Many of us are well into our second month of social distancing. We have done our best to make a schedule for our children and to stick with it, and yet we still struggle with filling the day. It reminds me of the old adage about parenting, “the days are long, the years are short”… during the time of COVID-19, even the hours are long!

So what do you do when cabin fever sets in? One suggestion that doesn’t involve the car, a screen, or even special toys or equipment for when you don’t have something planned, or just need a break from the schedule is very simple: Take a walk!

It involves observation and conversation, two activities that engage children in what they do best. And this simple activity can enrich our lives in ways that a trip to the latest commercial fun zone cannot.

There will be clues about the season (even most cityscapes have some plant material present), a discussion about the weather (walks can happen rain or shine) and any changes observed since the last stroll through the neighborhood, or in our case, the local woods. 

There may be sightings of furry or feathered friends, and there are always sounds to comment on like sirens, construction or demolition noises, busses, and trucks that roll by. Whether you take the same route each time you venture out or take a new turn, there are lots of things to see and hear and talk about. When retracing steps from the last walk, kids love to anticipate and guess what’s around the corner. Knowing what’s next gives young children confidence.

Children are endlessly curious and love to share their observations about the world around them. They relish the opportunity to comment on what they see and are beginning to understand. And you should never underestimate the message that you send to your child when you just listen to what they have to say.

Letting your child tell you about what they see around them shows them that they matter and that you appreciate their opinions. Do they like the new color the neighbor is painting their garage? Do they have a favorite flower along the way? What birdsong do they think is the prettiest. And be sure to share what you notice and appreciate as well.

These conversations, like all shared experiences, create connections.

The old cliche about the importance of the journey and not the destination can be especially true in these times. Sometimes, making the time and space for children to express themselves in a calm and relaxed setting is the most significant activity we can include in their schedule. 

Happy trails to you!

This post originally appeared on Have You Gone Exploring Lately?.