Nature is a fantastic thing, and outdoor activities are an excellent way for kids to learn about nature. There is no shortage of possibilities to learn about nature all year round. In this blog, there are 15 of the best outdoor activities for kids to learn about nature.
Years ago, I worked as a YMCA counselor and scheduled different field trips for the kids to do each week. There was a mountain chain and lake nearby our center. The mountain chain had a walking trail in the valleys that had many learning opportunities for the kids.
For example, some of the kids asked about the different plants and trees in the valleys. Then they noticed that apple orchards were close by and learned about the life cycle of an apple tree. Next, they asked about the type of water that was in the pond near valleys. Finally, at the lake, some of the kids asked why the water was brown.
The kids loved this experience! Here are some great ideas for you to try with your children.
Best Outdoor Activities for Kids to Learn About Nature
There are many great outdoor activities that you can explore with your kids to learn about nature.
#1 Nature walks
It doesn’t matter if your family lives in a city with access to parks and gardens of the country with forests or mountains there is always plenty to explore on a nature walk.
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Tips for Your Nature Walk
- Bring a camera to capture moments you will want to discuss more later.
- Potty before you leave the house.
- Bring water to drink.
- Bring a bag to collect nature items.
- Take your time and explore.
- Use all of your senses. For example, be quiet to hear the unique sounds around you.
What are some outdoor activities for kids to learn on a nature walk?
- Scavenger hunts: having kids find specific things such as pine cones, sticks, and leaves.
- Skipping rocks: discuss the differences between big and little rocks hitting the water.
- History walks: discuss things that have occurred at a location or place.
- Writing: bring drawing materials and draw pictures of the trees, rocks, and plants in nature.
- Night hike: explore with flashlights to see what creatures come out at night.
#2 Exploring Art in Nature
Sometimes nature looks like art. So let your kids explore the outdoor sculptures that are around them! Below are a few ideas to get you started.
Ways to Explore Art in Nature
- Drawing leaves with crayons: This activity is fun because it allows children to create something beautiful while learning about the shapes and colors of different types of leaves. It’s also easy to find pictures or drawings of different leaves online if they want their drawing to look even more realistic.
- Leaf Rubbings- Collect leaves to create leaf rubbings with crayons on paper (a creative activity that teaches kids about their environment)
- Make a sun print- Collect items to make a sun print. Here are the instructions on creating sun prints. This type of nature art is also called sun painting.
#3 Observing the weather
There is a lot to observe when it comes to the weather—just sitting and watching it rain can start a discussion about the water cycle. So here are some other weather activities to try.
Ways to Explore the Weather
- Collect pine cones for a Pine Cone Weather Station.
- Observe different cloud formations in various weather conditions such as sunny days, rainy days, or cold winter days.
- Measure the temperature in the shade versus a sunny area
- Collect and measure rain in a DIY rain gauge
- Measure the amount of water that is in snow by collecting snow in a clear glass jar, marking the snow level added, and observing it after it melts.
#4 Exploring Outdoor Plants and Trees
Let’s talk about outdoor plants and why they are so essential to learn about. First of all, outdoor plants provide many benefits for us humans! Plants help clean our air, they give us medicine when we get sick, and they even provide food for animals!
Some outdoor plant activities include:
- Explore different types of leaves
- Plant and Tree Identification
- Observe how trees and plants change with the seasons
- Collect seeds from different outdoor plants after the seeds have fallen on the ground.
- Explore the different types of soil each is grown in.
- Many different apps will help you identify the names of the plants and where to find them.
#5 Explore Insects in Nature
It can be hard to step outside and appreciate the beauty of bugs. Maybe you have been stung by a bee, had a bug fly in your mouth, or perhaps bugs just creep you out! However, outdoor activities for kids that teach about outdoor plants will also teach them about the outdoor creatures that live there as well.
Take time to explore different outdoor micro-ecosystems and talk about the plants, animals, and other things that share the outdoor space.
Ways to Explore Insects
- Discuss and find as many different “bugs” as you can.
- Identify different insects and try to match them with their scientific name.
- Compare bugs by how many legs they have.
- Identify and name the three different parts of an insect: head, abdomen, and thorax.
- Explain how bees and butterflies assist in the pollination process.
- Watch the caterpillar butterfly life cycle with one of these.
- Discuss bug safety, such as which bugs bite.
#6 Bird watching
Birds are a great outdoor activity to learn about. Here are a few outdoor activities for kids that will help teach them all about birds.
- Take a bird walk to observe different outdoor birds. Bring binoculars and field guides along for help identifying them.
- Make bird feeders and observe which outdoor birds visit which feeder, how often they return to eat, and what time of the day they come.
- Explore different types of bird nests outdoor, such as tree cavities or wrens’ nests in bushes, and discuss which outdoor birds use these different types of nests for their eggs.
- Discuss birds flocking south for the winter.
#7 Observing Small Animals
Many other small animals live outdoors to explore. Take binoculars so you can see them from a safe space. Here are some activities to include.
- Animal tracks identification- Look for animal tracks and try to identify who they belong to.
- Observe squirrel behavior.
- If possible, observe other small outdoor animals such as gophers and opossums. Notice how they differ from each other in appearance and behavior from squirrels.
- Explore an outdoor area at night with flashlights to observe nighttime creatures like owls or bats.
- Discuss different types of animals and their habitats.
#8 Rock collection and classification
There are many outdoor activities for kids to do to learn about rocks. Rocks can be classified by their properties, such as size, color, hardness, and composition, so be sure to collect various rocks. Here are some specific rock collection activities you can try.
Rock Collection Ideas to Try
- Sort rocks into different sizes or colors.
- Compare and contrast how the rocks feel.
- Weigh the rocks and discuss weight.
- Observe outdoor rock formations such as mountains and hillsides, which often have many different types of outdoor rock within them.
- Discuss outdoor rock erosion and how different outdoor elements change outdoor rocks.
- Explore outdoor geology such as mountains and try to identify the different outdoor types of rock that make up that mountain.
Nature is a beautiful outdoor space for children to explore, and the outdoor activities that kids can do are more than just fun. These outdoor activities will help teach them about nature in an educational way!
As a parent, try taking some time with your child to explore the different things that nature has to offer. They will love being able to spend time with you and learn more about certain insects, trees, plants, and animals.
Does Your Family Enjoy Exploring Nature?
Comment below to tell us what you think of these outdoor activities for kids! Has your family tried any of them? What are some other educational outdoor activities that have worked for you or your family in the past?
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