Need some ideas about how to get preschoolers interested in nature? Preschoolers are innately attracted to nature, but these nature games and activities can give them a more tangible way to enjoy the natural world.
If you have a large backyard or park filled with leaves, all that you need to do this nature activity is a rake. Rake a path through the leaves. Make sure that the path goes around trees, under any objects that your child can climb beneath, and over any objects that your child can safely climb on. At the end of the path, put a large pile of leaves. Then add a few paths to the maze that end in dead ends or that circle back to the main path. Bring your child outside to the leaf maze and tell her that there is a secret at the end of the path. When she finds it, encourage her to jump in. Better yet, jump in with her!
This variation of I Spy will teach your child to look for details in nature. Lie on the grass and look up at the sky on a sunny but cloud-filled day. Then say “I see a secret cloud that’s hiding a…" Complete the sentence with an animal or object that one of the clouds looks like. Let your child guess to see if he can find your “secret cloud." When he finds it, talk about how you’re seeing the same thing: “See that ball on the left? That’s the bunny’s tail, right? And his big ears…uh oh, its ears are floating away in the wind!" This game is great for a good giggle with your preschooler.
Hot on the Trail
There’s nothing in nature that preschoolers find more exciting than animals. But you don’t have to go to the zoo to observe an animal! Depending on the area that you live in, you probably see chipmunks, birds, squirrels, raccoons, or even deer right near your home. When you spot one, tell your child that you’re going to be detectives, intent on finding out what the animal does all day. Then follow the animal with your child, whispering about what the animal is doing. For example, you might watch a squirrel run beneath a car, slowly creep out, scurry up a tree, race onto a branch, jump to the roof of a house, and then disappear. Remind your preschooler that you won’t be able to watch the animal forever, but that you can see just how long you’ll be able to keep the animal in sight. After you lose sight of an animal, have fun rehashing all of the animal’s adventures with your child. You can even pretend that you understand the emotions behind the animal’s actions, such as “Wow, that squirrel sure was scared when we walked by – no wonder it ran under that car!"
Although this activity takes some planning, it’s well worth it. It can also keep anywhere from one child to a group of children busy and happy for a long period of time. Make a list of different vague descriptions of objects that might be found outside, such as “something brown," “something shiny," “something very old," “something soft," or “something that an animal might eat." Read out one description and let your child or children loose to find something that matches it. How many objects can they find to fit each description? Encourage creativity and thinking outside of the box.
Preschoolers love comparing “how big" different objects are. You can channel this interest into learning more about nature. Find a simple children’s ruler with lines marking only inches, or make your own from a thick piece of cardboard or posterboard. Then bring your child outside and ask her to measure different objects, such as a leaf and a long blade of grass. At first, you’ll have to help her measure different objects, but in time, you’ll be able to make the game more complex. Challenge your child to find something in nature that is two inches long, or ask your child to find the longest leaf by using her ruler. This can even become part of a scavenger hunt.
Other Nature Activities for Preschoolers
Some nature activities are so simple that we don’t realize how much a preschooler might enjoy them. For example, most preschoolers will enjoy joining you on a nature walk. There are plenty of ways to make a nature walk more fun, and you can even use some of the items you find on a nature walk in an exciting nature craft. These nature activities can introduce your preschooler to the beauty of the outdoors, and they can give you memories to cherish for years to come.