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Take a Listening Walk

Age: 0 to 8+
Time: Under 1 hour
Materials: You and your kids dressed warmly enough to be outside for a chunk of time.

Featured in our #OutdoorsAll4 challenge, ‘Take a Listening Walk' encourages families to take a walk with the goal of, not just to hearing, but really listening to the sounds all around us.

The Guide

  1. Suggest to kids that you go on a walk, but that it’s a special kind of walk that is all about the sounds we hear around us--a listening walk. We think that we know the sounds we will hear, but when you are focused on the listening (and not just hearing) it’s amazing how much more there is to take in and pay attention to.
  1. Taking a walk means very different things for different kids based on age, personality and environment, so use your judgement about how much time your walk will take. In terms of setting, if a hike in the woods is something that is accessible and appealing to your family, go for it. If a walk around your urban neighborhood is what makes the most sense, great. There is no right or ideal place for a listening walk. Every place provides opportunities to listen.
  1. Before really beginning the walk, focus first on what it means to listen. Go outside and either lay down or sit down for a minute (or more!) with the goal of quieting bodies, breathing, and starting to turn up the awareness of the orchestra of sounds going on around you. Remember there are sounds that will come from you, too!
  1. When you actually start walking, ask kids to be aware of additional sounds they hear, or sounds that fall away. Every so often, you can do a ‘stop and sense’ where you stop walking and see what that does for your listening.
  1. During one of the stops, try closing your eyes to experience what that does for your ability to listen. Sight is the dominant sense for humans (especially in the age of screens) and it can be enlightening to experience sound without it.
  1. After your walk, take a few minutes to talk about all of the different sounds you heard and what might have been surprising, exciting, a little scary, or if there were any sounds you couldn’t identify.

Why is this activity great for kids?

This is a great activity for helping us to slow down and really be present with ourselves and each other. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to practice focusing, both in general and on a particular sense, further developing that sensory awareness.

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