By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)
One of the great advantages of our ECFE program is the Nature Explore Center at Handke. It is a wondrous outdoor environment where children can experience the great outdoors first hand to explore and use their senses in a safe location. Children and families can come and discover this natural wonderland of flowers, plants, and nature tools to play and learn in the fresh air and earthly abundance. Living in Minnesota, we have numerous lakes, trails, forests and parks with nature all around us. If you take a good look outside, you can find nature everywhere from a plant growing in a crack on the side walk, a bird flying in the sky, or a bug crawling in the grass. We don’t have to go very far to experience nature and the outdoors with our children. Here are a few tips to help get you started to exploring the great outdoors:
- Go on a Nature Walk/Hike: You can find and observe different birds, insects, plants, animals, or water sources while looking at the sky, ground and all that is around you. Bring a backpack on your walk to collect small treasures from rocks, leaves, acorns, or pinecones. You can also take pictures of things you see and later make a picture book identifying or researching what was found.
- Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt: Look for different items in nature and check off all the different items you can find. http://thebirdfeednyc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Scavenger-Hunt-Nature-Walk.pdf
- Nature Study: Take some time to study and research about different leaves, trees, bugs, or whatever interests your child. Give your child a magnifying glass or binoculars and have them find something they would like to explore and learn more about. If they find a worm on the sidewalk, this can be a great opportunity to learn about worms.
- Nature Journal (Observe and Draw): Have a nature journal for your child. It could be a notebook or construction paper stapled together. Have colored pencils or crayons available for your child to draw pictures of what they see or feel. Children can also do tree or leaf rubbings and tape findings to the journal pages.
- Sit, Watch and Listen: Take some time to go outside and just relax. Lay or sit still in silence for 5 minutes or so helping your child to take in all they can see, hear or feel. Then after, talk about the experience sharing and asking questions about these moments and what was witnessed, felt, smelt, or heard.
- Play Outside: You can do almost anything outside! You can read a book, do art projects, have a picnic, watch clouds, play a game, ride bikes, blow bubbles, fly a kite, plant a garden, search for bugs, run through the sprinkler, sing songs, dance to music, swing, bird watch, play ball, or take a nap!
Playing outdoors gives children the opportunity to explore and take risk. It exposes children to nature and helps them to learn about the world. It let’s children be kids by running, rolling, jumping and climbing. It gets them off the coach and the devices and guides them to use their bodies, mind and soul. “I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.” -Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder
Below are some great outdoor fun resources:
NAEYC for Families:
Outside activities to do with your children:
Getting outside in nature:
Sherburne County Wildlife Refuge
Sherburne County Parks and Recreation Attractions
Minnesota State Parks
Nature Explore Classrooms