Getting outdoors and enjoying natural surroundings is something I have tried to prioritize as Lily is getting older. Enjoying fresh air and having an appreciation for nature is something I feel is slowly getting lost. Today’s lifestyles are busy and while I can understand why the amount of time children play outside is less, it is still sad. There is a sense of freedom and wonder outside along with so many opportunities for creative free play.
“The average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen.“Danielle Cohen
While I know life is busy, reading that statistic quoted by Danielle Cohen is hard to believe and even more reason I am making outdoor play a priority. Unstructured play has so many benefits for children including confidence after making a discovery, imaginative play while exploring, physical activity and mental stimulation.
“Tell me and I’ll forget. Teach me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll learn.”- Benjamin Franklin
NATURE BRACELETS: Collecting treasures on a nature walk is always exciting so we started making a nature bracelet to collect treasures on. To create one, simply place tape with the sticky side out, around your child’s wrist. This allows a place for them to attach and admire their finds.
VENN DIAGRAM: When exploring, as mentioned above, Lily loves collecting treasures. We had been talking about textures and I took the opportunity to introduce a Venn Diagram. We were able to talk about things that were hard, soft, and a mixture of the two. Venn Diagrams can also be great to introduce color mixing. This was a great hands on activity that allowed for both physical activity and mental stimulation.
NATURE SOUP: Independently, Lily loves to make various soups and potions with items she finds in our backyard but for this activity I set up a recipe I invited her to follow. She went on a scavenger hunt through the yard collecting various ingredients for a simple math and great sensory play activity.
BIRD FEEDER: These bird feeders are an easy set up and are great for fine motor skills. Lacing Cheerios on either string or a pipe cleaner uses bilateral coordination, meaning both hands are working together but performing separate tasks. We paired this activity with our “Big Book of Birds” by Yuval Zommer; I read to the kids as they laced away. You can find a copy of Big Book of Birds here.
SENSORY BOTTLE: Another way to display treasures is to make a sensory bottle. This activity we called “Puddle in a Bottle” because it reminded us of a puddle after a summer storm. Lily made her sensory bottle using a recycled bottle and Ethan used a large baggie. They both picked the items they wanted to include and then scooped water in. The baggie was a huge hit as well because the kids enjoyed touching it and watching the objects move in the water. The bottle turned out beautiful and we observed it for a week following, Lily noted that the flowers became transparent overtime.
I hope you can find a few minutes to get outside and enjoy nature, happy playing!