One of my favorite ways to introduce science to my children is through nature walks. Nature walks allow for hands-on learning, observation, and conversation. Not only that, it allows my children to appreciate and have a love for their natural surroundings.
Nature Walks with Young Children
Nature walks do not need to be complicated. As a mom with four young children, I need to be close to home. In order for my family to plan nature walks in our week, it has to be easy or it just won’t happen. Many times all my family does is step outside! Our own neighborhood has its own natural treasures to find.
One very windy day, a small evergreen tree caught the attention of my 1yr. old. It was swaying in the wind, almost inviting her to come over and inspect it. She stood there for awhile, just touching the pine needles and smiling. Nature observation happened right in our own backyard (Of course not everything in nature can be touched! Watch small children closely.)
In our area, maple seeds blanket the area in the fall. Since these seeds are everywhere we look, I had my daughter grab a handful so that we could observe them. What were these things? Why do you think they have the long “tail”? What happens when we throw one up in the air?
Then we removed the covering to find the seed. What color is the seed? What do you think will grow from this seed? What does a seed need in order to grow? These were some of the questions that were asked as we observed maple seeds right in our own backyard.
When we were cleaning up our backyard, I lifted a flower pot and found a slug. I called my 3-year old over to see. What is this? Which end is the head? What are those two pointy-things at the top? (optic tentacles) What do you think they are used for?
My daughters have their own paper bag nature journal. The inside pages have a place where they can draw what they have observed on their walk. They can also glue nature items, or collect items and place them in the bag. We have several nature flashcards that were purchased last year at the Target dollar spot. When we’ve found one of the items on the flashcard (i.e. an ant) we place that card in the bag or on the page as a reference sheet. There are so many ways to use paper bag books and they are the perfect size for preschoolers.
Sometimes though, I need to step away and just let my children enjoy nature on their own without the purposeful direction and questions. When I do this, I find they usually come up with questions on their own that we talk about and take time to study later.
Preschool Nature Study Tools
I have a bunch of Preschool Science Activities on my blog. Be sure to check them out!
We also like to use these free printable I Spy cards to bring along on our nature walk.