Nature Activities for Preschoolers are Important to Development
I grew up in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. This state is well-known for their environmental-friendly attitude. With plenty of greenways, walking trails, and parks nearby, I had many opportunities to escape the indoor world and discover nature around me.
I would spend many hours each week in the greenway that backed up to our yard. My cousin and I found an abandoned tree fort, edged with a creek brimming with crayfish. The large tree had a tire swing attached to it that would swing over the creek.
We fixed up the fort by putting a bridge over the creek and a sitting chair near the water. Since the neighborhood boys liked to get into our fort, we made sure to install booby traps (aka mud rolled up to look like animal poop).
It was there I learned how to get a blackberry thorn out of my finger, where snakes liked to hide, what a yellow jacket looks like (and what its sting feels like), how red-tailed hawks hunt, catch, and eat their prey, and how to identify a frog versus a toad.
When I discovered that walking a couple miles down the greenway led me to three of my best friend’s houses, I was delighted! On weekend mornings, I would pack up a snack for myself and take the 2-3 mile walk to go visit them. We’d roam around the greenway while talking about the boys we liked at school.
Since having my own children, I have wondered how I can instill a love of nature in them, especially while living farther away from wild places. To be honest, I’ve let the kids and me stay inside too often. I’ve let laziness and busyness get in my way of giving them an outdoor experience.
The truth is that preschoolers need time to discover and connect with nature. You can let them roam around and discover it for themselves, or you can check out these nature activities for preschoolers.
7 Nature Activities for Preschoolers:
Try going on a nature walk on a paved trail or in your neighborhood. This is a great time to point out different parts of nature to your preschooler. You can talk about dandelions, pinecones, insects, squirrels, and any animals you see. (If you’re not knowledgeable in this area, I encourage you to look up some nature facts that you can teach during your walk.)
If you live in the city, consider taking a trip to the zoo or a nature center to learn more about the world around you.
You can use this FREE Nature Bingo printable to cross out or put a sticker on what you find. Sign up and subscribe to receive this awesome bingo page.
My preschooler has a lot of questions. MANY. One of her repeated questions centers around condensation outside of glasses. She calls it “magic.” Another of her inquiries include how the clouds choose when to rain.
Since evaporation, condensation and precipitation are experienced by most preschoolers, they naturally have questions about its “magical” existence. A good way to explain the water cycle in a way that four-year-old minds understand is through a water cycle jar.
Are your kids like mine? They are in complete awe of butterflies, but are totally disgusted by caterpillars. Any caterpillars besides the fuzzy orange and brown ones totally gross me out, so I know where they get it from.
When my preschooler discovered that caterpillars actually turn into butterflies, she was understandably confused. What insect, animal or person changes that much? And why would all those changes be able to happen inside a cocoon? How do creepy caterpillars turn into elegant butterflies?
Next it’s time for a butterfly hunt! Depending on the time of year and the location you’re in, finding butterflies might be difficult. If this is the case for you, consider visiting a local butterfly home or garden.
*Please remember to not let your preschool touch or catch the butterflies as this could severely harm them.*
Go outside during cloudy days and bring this FREE printable guide with you to identify the types of clouds you and your preschooler see. After identifying one or two, you can show your preschooler fun shapes you see in the sky and they can show you what they see.
To access the PDF, just click the link below the image and print!
Once after a babysitting job, the parents took me out to their backyard where they had set up a brand-new telescope. Their backyard bordered on undeveloped fields, which was the perfect backdrop for viewing the night sky.
After configuring the telescope, the dad had me take a look inside. There in plain view was a planet. I could SEE it.
I had already been fascinated with stars at a young age, but now that I knew you could see planets, learning about space became even more exciting.
Preschoolers and children are naturally drawn to nature, especially when they are given ample time to observe and explore it. Who doesn’t like shiny things in the sky, right? 😉
You can view your own night sky happenings at home with a telescope or special glasses or visit a local planetarium.
Feeding ducks is almost always an exciting experience for kids. They get to be in close proximity with wild animals that eat the food (sometimes) straight from their hand! We have a few parks we like to visit in the summer that house local duck populations in their ponds.
During a warm part of early fall, my husband and I took the girls to visit a local university duck pond. What we didn’t realize was that we would also be teaching the kids about the circle of life. A group of ducklings swimming was attacked by a turtle. One duckling was grabbed and brought under the water.
A college student nearby jumped over the fence around the pond and tried to save the poor duckling. Unfortunately, the duck had already drowned and was still clamped in the jaws of the turtle. I had never hated turtles so much in my life until that moment!
Another memorable experience from this year was during a warm winter day. We visited a pond at a nearby park. As we opened our bread bag, the ducks surrounded us. Quickly. They were nipping at my pants, biting the kids’ fingers, and flapping everywhere. I had never experienced such an aggressive duck population before. I grabbed the girls in my arms, somehow managed to dump the bag of bread and high-tailed it out of there.
Ducks are actually not supposed to eat bread. It’s not good for their digestive systems and leftover bread actually causes surface algae to grow in the pond. This kills fish, gives the ducks diseases and makes the pond smell. Instead, you should feed ducks seedless grapes, cooked rice, birdseed, peas, corn, oats and chopped lettuce. Basically, just bring them a big salad and you’ll be good!
Make Leaf Art
Children love to collect things. From dust bunnies and stale pieces of candy to Pokemon cards and sticks, collecting is an inherent part of childhood.
Creating leaf art works just as well in fall as it does it spring and summer. Not only are leaves different shapes and sizes with variating veins, but each tree has its own unique shades of green and red.
With the mountains close by, we like to take scenic drives and stop to enjoy the fresh air and scenery. This is usually a good time to go leaf picking. Make sure to park in a safe spot and keep a good eye on the kids. Another place to hunt leaves is in public parks. You don’t want to have your kids thinking they can pick leaves off of the neighbor’s trees, right?
Even better, find freshly dropped leaves on the ground.
Once you have a good collection of leaves, let your kids take the apart and use Elmer’s glue to stick to the paper. They can recreate trees with their newfound leaves or any other picture they’d like to take on.