Taking a Walk on the Bright Side

Taking a Walk on the Bright Side

Education February 12, 2021 / By Joanne Foster, EdD
Taking a Walk on the Bright Side

A walk outdoors invigorates the soul and clears the mind. Sometimes, a single sight, sound, or experience will trigger the stirrings of a creative idea that can then take wing like butterflies. Here are some suggestions.

As COVID continues to restrict our ability to interact with others in the “real” world, we become more accustomed to relying on technology, living in virtual milieux, and connecting across cyberspace. The reach may be broad, but the scope seems narrower.

For many families, walks outside have become highlights of the day. Aside from the exercise, fresh air, and vitamin D, a neighborhood walk is an opportunity to see something beyond confining spaces. Although a winter walk often requires parents and children to bundle up in layers and brave freezing temperatures, it can become a self-motivating routine. It’s a daily chance to think and observe anew—and perhaps generate a creative idea or two. (Or three…)

Creative thought does not typically occur in the form of BIG ideas or earth-shattering concepts. Like intelligence, it grows incrementally, over time. Because creative thought builds from what we know, it requires opportunities to learn, and it’s a process that requires awareness and conscious effort.


Here are some tips to help children appreciate a neighborhood outing, and to empower them to let their creativity loose…

  1. Enjoy the wintery weather. Run against the wind. Make clouds of frosty breath. See the sun glisten on snow. Feel the cool air kiss your forehead. Stomp in a melting puddle. Walk in the sleet and spin an umbrella.
  2. Mix it up. Take turns with family members choosing the walking route each time you venture forth. A twisting boulevard, a parkette, a residential avenue with overhanging trees, a green belt area… Create a crooked path where there wasn’t one before. Talk about what you notice.
  3. Play games together as you go. Find something purple, yellow (not snow), or turquoise. Something that is unusual, squishy, elaborate, beautiful, or surprising. Paw prints stamped in cement, a lost sock, a piece of coloured yarn, a broken toy… What stories might they tell? Reinforce children’s imaginative ideas. Try creating collaborative compositions.
  4. Walk with friends. Physically distance, wear a mask, but spend time together just talking. Catch up, reminisce, laugh, share ideas, and take comfort in one another’s company.
  5. Walk a dog. Your own, your neighbour’s or one from a local shelter, Embrace the animal’s excitement to be out and about, trotting along. It’s different than walking alone—sometimes you move at a slow pace and have to wait, and other times you get pulled along such that the dog is walking you!
  6. Make connections. When you see or hear something interesting… What song or experience does it remind you of? How might others perceive of it? (Different viewpoints, fresh eyes.) How might you interpret it in a poem, as lyrics to a favorite song, or in a painting?
  7. Have fun. A walk is what you make of it. Skip. Run. Step backwards or sideways. Slide on ice. Be silly. Blow bubbles. Put on music and dance.
  8. Choose various times of day to go for a walk. Author David Henry Thoreau said, “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” An afternoon walk can be a welcome break. In the evening, a walk can be restorative. Sunsets are magical. And, a walk under a bright night sky is a scenic delight. President Theodore Roosevelt counseled, “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.”


“It is urgent to focus on seeing.”

“Butterfly Heart” by Susan Gurau

Image: “Butterfly Heart” by Susan Gurau

Creative individuals recognize the value of engaging meaningfully with the outside world. Susan Gurau is an artist and a retired art teacher. Over the years, she has inspired many students with her insights, creativity, and instruction. We went for a walk this week, and we discussed the importance of appreciating the natural world around us.

However, Susan cautions that many people look, but do not see. Although they may peer through lenses, telescopes, or cameras, they often see less, not more. Thankfully, children can be helped to learn to focus.

So, for example, while out walking, your child might spot something intriguing (perhaps an ice patch with a crispy lattice topcoat, or a hedge with a cottony cover of snow). If they close their eyes, and reopen them after a minute, they can begin to see anew. They can examine that ice patch or hedge, “until they feel it is looking back at them, and it is the most important thing in the universe.” At that confluence of scrutiny and connection, they are no longer looking, they are seeing. Suzy says, “Seeing is often perceived by the creative mind. But seeing takes effort.”

As you and your family are out walking, there is much to see—up, down, in front, behind. Be mindful. Activate all the senses, and then pay attention to them. Breathe in the smell of pine. Touch the texture of bark. Focus on the meandering bravado of hearty vines. Listen to birds’ melodies. Taste the tingle of snowflakes. Share discoveries. Perhaps draw or record them in a notepad. Enjoy the nuances and pleasures of being outside. And, get creative!.

Joanne Foster’s most recent book is ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids: Hundreds of Ways to Inspire Your Child. Readers can find further information about optimal child development in Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids (by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster.) Dr. Foster also wrote Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate (recipient of the Independent Book Publishers’ Association’s 2018 Silver Benjamin Franklin Award), and its predecessor Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination. To learn more about these books, and for access to a wide range of articles and links, please go to www.joannefoster.ca. (COVID-related material is marked with a red asterisk on the Resources Page.)

The COMPLIMENTARY resource A to Z for Parents: Coping Today, Moving Forward Tomorrow, is offered with gratitude and optimism in collaboration with publisher Gifted Unlimited, LLC.

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