5 activities to enjoy the outdoors
You cannot go wrong with taking your children outdoors. The possibilities for fun and learning are endless, and the benefits of spending time in nature are substantial. If you spend a lot of time with children outside, like we do, you can never have too many ideas for some good quality activities. So here are five suggestions to spice things up on your next wild adventure.
1. Go on scavenger/treasure hunts
There is literally an endless amount of possibilities when it comes to scavenger hunts. They can be done anywhere, by anyone, looking for anything one might think of – imagination is the limit. Not only that, it is a super fun activity that so beautifully connects play and learning. As Jean Piaget put it, “play is the work of childhood”, and kids take their job as Treasure seekers very seriously.
Idea: For a scavenger hunt in the forest you can use an egg box as a collecting container with the pictures of items attached to the lid. Let the children explore nature while playing.
2. Do a kind deed for nature and its inhabitants
There is no better way of teaching children about the importance of nature than to “practice what we preach”. If we, ourselves, can be kind and compassionate towards nature, than there is not much more work required for our children to adopt a similar attitude. It all starts with us. By spending time in parks and forests, observing the plants, animals, and all the living organisms, we are building a positive relationship with nature, and consequently take an active part in protecting it. There are many ways we can teach children about nature conservation; from small (but very important!) lessons about keeping the nature clean, and putting our trash into the appropriate bins, to everyday lessons about creating less rubbish – all important lessons, all easily incorporated in the outdoor time activates. However, that is not all we can do. We can try and think of activities with children that will not only help protecting nature but lend a helping hand to its little inhabitants who desperately need it, especially in the cold seasons. These activities are fun, they spark creativity, and don’t require much preparation.
Idea: You can use acorns, toilet paper rolls, popsicle sticks or anything else you can find as a base for a bird feeder. All you need is something edible that works as a glue (peanut butter for example), dip it in, and then roll it in bird seeds… and Voila!
3. Discover new pathways and trails
Children love discovering secret paths, hidden caves, and veiled trails. It is all about the mystery, finding a place of their own, which sparks their imagination to create their own stories and build their own worlds. By finding their own little spots they are constructing their individual sense of identity as well as the sense of control of their surroundings. While their imagination runs free, their world expands and they grow with it.
Idea: Why not discover new paths, steer off the beaten trails, and let children lead the way on the next forest walk. Encourage them to turn over a rotting log and discover life underneath, observe the moss on the tree, and look for any other wildlife while walking on the “wild side”.
4. Create a little world
Encourage children to create a miniature world. It can be anything they can think of: a rainforest, a dessert, a mountain, the sea, a city or even a fairy home. Let them think about what sort of plants grow there, what kind of animals live there, what is the weather like, and what is the life like – discuss it with them. This activity is not only interesting, it also promotes cognitive development. Thinking about and creating miniature worlds is a tool which helps children understand abstract concepts, and make sense of the world.
Idea: Prepare a shoe box and take the children outside. Explain the activity to them, and choose the topic for the miniature world. Encourage them to find as many materials as they can to create a miniature rainforest. Observe the process and discuss their ideas.
5. Go forest bathing
Forest bathing is one of the ways you can practice mindfulness in nature. Taking a walk in the forest while encouraging children to awaken all five of their senses will make it a new and interesting experience. There are many different techniques you can try.
- Try experiencing an object from nature with all of your senses. Invite children to take an acorn, a piece of bark, or anything else they might find. Instruct them to make themselves comfortable and close their eyes while awakening their other senses. What does the acorn feel like in your hands? Does it have a specific smell? Does it produce any sound if you manipulate it with your fingers? You could also include taste if the object you are using is edible (berries for example). After awakening all the other senses, children can open their eyes and take a look at the object – even seeing it might feel like a new experience.
- Walk silently through the forest, and invite children to look for anything that is in motion. It can be in the sky, on the ground, in the trees, and anywhere in between. Discuss their observations afterwards.
- While walking through the forest, instruct children to make deer ears (hands cupped around the ears) or owl eyes (hands placed on the sides of the face), and try to see if they hear/see their surroundings differently.
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