Start a rock collection and see if you can identify different types of rocks and minerals. What do rocks tell us about earth’s history?
Feed the birds – Take a pinecone and tie a string for it to hang from. Smear it with peanut butter then roll it in birdseed and hang from a tree.
Clean up a park or pick up trash on a hike by bring trash bags and gloves. Discuss why it’s important not to litter. Discuss why we recycle.
Make rubbings of tree bark and leaves. Press paper against the object then use the side of an unwrapped crayon to rub the image onto the paper.
Cut out paper snowflakes. Mount the snowflakes to a colored paper or paste colorful tissue paper to one side then hang in a window and watch the sun shine through.
Pinecones close when the weather is wet and open when it is dry. See if you can observe this phenomenon by photographing the same pinecone before and just after a rainstorm.
Learn to skip stones on water. Why do river stones look round and feel smooth?
Make a collage out of leaves in the fall. What else can you find to use in your collage?
Draw pictures on the sidewalk with chalk and notice that they wash away in the rain. Where do they go?
Go stargazing. Look up astronomical events like meter showers and bring sleeping bags and blankets to make the evening more comfortable. (remember the bug spray)
Go to NASA’s website, https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/
, and look up when the international space station will cross over your area. See if you can spot it moving across the night sky.
Explore a stream. Look for fish, tadpoles, water bugs, crawfish and more. Where does the steam lead? See if you can find the stream on a map. Try and trace its path to a river, bay or sea.
Run through the sprinkler in the summer and watch where the water decides to trickle. Notice how gravity and topography play a role in waters search for the easiest path.
Try holding a flashlight strait up in the air at night or the early evening. See if you can attract bugs and things that eat the bugs like bats. Build a bat house.
Catch fire flies and other bugs. See if you can count their legs or identify other body parts. Why is it important to set them free? What role do bugs play in our lives?
Blow bubbles and try putting one in the freezer.
Pitch a tent and camp in your back yard.
Climb a tree! What do you see?
Ride bikes on a nature trail. Notice how different parts of the forest have different trees, plants and animals. Can you smell different things as you move along? Can you notice temperature changes when you move to lower ground or get closer to a stream? Why does this happen?
Collect tent caterpillars in summer and give them a nice place to live with fresh leaves, air and water. Watch as they spin cocoons then in a few days emerge as moths. Set the moths free outside.
Listen to new places - Naturalists use all of their senses. You can learn a lot about your habitat just by using your ears. Choose two outdoor places that are very different – Maybe one with trees and one in an open field. At each place, listen quietly for five minutes and then describe every sound that you heard.
Be a kitchen scientist - try adding baking soda to vinegar. What happens? Learn about acidic and basic properties. Can you think of other acidic foods? Now test them by mixing with baking soda!.
Follow tracks in the snow. Can you tell what animal made the track? Which direction did they come from and which direction did they go?
Make snow angels, build a snowman or construct a fort using a cardboard box to make bricks.
Freeze snowballs for July. What happens to the snow over time?
Stomp through frozen puddles. Warm up with some hot chocolate in a thermus.
Make your own icicles by poking a very small hole in the bottom of a jug or bottle of water. Put water in your bottle then place it outside when it is below freezing. What happens over time? Make sure the hole in the jug hangs over the edge of a table or railing.
After a rainstorm put on rain boots and stomp in puddles then talk about what happens to the water over time. Does it trickle away, get absorbed by the ground, evaporate or all of them?
Take a plastic cup and poke a hole in the bottom. Have kids draw a face on the side with permanent markers (Adult Supervision Required). Help your child fill the cup with soil and sprinkle with grass seed. Water regularly and watch the hair grow! Children can even give a grass hair cut to their special friend.
Rainy or winter days can make for indoors fun. Learn about camouflage by cutting out 1-inch circles from white paper. Choose a single room as the place for the game. Have everyone stand in the room then instruct everyone to look around and think about where they might hide their circle in plane view and what colors would they have to use to make sure it could hide well. Remind everyone that the circle cannot be under things but must be visible while standing in the middle of the room. Now leave the room and have everyone color their white circle to try and camouflage them in the room. Then take turns hiding your circle and having others try and find it. Talk about other animals that use camouflage for protection and hide in plane view. Examples are moths, toads, chameleons, octopus, flounder, tigers, lions, baby white tail deer and many others.
Swim in the ocean and catch hermit crabs. Catch a bunch of hermit crabs that are all different sizes. Find a shell that is empty and in good shape. See if you can get the hermit crabs to build a vacancy chain by lining up in order of size and then swapping shells. Its amazing to watch them examine the shell then decide to make the move. You might just get a glimpse of the part of the vulnerable abdomen that hides inside the shell. Be patient as they can be timid to make the transition to a new home.
Roll logs looking for bugs and salamanders. How are these bugs helping to break down the logs and make more soil? Now try making your own soil by creating your own composting bin or pile. Composting is easy! You just have to save scraps from the kitchen and mix it with wet leaves and other organic matter. You stir the pile every once in a while and the bugs do the rest! Vegetable matter decomposes the easiest. Fats and bone take a lot longer to degrade. For the best results stick with vegetable scraps. Some great examples include: peels from carrots, melon rind, apple cores, potato peels, orange skin, banana peels, outer layers of onions and much more. Happy composting!
Find more nature activities at the back of Symphony of Surprise, a children's book packed full of adventure with extreme animal athletes. The book encourages children to pause a moment, listen to nighttime sounds and appreciate our natural world. With rhythm and rhyme the narrative counts the animals as they partake in their extreme escapades. Appropriate for children age two and up, the book and its inspiring message can be appreciated by people of all ages. Get your copy today!