Regardless of where you live, nature is a playground loaded with fun and engrossing opportunities. Check out these great nature activities courtesy of Carmen Field, Education Associate/Naturalist at the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, in Homer:
Materials: 6-foot piece of string
Hikers inch along on their bellies, viewing natural wonders as if they were ants.
Lay string down in straight line on forest floor. Give your child a magnifying glass, if available. Tell your ant hiker to keep his eyes no higher than 1 foot above the ground. Watch children find things they and you never knew were there!
Materials: cut-out paper frame
Children create a gallery of nature’s art.
Give your child one or more cut-out paper frames (8.5 x 11” paper with center cut out). Ask her to find an object, a scene, anything that might seem beautiful and worthy of framing in the area, and then place the frame over her “natural art.” She then brings you to the right spot to view the framed “art.” Ask for an explanation of why that object was chosen or what she found beautiful about it. If done with a group of kids, when all have framed their natural art, the group can go on a “gallery tour” of their artwork.
Umbrella Bug Collecting
Materials: umbrella and magnifying bug box or lens
Children collect and observe bugs hidden in the leaves and branches of shrubs and trees.
Demonstrate how to shake branches of shrubs or trees into the inside of an open umbrella and then find bugs that have been collected. Bugs can be placed in magnifying bug boxes or under magnifying lenses for observation.
Materials: egg carton full of colored, manufactured objects
Children match the color of nonnatural objects to things they find in nature.
Give your child an egg carton (or half a carton) filled with nonnatural colored objects. Provide boundaries of where this activity will take place, and instruct your child to find objects in nature that match the colors of the things in her egg carton. Place each matching thing in the cup with its counterpart. Another version of this activity would be to use color paint swatches from a hardware store. Give your child one of these (or ask him to pick one out next time you’re at the store), and then go outside to look for natural objects that match your child’s paint swatch colors.
Hug a Tree
Children get to know one special tree without the sense of sight.
Tie a blindfold around your child’s head. Spin him around and lead to a nearby tree. Ask your child to feel, smell, and listen to “his” tree before being spun around again and led back to the starting point. Then remove the blindfold and challenge your child to find the same tree in the forest again using all senses.
Materials: Nature Safari scavenger hunt list, paper/plastic bag
Families/children go on a scavenger hunt to discover natural treasures.
Distribute a Nature Safari scavenger hunt list and bag to each child in your family. Let kids know the safari boundaries and how long they’ll have to find the items on their list before sending them off. Have your little hunter(s) show-and-tell what they’ve found when the time is up, so everyone can see what was found – or not.