Find adventure and encourage bonding with these easy, outdoor activities designed to connect your tiny explorer with nature. Bring your family together, stimulate awareness and curiosity in your child, and feel the benefits and calming pace offered by the natural world. Each activity can be done with ages 18 months and up. All you need is a little sense of pint-sized adventure!
Get on your bellies and study the terrain from a bug’s eye view! Pick one small area of the yard to explore with a hand lens. Look for bugs under rocks and watch them with a hand lens.
Rock collecting starts early with curious minds. Begin with just collecting in your yard. Move on to arranging rocks by size or color; stack them, make patterns, lines-or better yet, just let your little rock hound arrange those new finds as he pleases. Just remind him that rocks do not like to fly.
Story Time al Fresco
There’s nothing like a simple change of scenery to excite the senses. Try story time under the stars for a new twist on old favorites! You could even follow up with sleeping outdoors. From fellow adventurer, Tracy Albrecht
An old favorite, inspired of course, by Winnie the Pooh. Gather sticks and drop them in a stream, watch them float away. Even better if you can do it from a small bridge, watching for them to emerge on the other side. Our 3-year old son would do this for hours if we let him.
Hue See That?
Another one of our 3-year old’s favorites for over a year now. Use colored or construction paper, paint sample strips (we’ve laminated ours for all of its use), crayons, or the ROYGBIV spectrum to help your child match colors found in your yard. From GreenTeacher
Create your own tiny explorer field guide-keep it simple, for example cut and paste photos/illustrations of bugs or ants, yellow flower, tree, etc. Take your child on a walk around the neighborhood or a nearby nature area and mark off each critter and plant she can find.
Teddy Bear Tracking
Draw or print out a set of 12 paw prints (~3″- 4″); cut out and hang at child level, around your yard or campsite for your toddler to “track” to a teddy bear you’ve place sitting in a low tree, sturdy bush or other semi-hidden spot for him to find. Delightful fun and a favorite with preschoolers!
The Secret Garden
Choose a place in your yard–under a special bush, at the base of a favorite tree, or even a large planter–where your toddler can create her own unique garden to plant collected rocks, sticks, plastic dinosaurs…anything she wishes that makes it uniquely hers.
Wrap a piece of masking tape to your child’s wrist, sticky side up. As you explore, help him attach colorful leaves, flowers, and other interesting discoveries to his bracelet. When done, use scissors to snip off the nature bracelet. Display on a bulletin board, shelf, or wall. From FamilyEducation
Follow The Leader
Start out as the leader and buzz a flower, hop around a tree, step over a rock, flap over to the hose, etc. Then switch to let your little one lead…
If you have any trees with edible fruit, let your little one help you harvest your fresh crop, then share the organic snack! Create a bouquet of garden flowers with your toddler for tonight’s center piece (just make sure to watch for poisonous plants or defenses like thorns, spines or burrs). From family.go
Take your child on a moonlight walk in your backyard during the full moon.
Perfect for toddlers who like to collect things…and dump them out only to refill it again. Use a small toy bucket or container they can manage. Collect leaves, rocks, small trash flown in after a windy day, or specially hidden toys. If collecting natural items from your yard, it’s a good opportunity to teach the non-removal of things from protected areas. Have them dump their bucket outside, leaving their natural items where “they live.” If picking up trash, have them wear gloves, make sure what they’re picking up is “safe” and have them empty their buckets in the trash can to teach good environmental habits.
Michelle Hedgecock, CC (aka The Nature Coach) is a graduate and certified coach through the Coach Training Alliance (CTA), a top 10, International Coach Federation (ICF) accredited coach training program. She also has an A.S. in Botany and a B.A. in Anthropology.