Being in nature has a way of making almost everyone feel better. Science can explain the benefits quite articulately. I know from experience in myself and my three boys that the positive benefits are so great that they cannot even be measured. Being immersed in nature helps to decrease stress by lowering the stress hormone, cortisol. Calmness and increased sense of energy fill the mind and body within just a short amount of time. Positivity and creativity are more welcome effects of immersion in nature. I always enjoy just walking in nature but my boys benefit from more active engagement and rarely are interested in simply walking.
Remember to care for the natural world around you as you enjoy it. Take only pictures and leave only footprints!
If you plan to be outside during daytime hours, begin by protecting your skin.
Bonus : these can all be done while maintaining a social distance of 6 feet!
Photography Scavenger Hunt
This is a twist away from the traditional printable scavenger hunt, which we have never successfully completed due to lack of interest. Instead, using my cell phone as a camera, we take pictures of “anything that is interesting.” Doing this, requires attention and encourages observation. We take pictures of leaves, beautiful flowers, flowers of weeds which can also be quite beautiful, logs, branches, mushrooms, animals, anything you can see or think of! We look through the pictures afterwards and I encourage explanation about what was interesting. This connects me to the way my children perceive the world around them which is often quite different from myself!
Make sure that your camera has a high quality protective case before letting your kids use it!
Listen for Animals
As we walk through nature, we tend to make a ruckus which scares away all wildlife. If we are listening for animals, we step lightly and keep quiet so we can hear them. Pay attention to the animal sounds around you. Squirrels scurrying. Birds chirping – how many different songs can you hear? Coyotes at dusk. Bullfrogs in the evening. Bees buzzing. Take the same walk at different times of the day and hear different animals. This activity trains the sense of hearing which improves observation. It’s also a reminder and important life skill that we need to stop talking if we want to hear others. Listen and learn!
Look for Animals
This seems like it could be the same activity as listening but its not. You can hear animals far away and you can see small animals that never make a sound. This activity also requires quiet stealth. If you are parading through like a herd of elephants, all the animals will be hiding before you are even close. When you slow down and train your eyes to observe, animals are all around. We have been soaking up as much nature as possible. In the past week, my children have found a frog, toad, 8 snakes, 2 different baby birds, a nest of 6 baby bunnies, 2 crayfish, ducks, geese, swans, many fish and countless insects.
We take pictures when possible and pour over the cuteness of the animal and wonder at the ugliness of some! This provides opportunity to learn more about animals if they are interested. We can check out library books or google to find out more information. We learned that momma bunnies leave for the day and return at night. The nest full of baby bunnies was not abandoned – i.e. we don’t need to adopt them forever- mom will come back. Touching baby birds will discourage momma bird from caring for it but the same doesn’t apply to baby bunnies.
What does this animal eat? Is this animal always here or does it migrate in winter? Isn’t it interesting how some animals are camouflaged so well? Some animals freeze and stay completely still when being approached while others run (or hop) and hide. How does the animal protect itself? How do you know if the snake is poisonous (or frog in some places)?
Please please please be kind to animals! Never do anything to hurt them. We observe to learn about the world and have a greater appreciation for the Creator who made them. If you do touch an animal, be sure it is not poisonous, can’t hurt you and be sure to wash or sanitize your hands afterwards. Never take an animal from nature. Observe, learn and appreciate.
Tree, Plant or Flower Hunt
Before you touch any plants, know which plants in your area can cause reactions. In our area, we have poison ivy, poison sumac and wild parsnip, all which cause skin reactions – so don’t touch!
This nature activity can be done almost anywhere! There are small green spaces even within the largest cities. Look for anything green, identify it if you can and talk about the plant. What do you notice about it? What make it unique? How is it adapted to survive? Can it be naturally found in your are or was it brought in?
We have a home in our neighborhood in central Illinois that has palm trees every summer. They are most certainly not native- they are brought in and replanted every year. We enjoy seeing them but they are not native to our area – oh sometimes how I wish they were!
If your child is interested, you can collect flowers or leaves then dry & press them to make a nature scrapbook. Make sure you have permission before collecting anything though.
While all the previous activities were quiet and clean – this is by far our FAVORITE! With three boys, it is loud and messy! We walk the path in a public park or nature center until we come to a creek. We do NOT cross the creek. Wearing water shoes, we walk in it. If it has been rainy, we also play in the mud! When I say we, I actually mean the kids. I walk through it and they roll in it! Afterwards, rinsing off occurs in the creek. Experience your senses!
Make sure you use good judgment. Have permission to use the creek and don’t use if there are dangerous animals like alligators, you should be able to see the bottom and it should not be too deep for your level of experience,
- What do you see? Water, rocks, sand, plants, animals?
- What do you hear? Rushing water, animals, cars in the distance?
- What do you smell? Flowers, spring?
- What do you feel? Is the water warm or cold? Is the sand soft or squishy? Are the rocks large or small and hurting your feet? Do you feel relaxed and calm? What stress can be swept away with the water?
- Please don’t taste anything and wash your hands before you eat!
Get outside and do some fun nature activities with your kids! Learn as much as you can, love intentionally and live full present. Today you are making the memories of tomorrow! God bless you and your family.
For more summer activities for kids, inside and outside, check out http://learnloveliveathome.com/summer-fun-activities-for-kids-in-2020/
I’d love to hear your experience. Leave your comments below 🙂
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