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Nature-Based Activities for Toddlers & Preschoolers to Enjoy Outdoors

Mar 05, 2021    |   Outdoor & Sensory Play

As we transition into spring, the weather is warming up and flowers have started to bloom. It’s the perfect time to start thinking about refreshing your outdoor curriculum. Children always love exploring the colors, textures, and patterns of nature, and spending time outdoors is particularly important right now, as we continue to do our best to keep children, staff, and families safe from the spread of COVID-19.

The activities listed below will give children an opportunity to spend time with and appreciate nature. To adapt to COVID guidelines, each project can be done individually, without children sharing materials, in order to prevent sharing germs.

Spray Bottle Nature Art

This art project is easy to set-up and uses simple supplies that you might already have handy — just spray bottles (clear is best so children can see the colors inside), food coloring, and construction paper. Encourage children to collect a variety of natural items for this activity, such as rocks, twigs, sticks, and leaves. Mix water and food coloring in spray bottles and shake. Then, invite children to spray their paint on the paper, over the various materials to see what kinds of shapes are left on the paper.

Older children might enjoy making hypotheses about what the paper will look like after spraying, and which items will resist the spray paint.

Click here to find more information about setting up this activity.

Tree Bark Rubbings

Creating tree bark rubbings is a fun way for children to explore the textures of different trees.  This activity uses only 2 materials,  paper and crayons,  and can be done either on a nature walk or in your yard. Encourage children to experiment with different trees, then take a look at the bark rubbings to see how they compare. While children are doing this activity, you might take a few photos of the trees so that you can display the photos next to the bark rubbings in your classroom.

Click here for more information about this activity, as well as additional ideas for engaging children in tree and texture exploration.

Nature Collection Bottles

This simple activity turns plastic water bottles into storage containers children can use to collect rocks, flower petals, leaves, twigs, and any other special items they find in nature. Similar to the activity above, this project can be done on a nature walk or in your yard. And, the small bottle top openings  make this a great fine motor activity for young children who are developing the muscles in their hands and fingers. Children love to find “treasures” or special items outside, and this activity allows them to store them in a special place that can be revisited.

Click here to read more about this activity.

With clear contact paper and paper plates, children can display some of their favorite nature items in the form of a suncatcher. Simply cut out the center of a paper plate to make a frame and tape clear contact paper inside.  When children stick flowers, leaves and other colorful natural materials onto the contact paper, the result is a colorful suncatcher.

Click here to find more information about setting up this activity.

For older children, you might check out this link to learn how to create flower mandalas (see image to the right).

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