Posted on April 18, 2012
By Amanda Morgan – Not Just Cute
I believe that there is nothing that will compel our children to be good stewards of the earth that’s quite as powerful as simply experiencing the wonder and joy of nature for themselves. We have to get them outside, get their hands dirty, and get their brains buzzing! Here are some things to consider for your next hands-on nature experience.
Look Through the Lens
Bring along some binoculars, a magnifying glass, and/or a camera for the kiddos to use and you’ll find them looking at things in a whole new way. Even if you don’t have the most powerful, professional, or top-of-the-line you’ll find the prop alone encourages children to really look around them. As an added bonus, you get exposed to a new perspective too as you’re invited to see things as they do!
Kids are natural collectors. And so are scientists. If you’re exploring in an area where it’s OK to remove samples, bring along supplies for collecting. A little Contact paper is great for pressing and preserving flowers or leaves, or for wearing as bracelets (sticky side out) to hold found treasures as you hike. Grab a basket or bag for collections or an empty egg carton for sorting. Maybe pack some small tools like tweezers and brushes for extracting exciting finds, paleontologist-style. Read more about how to store and display your child’s growing nature collections in this great post from Amy at Simple Kids.
Pound Some Leaves
This is one of my favorite activities! Help your child take a leaf and place it between two strips of muslin or other white, cotton fabric. Together, hammer the muslin with a rubber mallet. As the mallet strikes the leaf, the chlorophyll is released from the leaf and absorbed by the fabric.
When I’m talking with children as they do this activity, I mention that the leaves are holding the color inside, kind of like a water balloon. When those balloons are hit, they break and the color comes out onto the fabric.
Obviously, with all the pounding, this activity can be noisy, and it requires enough room for safely swinging the mallet. Outside is ideal! That way, the children can also search for their leaves as they wait for a turn.
Bring a Good Book
There’s something magical that happens when you read Lois Ehlert’s Leaf Man in a forest of fallen leaves, or Zinnia’s Flower Garden while sitting in a vibrant public garden. Bring along an inspiring nature read and have a little story time in between adventures. Field guides and other resource books are also valuable to have as you study your surroundings in nature and they are fantastic for getting young minds engaged.
Pack Nothing at All
OK, so maybe some sunscreen and snacks. But I do want to point out that for as much fun and enhancement as can be had with some of these extra supplies, there is most certainly a place for just being in nature, without an agenda. The important thing is just getting out there! What’s your favorite nature activity to share with your children? Top photo source.
Amanda Morgan is a full time mom to three busy boys and a part-time trainer and consultant for a non-profit children’s organization. She also writes at Not Just Cute, a blog focused on intentional whole child development. It’s full of ideas that are more than just cute, for preschoolers who are much more than cute too.