Fun for all Seasons
Anybody Home? Go visit your neighbors! Spend some time looking for your neighbors that live under rocks, under leaves, under anything. Remember to be a polite visitor! Put things back the way you found them. Move slowly and gently, taking care not to disturb any critters you find at home.
Make a bird feeder by putting shortening or peanut butter and seeds on a pine cone. Leave out bits of yarn for birds to make their nests.
What kind of birds do you see outside? What kind of food are they eating? Are their beaks adapted differently depending upon their food?
Adopt a tree! Choose a tree to monitor for the year. Check on it once a month. What do the leaves look like? What about the bark? Are there signs of wildlife? Are there plants that live near or on it?
Toss your hula hoop on a spot outside. Count the plants and animals that are found within the hoop. Can you identify them? Toss the hoop again in a different location and compare the findings.
With a friend, take turns being blindfolded. Whoever isn’t blindfolded can bring different things from nature (like grass, leaves, dirt, sticks, seeds, bark or pinecones) to the blindfolded friend to see if they can guess what it is. Tell your friend to use his or her sense of smell, sense of touch or sense of hearing to identify the object.
Take art supplies outside with you (crayons and paper for younger children; markers, pencils or clay for older children). Choose one natural thing (tree, rock, plant, etc.) to draw. Draw it from a creative perspective (standing above it, lying underneath it, sitting very close to it, etc.). Pretend to be an ant and draw it from the ant’s point of view!
Creative Writing: Take a walk outside. Choose a plant or animal that you see. Pretend you are that animal and write a letter to someone. If you have a friend with you, write to each other!
Take a hike bringing along sheets of paper (thick paper of natural fibers works best — you could even make your own!). As you go, collect natural materials that appeal to you…berries, leaves, twigs, galls, soil, mud, bark, etc. Find a quiet place along the trail and create a work of art using these materials. Rub them on the paper to see if they leave a mark. Have fun and experiment! Draw with these natural materials. Be sure to leave your artwork in the sun for a little while to let it dry if you’ve used moist material.
Take crayons and paper outside and make leaf or bark rubbings. Then, bring nature inside by displaying these pieces of art in the house.
Sit in an outdoor place with a journal and close your eyes. Listen, smell, and feel the world around you. Write down a description of that place based on what you experienced/sensed. Did you notice things that you would have missed if you had been just looking with your eyes?
Make a journal on a rainy day, then take it outside to compare your observations when the weather is nicer.
Take a family hike with a theme: find shapes, colors and textures, or look for objects starting with each letter of the alphabet.
Take notice of nature when you are doing other things. For example, while you are walking the dog, identify leaves and birds that you see along the way.
Go rock-hunting. Can the rocks you see be found on other planets? Get the rocks wet. Can you spot any fossils?
Install a rain gauge to keep track of how much rain falls during a storm.
Launch a model rocket. It is important to pick a large open space for this activity. When choosing your spot, think about animal habitats. The habitat for a squirrel is not going to make as good of a launch site as the habitat for a gopher. What weather conditions do you have to think about?
Create a Constellation: Talk about some of the familiar constellations and then try to find a group of stars that looks like something to you. Try to get a friend to see the same “picture.” Give your constellation a name and make up a legend as to how that constellation got into the sky. (For example, the “elephant constellation”: An elephant was drinking water and got the hiccups. It hiccupped so hard that he was fl ung into the sky and now lives among the stars.)
Make a pair of binoculars out of toilet paper tubes!
Collect as many seeds as you can find. Mount and label them, if possible.
Go out and take a survey or sample of as many different colors in nature as possible.
Have a scavenger hunt
Dig in the Dirt!
Download the entire “Grow Outside Guide to Outdoor Play” to print out at home or have as a reference.