nature play activities

A Daily Dose of Outdoor Time for Young Children

A popular author, Richard Louv has another great resource to encourage outdoor time for young children-Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life. The book includes 500 ways for families to spend time in nature.

vitamin-n-richard-louvIn the space of one generation, kids have become divorced from nature. They no longer spend most of their available childhood time in the yard or the neighborhood. They don’t even spend a good chunk of time outdoors. Some staggering new research is finding outside time to be about 7 min a day. This might not be the case for your child but compare outside time now to how much you had. Does it come close?

This is having a huge impact on kids: higher obesity, increased ADD, higher rates of anxiety and depression, lower levels of Vitamin D and more. It’s also having an impact on brain development and learning.

The sun tempted us outside and, along with a couple of cousins, there was plenty to do. Lou, who is just 3, liked to dig. He would dig a small shovelful of dirt and gravel and, holding it flat, make a beeline for a hole across the yard. When he got there, he dumped the rocks into the hole and headed back for some more. He did this over and over and whenever anyone else came close, he would announce. “I dig.” This wasn’t just idle play, he was on a serious mission. The other 3 children ran around the yard engaged in pretend play, but Lou wasn’t distracted. Focused on what he was doing, his interaction with his cousins was limited.

outdoor time for kidsThis is typical play for a three-year-old. Often, they play beside others rather than with them, until their play becomes more social. Unplanned and unprompted by an adult, Lou directed his own play. But there was no doubt he was happy and involved, enjoying his time outdoors.

Instead of house arrest, kids need a large and daily dose of Vitamin N-nature. The activity can be spontaneous or planned. Shovels are optional. For a play-of-the-day, how about some outdoor time for young children?

#12 Nature Play With Sticks

playing with sticksNature play with sticks is another way for kids to “go wild for nature.” While adults cringe, they may be some of nature’s most amazing toys. Because there is some risk, extra supervision might be needed.

Playing with sticks appeals to kids all around the world. A stick is like a bridge that goes from the real world to the world of our imaginations. From nature to fantasy. A stick can be a sword to fight dragons or a digger to scratch a road in the dirt. A pole for a blanket fort or a magician’s wand, a stick has unlimited possibilities. It might be a home to ants, beetles, or fairies.

go for a nature hike(Yes, some kids will turn a stick into a gun. This kind of play is controversial. One little boy who wasn’t allowed toy guns at home was playing with one at a friend’s. When his parents came, he reassured them “I’m pretending it’s a stick.”)

Because kids can use a stick in so many ways: to build, to make marks, to stir mudpies they feel empowered. With a stick, a child doesn’t just observe nature passively, but interacts very actively. On a simple outing in a natural area, kids will pick up sticks. Finding out just the right size for walking is only a beginning.

playing with sticksIf possible, after finding a stick, encourage kids to take a good look and maybe ask a few questions.. Is there bark on it? Any bumps or cracks? Check out the sides and the ends. Any guesses where the stick came from? Look all around. It’s tricky to match sticks to trees but some kids are keen naturalists.

Sticks are more than toys. They are a gift from nature. Kids might be able to help gather sticks for a campfire. Peel a fresh one for making hotdogs. What other ways can kids enjoy nature play with sticks?

(Stick with 123kindergarten for a play-of-the-day on the blog tab.)

Nature Soup: Go Wild for Nature #5

Nature play involves interaction as children both explore what is already there and create with it. Making nature soup is one way kids go wild for nature.

nature soupThe recipe for nature soup needs two main ingredients and takes advantage of an infinite number of additions and variations. The two essentials are a child and a patch of nature. From there, anything goes. The soup bowl can be a pail or other container, a hole in the dirt, a rock or piece of wood with some sort of indented spot, and even an old boot that is missing it’s mate. Kids will use rocks, seeds, leaves, sticks, grass, berries, nuts, flowers, shells, petals, feathers, and whatever else they find on the ground. Dirt and water may or may not be soup base.

Kids do not stop at creating nature soup only a few times. They love to do it over and over. Children may decide to change the soup to pie or cake, depending on their ideas at the time. Sticks are often used to stir or big, old spoons. the guests and the table may be fairies, elves, stuffies, dolls, or trees and animals. Imagination or real, animate or inanimate makes little difference to them. There is an added spice of connecting to nature.

Whatever children make, they are not playing all alone even if they are by themselves. Instead, they participate with nature. While they control what goes in their soup, nature supplies the basic materials. Nature soup is a partnership.

The recipe for this soup has no instructions, like nature itself. In the words of Buckminster Fuller, “Now there is one outstandingly important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it.” Kids–and grownups–need to discover how to care for the Earth and in order to care, children must have a relationship to nature. What better way than cooking together?

(As parents and caregivers, could you use a recipe for magical childhood?)

Nature Helps Kids Get Ready For Kindergarten and Life

Series Part #10: Kids Going to Kindergarten Need a Nature Connection When it comes to ways to help children get ready to go to kindergarten, you may be thinking about letters and numbers, but how about time in nature? This quote from the Center for Families, Communities, Schools and Children’s Learning explains why: “Children learn … Continue reading Nature Helps Kids Get Ready For Kindergarten and Life

Kindergarten Readiness: Sensory Play for May #3

What sensory play and kindergarten readiness activity comes wrapped in blue sky, golden sun, and a rainbow of other colors? Some fun outside of course! Nature contains endless opportunities for sensory stimulation. Just a walk can have lots to see with clouds, flowers, trees, rocks and bugs. Sometimes it’s hard to hear nature sounds in … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness: Sensory Play for May #3

Kindergarten Readiness Plays in the Puddles

Today’s play-of-the-day that starts with the letter p is Puddles because a puddle can be full of lots of kindergarten readiness fun and learning. To children, puddles are an invitation to connect with nature. Just stepping in a puddle is fun; splashing in one is even more exciting. In this puddle activity, mom Laurie Wallach-Rhodes … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness Plays in the Puddles

Kindergarten Readiness: Fall Nature Activities #4-Out a Door

1, 2, 3,4, grab your coats and out the door; we’re going for a walk around the block to look for fall and have some kindergarten readiness fun and learning. A simple walk in your neighborhood can be a journey of discovery as children begin to notice that changes that happen for each season. Children’s lives seem … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness: Fall Nature Activities #4-Out a Door

Kindergarten Readiness: Fall Nature Activities #3-Be?

For this kindergarten readiness and nature fun activity kids don’t even need to go outside. 1, 2, 3, what can you be? To help children connect with nature, ask them to be items found in the environment. For example, can your child be a tree? Or a rock? Or a seed? In order to play the game, … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness: Fall Nature Activities #3-Be?

Kindergarten Readiness: Fall Nature Activities #2-Shoe

Fall is such a special time of year and there are many kindergarten readiness learning and fun activities. For an upcoming radio show, I was putting together some ideas for encouraging children’s connection to nature. To make it easier to remember, there are 10 nature posts and each one rhymes with the number. Here is … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness: Fall Nature Activities #2-Shoe

Kindergarten Readiness: Fall Nature Activities #1-Sun/Mud

This morning,  I was doing some research for my radio show on the topic of children and connections to nature and read that not just healthy physical development, but emotional and mental too are affected; kindergarten readiness would also then be impacted by children’s bond to nature. (Learn and Play with Mrs. A is on the RockStar … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness: Fall Nature Activities #1-Sun/Mud