Six Ideas for Exploring Nature with Kids

From the looks of next week’s forecast, spring may finally come to the Rockies!  And I for one can’t wait.  I’m anxious to get my boys out on some of the wonderful trails we’re lucky enough to find just minutes from our home.  As I’ve been daydreaming about our warmer-weather excursions, I’ve thought a bit about some of the supplies that might enhance our romps out in nature.  I’d love to hear what’s on your list!

 Nature Journals

Stefani at Blue Yonder Ranch has done some amazing things with nature journals and her post here has made me very excited to start some with my own boys.  (I’m thinking of making these Marbled Paper Journals  with the boys to fit the task!)  I just love the way these journals help the children build connections and how it engages them in real, personally meaningful science!

Lenses for Looking

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!

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 Gardenwhile sitting in a vibrant public garden.  Bring along an inspiring nature read and have a little story time in between adventures.

Collection Gear

Kids are natural collectors.  And so are scientists.  If you’re exploring in an area where you’re OK’d 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 create a Fairy Loom for the job.  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.

Rubbing Supplies

I remember the first time I went for a hike with my oldest son as he bounced along in the Bjorn.  Suddenly a familiar trail became new as we stopped to feel rocks, moss, and bark.  Appeal to a child’s need for sensory input by taking in the different textures you find along your expedition.  Rachelle from Tinker Lab wrote a great post about creating a Book of Textures as part of your outdoor experience.  Check out her ideas and then go for a texture walk of your own!

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!

Read here for more on Why Our Children Need Nature.

What’s your favorite item to pack along on a nature excursion with the children you love and teach?

Top photo by Adriana Herbut.



Filed under Get Outside, Learning through Play and Experience

13 Responses to Six Ideas for Exploring Nature with Kids

  1. thanks so much for the mention! our fairy loom is one of our favorite projects to date! so much fun, and able to change with the seasons. we love ours! wonderful blog!

  2. amy

    We tend to just go. My boys are old enough to grab what they want–binoculars or bug boxes–but mainly we just walk and enjoy. I know some tricks for focusing looking and listening from when I was working in environmental education, but I’ve found when kids aren’t in a large unwieldy group, you don’t need tricks, so I don’t tend to use them with my own kids. We have a nature table but that’s mostly stuff from our own yard or the beach, since most of the areas around here don’t allow collecting. It’s nice to have a camera along, too, especially if there’s something we want to try to identify.

    • notjustcute

      Cameras are great to take along to areas where collecting is restricted. They’re perfect for recording and identifying objects and also help kiddos who often want to “keep” their discoveries. But you’re so right. The important part is just to go. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  3. I love this post. My family enjoys getting out into nature as much as possible and our kids are so inquisitive. My husband is very good at point out and noticing things around us, which the kids love. They are forever tracking animals, lifting up logs to find the insects underneath, catching things and putting them in jars, trying to get birds to land on them, that kind of thing. It helps that he isn’t afraid of anything like picking up leeches and worms, catching spiders, walking near skunks, grabbing lobsters out of the ocean or swimming near a jellyfish to have a good look. He wrote a post on our blog about how he learned to save animals from his father.

    So, if I were to add an item to your list it would be to interact with nature. Investigate the bugs and buds and animals and ground and try to guess what they’re all up to. Children learn a lot from getting down and dirty.

  4. Rachel

    I am hoping to pick up some books for the spring and summer of local birds and trees. My son is already so excited to recognize robins when he sees them and I would love to expand his familiarity with other types of birds and trees. (It will also be a great way for me to learn some new things as well!)

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