Nature is a wonderful thing. It’s beautiful. Sometimes pristine, usually affected by suburbia. Regardless of whether you can find “unspoiled” natural areas near you, there are still plenty of opportunities to discover nature. Even if you live in the city. Originally, I’d planned to talk about symmetry in nature, and how we can find patterns and repetition in naturally occurring objects around us, but due to the cold weather keeping us indoors for the past few days, I’ll leave that as a suggestion for a future activity. And instead, I’ll share seven different posts that will help inspire you as you work on finding ways for kids to discover nature.
- How to Plan an Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt for Kids: This is a great way for kids to enhance their natural curiousity and hone their observation skills. We tend to gravitate towards low key activities, so you’ll be happy to know that this post of mine was all about keeping things simple. What did we do? We took a camera and headed outdoors — Toby pointed things out and we took pictures of them with our cameras. It might be fun, next time we do this photo scavenger hunt, to make a photo memory game from some of the images.
- Learning About Bugs – observe critters or insects: you can catch real live insects if you like, or go with the preserved variety, as we did in this post. We used bugs to learn about nature, to practice counting, tracing, and more. Next time we learn about critters, I might make an “I Spy” game for Toby, so that he can work on observing similarities and differences between different objects found in nature.
- Unstructured Outdoor Play: Last winter, I blogged numerous times about how Toby enjoyed playing in the snow — out on our deck. There was no lesson plan, no objective. Nothing for him to learn. But despite the unstructured nature of his time outdoors, I still observed Toby learning. He heard the sound of the wind, felt the coldness of the snow, watched it change from snow and melt into water. The act of playing “without purpose” can be a very useful thing indeed.
- Nature Art: An Exercise in Process Art: This activity was one of my favorites. Toby helped me collect different items from our yard, and then he spent time arranging, ordering, and sorting them in a bin. The activity required no setup on my part, and he learned a lot. We discussed seed pods, seeds, and all sorts of nature-related things. And even though it’s been a few seasons since we made nature art like this, Toby still talks about his experience with process art using nature as a medium.
- Bird Watching – Up Close!: Last summer we installed a window bird feeder in the playroom. It was a great idea, and Toby was very excited to watch for birds. I’m not sure who has enjoyed this observation station more — my toddler, or the cats. Nevertheless, It’s been great to have a way to hone our observation skills up close, and watch how birds come in for a snack.
- Sundog Rainbow Sunrise: Another neat aspect of nature, sundogs are “rainbows” that form when it’s not raining. Check out this post for more information. Toby loved learning about sundogs, and I learned quite a big myself as we researched the phenomenon one cold winter morning.
- Backyard Wildlife: In our semi-rural setting, we have many opportunities for observing wildlife. Last year there was a herd of 30 deer we could watch out back. Turkeys walked through our yard, we could hear coyotes chattering to one another in the early morning, and a mother fox had babies in the neighborhood. One year, I even watched a fawn being birthed in the tall grass behind us. Toby loves looking for wildlife, and maybe it’s because of our location… but even if we were in an urban area, I would do what I could to make sure we could enjoy the local wildlife. One of Toby’s favorite tools for wildlife watching? Kid binoculars, of course. Read the post for more.
So, there you have it. seven ideas to help make discovering nature easy! I hope you can implement some of these ideas into your daily routine; I know we’ve enjoyed honing our observation skills and marveling at the beauty of nature around us — no matter where we are!
This post is part of the A-Z STEM Series (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for Kids.
Throughout January, many wonderful bloggers are working their way through the alphabet of great kids STEM activities perfect for home or school.
These kids STEM activities will be specifically geared for preschool through early elementary ages. Each letter of the alphabet will be represented with a different STEM activity for science, technology, engineering, and math.
By the end of the month, you will have an amazing resource to use with your students and/or children!