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I truly enjoy going for outdoor walks with my kids.  Not only is it 13_l_6097484054ab2f3a9d1277great exercise, but the kids always find something new to discover, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

In the summer of 2008, my daughter got to the stage where she rejected the stroller and wanted to walk by herself and subsequently we started going for longer family walks. This new route took us down a stretch of sidewalk adjacent to an open field.  My daughter discovered that if she walked on the grass between the field and the sidewalk, she saw many bugs jumping out of her way.  This was a novel concept to a curious two-and-a-half year old girl.  As fearless and inquisitive as she is, she asked me what they were, followed quickly by asking if she could pick them up.  I told her that they were grasshoppers, and she could certainly pick them up – if she could catch one.

To a toddler/preschooler, a grasshopper is a unique creature. Most bugs just crawl or fly, but this one jumps!  As she spotted one in the grass, she knelt down in an attempt to stalk & capture it.  In one quick motion, her hand came down over it. This is when she learned lesson number 1 in bug catching: cup your hands so the bug does not get squished.  For the next 10 minutes, she chased, laughed, & shrilled in delight surrounded by grasshoppers.  This occurred during every walk that we took straight into September.  Some walks ended in tears because she didn’t want to leave the grasshoppers, but she got over it, especially when we told her that ice cream was waiting for her at home.

This past summer my son turned 2, and now he is out of the stroller for our grasshopper walks.  This year the grasshoppers brought many cricket friends with them.  Now both kids are having a wonderful time finding and chasing grasshoppers and crickets.  They have so much fun, and I use the opportunity to teach them about nature, the food chain in the local ecosystem, and the importance of habitat preservation for all the insects and wildlife living in the field.  I find that my kids start asking more questions all the time in their quest to understand their surroundings. If I don’t know the answer, we turn it into a research project and look up the information when we get home.

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I encourage everyone to get outdoors and go for a walk, even a short walk around your neighbourhood.  Getting outdoors has the benefits of exercise, learning about your environment, and most importantly the irreplaceable bonding experience with your kids.  I will remember these walks forever.

A special thanks to Karen Ennema of PureJoy Photograhy & Design for these photos.