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10 Ways to Get Kids Connected with Nature

Whether a classroom project or a fun activity at home is on the agenda, these 10 ideas for exploring nature are a great way to engage kids in their surroundings.

By Lani Aquino

One of the biggest challenges of teaching (and parenting) can be finding engaging activities for kids that aren’t cost prohibitive. When the learning space turns from the four walls of the classroom to the openness of the outdoors, a lot of new, engaging, and affordable options come to light. Nature offers an abundance of free resources, and sometimes just a few dollars spent on some additional materials can make for hours of fun with some educational perks thrown into the midst. Whether a culminating activity for scientific study is the goal or just some exploration in the outdoors, these 10 activities are a perfect way to engage a blossoming nature lover.

  1. Bird Feeders- These are easy and affordable to make, and once created, they offer a great way to observe the local feathered community. Some recycled supplies make for great feeders. The feeders can quickly be fashioned from plastic bottles, milk cartons, or even pinecones. With some extra seed and a bird guidebook or website, students can begin a prolonged investigation of some of the indigenous species in the area.
  2. Fairy Gardens- The creation of a fairy garden is a wonderful isolated experience, but it can also be tied to a culminating activity for a book on fairies or any other nature residing character. Fairy gardens can be created using rocks, sticks, leaves, acorns, flowers, etc. found in nature and enhanced with some added twine, buttons, ribbons, etc. As a classroom activity, each student or pairs could be responsible for a singular structure; as an at home activity, families could make the garden as simple or elaborate as they like.
  3. Scavenger Hunts- Outdoor scavenger hunts can have limitless possibilities. Hunters could be on a quest to find a list of very particular items (e., acorns, leaves, flowers, pebbles) or the hunt could be done with more open-ended items (i.e., shapes, sizes, colors, tracks). If the actual collection of items would be too disruptive to the natural space, photos could be taken in lieu of actual collection. A laminated list or one that’s placed in a sleeve is best for the outdoor elements.
  4. Loose Parts Play- While this is an indoor or outdoor concept, there are so many wonderful features and learning experiences for having kids engage in loose parts play. At home or at school, an outdoor space with a collection of natural loose parts can provide hours of fun and learning. The big idea behind the use of loose parts is that there is no right or wrong way to play, and the child is the one determining the rules of play which can change at any time. If the goal is building ingenuity and creativity, loose parts is the means to that end. The Magic Three formula shared by Nurture Store gives some great ideas for picking three random loose parts and letting kids take the creating from there.
  5. Collection Journals- If the actual preservation of insects or other outdoor species isn’t in the cards, a journal can certainly take the place of a pinned collection. Kids could take photos or draw images of any number of natural wonders. Bugs, leaves, flowers, birds, etc. are just a few of the possibilities. With some identification websites and/or field guides, collectors will be able to document pertinent information about each species and add their personal observations and location information.
  6. Leaf Rubbings- Leaf rubbings are a wonderful way to study leaves, but they are also a beautiful stand-alone art activity. Crayons or oil pastels coupled with thin paper and leaves complete the supply list. The rubbings could be used to showcase a leaf collection, to display the variety of shapes and sizes in leaves found in a particular area, or to explore a new artistic medium.
  7. Photo Hunt- This scavenger hunt with a twist can be fun to do in any indoor or outdoor space. Kids can be the photographers, hunters, or a mixture of the two. By taking close up images or photos at odd angles, a unique hunt can be created. A great way for photographers to think outside the box on how to capture images, and a chance for hunters to put their investigative skills to the test. To “mark” an item on the list, hunters could take a larger image to show as evidence of uncovering the correct element.
  8. Painted Rock Garden- Another fun stand-alone activity, but painted rock gardens can also be used to showcase learning in an atypical way. Small groups of rocks could be used to create a visual representation of character qualities, key events, or settings in a story. Words could painted on rocks to show the key components of a concept. Personalized rocks could be designed to create a classroom garden that represents the diversity of the students.
  9. Nature Sounds- The gurgling of a creek, the wind whistling in the trees, claps of thunder, birds chirping, and so much more can be found when one takes the time to listen. Capturing these sounds on devices and composing a nature soundtrack is a unique way to explore the world around us. Students could be asked to capture a nature sound at home to play for the class to identify or to compile a unique soundtrack of the community at large.
  10. Nature Journal- Sometimes a nature journal doesn’t have to be about recording all the scientific information associated with the flora and fauna of the surroundings. Bringing the sights, sounds, smells, etc. to life in words and images is an amazing way to interact with the environment. Spending some quiet and reflective time in the outdoors can be very inspiring and cathartic. Enjoying nature and recording the thoughts and feelings that are a part of that experience is a very rewarding and connective way to get in tune with one’s surroundings.

Nature is in endless supply, but getting outside and enjoying it is often overlooked. Creating classroom and at home options for exploring nature is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to engage kids with the environment. These 10 activities are a perfect starting point for showcasing the fun and enjoyment that can be found within the wonders of nature.

If you enjoyed the thoughts and ideas shared here, check out the trainings and tools (for teachers and for families) that we offer.

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