20 Ways to Explore the Forest Using Your 5 Senses

I can't think of a place I would rather be than the forest. I think one of the best ways to enjoy and explore the forest is hiking. I have two little ones who are generally with me when I am hiking, so I am always looking for ways to keep things interesting and fun for them. One of the best ways I have found to entertain kids while hiking it help them learn how to explore the world around them, and the part is you don't need any extra equipment.
Explore the forest using your 5 senses.

Just this past weekend I was hiking with my kids and we discovered we could see fish in a river when hiking over a tall bridge. My two year old daughter was the first to see them. This same trail also has an observation tower that the kids love to climb. At the top I pick them up and let them feel the bark
on the branches of the trees. I know it isn't any different than the bark on the tree trunks but they don't. They think it is really cool to be lifted up to touch the branches.
Explore the forest using your 5 senses.
My daughter's reaction to touching tree branches on an observation tower. 
While I believe children are naturally curious; they sometimes need help learning how to explore and discover new things. Helping kids learn to explore the natural world is both important and exciting. Teaching them to explore isn't complicated, for me it has just been helping them recognize bugs and animals, natural objects and places. My kids are getting so good at it they often spot things before I do.

Why is it important? There are tons reasons this is important. Kids benefit from playing outdoors, period. Check out NC State's Benefits of Connecting Children With Nature fact sheet for a whole host of reasons to incorporate nature in to LEARNING and PLAY.

Whether you are hiking, in your backyard or at an urban park, there are so many ways to explore trees and forests. Here are a few I have come up with that don't require any equipment and that will help your kids learn with and about their five senses.


  • What colors do you see? This is an especially good time of year to explore this aspect of the forest. Check out my post on exploring trees in the fall for more ideas. 
  • Can you see any animals? We have come across all sorts of animals on our hiking adventures. Luckily nothing dangerous. But the kids get so excited even if it is just something as simple as a squirrel or bird.
    Explore the forest using your 5 senses.
    Can you see the beaver?
  • Can you find any animal tracks? See if your kids can guess which animal made the track or how big the animal is that made the track. 
  • Role over a log and what do you see? Such a great way to find lots of wiggly friends. Just check that there are no snakes first.  
  • How many different shaped leaves can you find?
    Explore the forest using your 5 senses.
  • Leaf Match - Pick up a leaf off the ground and find the plant it came from. 


  • Climb a tree or rock. How do the rocks or bark feel against your hand?
    Explore the forest using your 5 senses.
  • Touch the bark on different trees and compare how they feel. Are some more smooth than others?
  • Find at least 2 types of conifer trees and compare how their needles feel. Are they prickly or soft? 
  • Find a pine cone and roll it in your hand. Is it prickly?


  • How many different types of bird song can you hear? Can you hear a woodpecker?
  • What other animals do you hear? We often hear squirrels and other small animals in the forest understory before we see them. 
  • What do you hear when you walk? Do you hear leaves crunching or rocks grinding? 
  • Do you hear the leaves russeling or trees creaking in the wind? 
    Explore the forest using your 5 senses.


  • Crush leaves in your hand to see if they smell. Do pine needles smell different than broad leaves?
  • Can you find any flowers? What do they smell like? 
  • Does it smell different in the forest than at your home? 


  • Gather pine needles and make pine needle tea. How Wee Learn offers a great tutorial. 
  • Make stinging nettle soup. Rain or Shine Mamma has a great recipe. 
  • Learn to identify edible plants. There are a whole host of books available to help with this. If you don't want to buy one, check your local library. 

Don't forget the power of simply being outdoors everyday! How do you and your little one explore your forests?

This post is part of the Earth Month Blog Hop. Head on over for a ton ideas on "greening" your life.

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