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children in nature Activities

Summer

  • Cricket Thermometer Use the help of a cricket to give you and your child an estimate of the temperature. The warmer the temperature, the faster a cricket will chirp; the cooler, the slower the chirps. Count the chirps for fifteen seconds. Add 40, and you will have the approximate temperature in Fahrenheit degrees.
  • Go on a Worm Hunt After a rain, go look for worms that have come up out of the ground to escape their flooded burrows.
  • Get Dirty Dig in the dirt, rocks, etc. and see what you can find or build.
  • Watch the Clouds Cloud gazing is free and fun for all ages. With a creative imagination, clouds can look like just about anything.
  • Go Barefoot Try green lawns and interesting rock surfaces, or let mud squish between the toes! You have to pay attention: watch out for burrs and thorns. There are places where bare-footing won't work, but plenty of places where it will.

Fall

  • Dot-to-Dot Star Pictures Together with your child, observe the sky on a clear night. Look for patterns of stars. Draw the stars you see on a piece of paper and help him or her connect the dots to discover pictures of lions, dippers, hunters, or whatever you can imagine!
  • Leaf Printing Make colorful shirts, bandanas, hats, etc with tree leaves.Go here to find out more.
  • Get Out & Scout Take your child with you when you go scouting for the upcoming hunting seasons.
  • Make Some Jewelry Collect seeds of varying sizes, shapes, and textures. Thread them onto a piece of string with a strong needle to the desired length and tie off.

Winter

  • Preserve a Snowflake
  • Paint the Town Mix up food coloring and water in a squirt bottle. Then, go outside and color any animal tracks you find in the snow.
  • Spend Some Time With Your "Buddy" Most deciduous trees will form a winter bud in the fall to protect the developing leaf inside. Conifers do not form this bud until the spring. Try "forcing" a bud by taking a small cutting and placing it indoors in sugary water near a window for a week or so. What happens?

Spring

  • Hunt for Spring Watch and listen for the signs of spring such as robins, frogs, etc. You can log your sightings at Journey North and track Spring's progress.
  • Stop and Smell the Flowers Take the time to stop and smell the variety of smells flowers are putting forth. Ask yourself what they smell like. Or why they smell at all. Hmmmm.....?
  • Discover Color in Nature Get 10 paint swatches of various natural colors from a paint store. Cut them into individual squares and take these and your child outside. One at a time, have your child look for each color in nature. You will be amazed at what colors you can find if you really look! This activity would work well in combination with "Discover Shapes in Nature" described below.A variation is to take an empty egg carton and paint each "cup" with a different color. Then the child would try to find something to match each color and place it in the matching egg cup.

Anytime

  • Wildlife is Everywhere
  • Geocaching is a modern, high-tech treasure hunt for all ages.
  • Journal It Create your own naturalist's journal or notebook. Take nots on what you're seeing, hearing, etc. in the world around you.
  • Sensory Bingo (probably best for Spring through Fall) Take a short hike. As you walk along, read one of the blocks to the child/children and have them try to find the things that match the description on this list. After the child/children discover something, have them touch and smell the object as a way of finding out more about it and put an X on its block. After touching objects outside, have children wash their hands.
  • Discover Shapes in Nature Print off and cut out a variety of shapes - sample. Take these and your child outside. One at a time, have your child look for each shape in nature. You can also punch a hole in each shape, attach a length of yarn, and create a "shape necklace" for your child to refer to as they look for their shape. You will be amazed at what shapes you can find if you really look! This activity would work well in combination with "Discover Color in Nature" described above.
  • Take a Hike Check out this web site from the Girl Scouts for ideas for some fun "themed" hikes.
  • Sit Outside with your child for a few minutes. Make it part of your morning, after-dinner or just-getting-home routine. Just sit. Breathe the air. Look at the sky. Share one thing about what you hear, see or smell.
  • Go for a Walk even if it's just around the outside of the house. Look for bugs. Touch the plants or trees. Notice the leaves on the ground. Feel the difference between the air and ground temperatures.
  • I Spy Have your child stand inside a Hula-Hoop or rope lying on the ground. Tell him/her to face whatever direction s/he wants and play "I Spy" together. Take turns being the one who spies something.

More Ideas

Here are more great ideas for getting kids outdoors, exploring and learning (from Texas Parks & Wildlife Department)

Lacking direct experience with nature, children begin to associate it with fear and apocalypse, not joy and wonder.
-Richard Louv