Not Stuck Inside: Kids Edition
Simple Nature Activities
If you’re stuck at home, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors.
We’ve compiled a list of nature-themed activities for all ages to help you get your Vitamin N (nature)!
Leaf or Bark Rubbings
Take a piece of paper, a crayon or colored pencil, and something hard and flat, like a book. Head outside and find an interesting plant. For bark rubbings, place the paper on the tree trunk and lightly color a section of the page revealing the texture of the bark. For leaf rubbings, put the leaf on your book or clipboard, and place your paper on top of both of them. Lightly color a section of the paper until you see the texture of the leaf appear. You can do several on one piece of paper to create a collage of textures. How many textures can you discover?
Trace a Natural Object
Find a few natural objects such as leaves, flowers, and sticks. Trace each object on paper. Having someone hold the object while you trace may be easier. What shapes do you see? What else do you notice?
Gather natural materials such as clover, sticks, and pinestraw. Use your objects to create a nature mosaic or artwork. You can cut up an empty cereal or cracker box to give your artwork a sturdy foundation. Watch this video for more ideas from Jeannette Brossart, who created the mosaic mural in the Children’s Wonder Garden.
Find an interesting shadow outside. If it is on pavement, trace it with chalk. Otherwise trace the shadow onto paper. Leave your paper there for a few minutes to watch the shadow move. Trace the shadow again. How far did the shadow move? Why did it move?
Make your own binoculars using empty toilet paper or paper towel tubes. Decorate the paper tubes. Then tape them together. Add string or yarn to be able to hang them around your neck. They will help you focus on the flowers, birds, and bees. What do you see?
Try a seed planting experiment. Using native plant seeds, plant some directly in the ground following the directions provided on the seed packet. Use some of the seeds, compost, and soil to make seed balls. Watch a brief video on how to make seed balls from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. After planting your seed balls, water all your seeds. Over time, which seeds grow the fastest? Which seeds grow into the biggest plants?
Paint with Soil
Grab some scrap paper. Mix small amounts of soil (less than a teaspoon) with a little water to use as your paint. Collect soil from a few different places to get different colors. Try using a stick, pine needles, a flower, or a leaf as your paintbrush. What picture will you paint with soil?
Grab a notebook or fold some paper in half and start recording your nature observations. Draw and describe what you see. You can date your entries and include information about the weather and time of day. Choose a favorite spot to make observations from multiple times. Look closely at one small patch of ground. Pick a window from which to watch wildlife. What is your favorite way to observe nature?
Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you. Focus on sounds close to you and then farther away. Make a map of what you hear by drawing what is making the sound. For example, you might draw a leaf to represent the sound of trees blowing in the wind. Draw a “you are here” star on the paper and then add what you hear in relation to where you are. How many sounds do you hear? How many sounds are nature sounds?
Rub a flower petal or leaf on a piece of paper to see what color pigment it contains. Pigments give plants their colors. How many shades of green can you find? Which ones surprised you? Which ones worked the best?
Wildflower Scavenger Hunt
Big flowers, small flowers, short flowers, tall flowers! They come in all shapes, colors and sizes: what do you see?
Download the PDF, print it out, and bring it with you in search of blooms. Flip the page over for fun facts!
Forest Scavenger Hunt
Look for pinecones, nuts, ferns, and more in this fun scavenger hunt activity.
Download the PDF, print it out, and take it to the woods. Flip over the page for fun facts!
Create Your Own Scavenger Hunt
Challenge yourself to see new sights and find new things. Use our wildflower and forest scavenger hunts as inspiration to create your own with this handy template!
PDF includes a front-and-back scavenger hunt template plus an instruction page!
Kids are great observers, and they can be part of nature research.
What is citizen science? Here is a brief video introducing citizen at a kid-friendly level. Produced by University of Minnesota Extension.
Here are a couple of our favorite citizen science projects for kids!
Seek by iNaturalist
This is an app for tablets and phones that uses iNaturalist data to identify wildlife. Kids can earn badges as they photograph and identify species. They can be linked to an iNaturalist account or used by itself.
ecoEXPLORE (Experiences Promoting Learning Outdoors for Research and Education) is an incentive-based citizen science program for children in grades K-8. Developed by The North Carolina Arboretum, this innovative pilot program combines science exploration with kid-friendly technology to foster a fun learning environment for children while encouraging them to explore the outdoors and participate in citizen science. The ecoEXPLORE Facebook page also includes a daily live stream!