In preparation of Earth Day, Sunday April 22, I scoured the internet to gather some fun and easy activities perfect for pre-school, kindergarten and elementary school-aged children. With any luck, Mother Nature will cooperate by bringing the beautiful spring weather we're anxiously awaiting. And really, these are amazing nature-inspired family outdoor activities to enjoy any day of the year.
1. Woodland Wind Chime or Tree Decoration
To make a woodland wind chime or tree decoration look for sticks of different sizes and shapes. Paint with bright colors and designs. Attach string to the top of the stick and allow to hang vertically on a branch.
Do all the sticks move in the wind? What sounds do they make when they knock together? Alternatively, use a stout stick to hang other found objects/collections. What sounds do they make in the wind?
2. Build a bird’s nest
Use found materials to construct a birds nest. How do different birds make their nests and what materials do they use? Are all nests the same? Have you seen any birds nests at home or on the playground? If so, where are they? Why do you think birds chose the nest sites?
3. Twig Rafts & Leaf Boats
Make a twig raft or a leaf boat out of found materials, string, leaves, feathers, etc. Will your boat or raft float? Can they carry a small load?
4. Twig Weavings and Twig Mobiles
Twigs provide the perfect structure for any kind of weaving. Either use the natural shape of a forked stick, or lash three or four together to create a triangle or rectangle/square shape. You can also weave in additional found objects from nature (e.g. flowers, leaves, seeds, sticks, etc.)
You can use sticks to make group mobiles - each child could add their own stick structure/shape or weaving.
The woods and forests are said to be home to nature spirits, elves, and fairies. Create your own using leaves, mud/clay, and other natural items.
- Choose a spot for your sculpture – a tree trunk, large rock or an open space is best.
- Gather fallen pine cones, twigs and leaves and make a face.
- For a larger group, try making a life-sized figure
Leave your sculpture behind for other people to find. Maybe they’ll be inspired to make their own spirit too!
Create a ‘stickman’, ‘sticklady’ or stick family!
Can you make them a home or shelter?
6. Shadow People
Next time the sun shines, bring your shadow to life!
Invite the children to form pairs or small groups. Collect twigs, seeds, pebbles, and leaves from the school grounds, and use them to fill in one person’s shadow.
- Make lots of shadow people – stand in different positions to get different shapes
- Can you make any shadow creatures?
Leave your shadow people behind for other people to find. They might decorate their own shadows!
7. Create Zentangle or Kindness Rocks
Using markers and paint pens.
8. Natural Sculpture
Make sculptures, patterns, spirals, and sculptures with rocks and other found objects.
9. Special Trees
Find your very own special tree. Trace the lines on your hands in mud, and search for a tree whose branches, twigs or bark match them.
- The matching marks might be tiny, so look carefully!
- If you’re very lucky, you might have more than one tree twin
- Can you find any trees that match the other lines on your hands?
Trace the lines on your family’s hands and find a whole family of trees to match!
10. Journey Sticks
A journey stick is essentially a memento of a nature walk featuring items such as leaves, twigs, flowers, feathers or anything else natural collected in order along the way.
Younger children can use a piece of strong (e.g. corrugated) cardboard with double sided tape attached to secure the items to the card. Older children can make a journey stick by choosing a stick and attaching items to it using string or wool. Choose a long stick for a long walk, a a smaller one for a shorter journey. The color of wool or string can have a significant meaning and represent part of the journey too. Which color or object represents a different feelings, sights or smells?
Once the journey stick is finished, invite children to share with friends and family. Ask if they think it represents their journey? Can they retrace their steps and see and discover the same things?
11. Nature’s Paint Brushes
Use twigs and found objects to make paint brushes and mark making tools. Try them with paint outside or in your classroom!
12. Tiny Treasure Hunt
How many woodland treasures can you fit in a matchbox or raisin box?
Collect miniature twigs, pebbles and petals and keep them safe.
- Challenge yourself – can you find lots of tiny things that are the same color or shape? Or something representing everything letter of the alphabet, or every color of the rainbow?
- What can you make from your little finds?
- What else can you find?
The most important tip is to enjoy time with your child(ren) outdoors. It's magical to imagine your child sharing these experiences with their friends and perhaps their own children one day.