5 Nature Activities to Celebrate SpringLeah Courtney
Spring means leaving the cold and dreariness of winter and having days of sunshine and warmer weather. In my part of the world, winter brings cold rain which keep us stuck indoors for days on end. The coming of spring means the opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy the warmth of the sun.
Here are some fun ideas for nature study that you can do with little ones. And, in fact, the whole family may enjoy joining in to appreciate the coming of spring.
Plant a Garden
I admit that I am no green thumb; our gardens have never been hugely successful. But to kids, there’s nothing more fun than digging in the dirt, planting seeds, and then waiting expectantly to see what happens. And even though our gardens have often died from lack of water or been eaten by ravaging rabbits, the kids remember with joy the garden experiments we’ve had over the years.
Planting a garden gives opportunity to talk about more than just plants. You can look up the seeds you’re planting and learn about growth times and what those plants need to grow. You can talk about the soil and how to make it more nutritious for the plants. You can learn about earthworms and other animals and insects that can help or harm the garden. Your garden will give many opportunities to learn biology and botany while enjoying nature.
Map Your Backyard
Talk with the kids about habitats — where animals and insects live. Discuss ecology and how the plants and animals in an area interact with each other. After talking it over and giving kids a basic understanding, explore the ecosystem of your own backyard.
Take a yardstick out into an open area in your backyard. Using some string and a few sticks as posts, rope off a three foot square. Make observations about what you see in the small ecosystem. You can even use a notebook as a journal to write down what plants and animals you see. Is there evidence of other animals that may have been in the ecosystem and left? Observe your ecosystem throughout the spring and into the summer. Do things change with the changing of the weather? Are there different plants, animals, or insects?
Visit a Botanical Garden
Although botanical gardens are open for much of the year, spring can be one of the very best times to visit because flowers are blooming. If you are in the United States, you can find botanical gardens by searching the map on this site. Read information about the botanical garden and prepare kids ahead of time for what you’ll see. Many gardens have a specific children’s area.
Take notebooks and a camera when you visit. Give the kids specific things to look for during your visit —types of plants, where different plants are planted, what kind of sun or shade the plants require. As you walk through the garden, take pictures of things you see and take notes in your notebook. When you return home you’ll have pictures and information to study and learn from.
Take a Nature Walk
When my children were very little, they loved to take a nature walk. We’d put the babies in the stroller and head off to walk around the neighborhood. Along the way, they would pick up items that interested them. When we got home, we could look more closely at the items and talk about them. I read a great idea for letting the kids wear a tape bracelet- turn a piece of packing tape with the sticky side out and measure it to fit around their wrists, taping the ends together for a bracelet. As they walk, they added nature items of interest to the bracelets.
Whether we picked up items or made them into a bracelet, it was always fun to examine more closely the things they had picked up when we got home. We could talk about kinds of rocks, what tree those leaves may have come from, what plant those seeds would grow into. The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock is an excellent resource for looking up nature items and learning more about them.
Become Bird Watchers
Observing birds in your yard is another fun spring activity. Depending on where you live, birds may show up earlier or later in the spring. Hang up a bird feeder and a hummingbird feeder if you have them in your area. When birds show up for the feeder, you can take time to observe them.
Pick up a field guide meant for kids like this Backyard Birds book so that you can identify the birds that you observe in your yard. Keep a log and record the birds you see throughout the spring and summer. It’s fun to see how many different types of birds come through.
Spring, in many parts of the world, is the ideal time to get outside and explore the world. Take your little ones outdoors and have fun learning about the world around you.