- Gather: Give the kids something in which to collect their findings. We’ve used small buckets, cups or bags (cloth, brown paper, ziploc). Like with anything, some kids are not going to care about collecting things. Remember: the goal is to explore. Even if the tools and collecting don't appear to interest them, if they are out, looking, climbing, interested in what is around them, they are growing!
- Talk at the end—The amount of time to hunt and gather will vary by kid and age, but try to sit down with your child before he/she tires of the walk. Take a look at kids' findings and ask open-ended questions to get them talking. If you have a magnifying glass, bring that out and encourage kids to look even more closely with you at the objects.
Prompts to start good chat:
- Tell me about your collection.
- Which object are you most excited about? Why?
- Which objects were easiest to pick up? hardest to pick up? Why do you think that is?
- (If using a magnifying glass) Do you notice anything new under the glass? (Act excited and, if welcome to, model using the magnifying glass to identify bumps, holes and other tiny markings on the objects. Your excitement will draw them in for sure.)