6 fun and educational outdoor activities for young children
We can all agree that exposure to nature provides one of the most reliable boosts to mental and physical well-being, but do you know the great effects nature has on young children?
Our natural environment fosters children’s inherent need to move, touch and learn. Specifically, outdoor play is shown to enhance children’s sensory and social development, improve cooperation, reduce aggression, increase happiness and much more.
Lake Erie Nature & Science Center’s Preschool Staff shares their favorite activities below to improve your child’s outdoor literacy while enjoying the final days of summer. Not only will being outside boost your child’s mood, but yours too!
Take a hike
In the forest, in your neighborhood or even in your own backyard, go for a slow and mindful walk. Show your child every little thing that catches your eye and notice everything that catches theirs. You don’t need to teach or talk too much, just be present and notice. The lesson will teach itself.
Go on a scavenger hunt
Take along paint chip samples for a color hunt, go on a backyard alphabet hunt or download a free printable nature scavenger hunt online. Kids love finding treasures in nature.
Explore nature at night
Cuddle up around a bonfire, enjoy a round of s’mores and observe the sights and sounds around you. Listening for owls, catching lightning bugs and learning how to identify constellations makes for a perfect summer night.
Change your child’s perspective by focusing in on a small patch of grass. You can define a small space with a hula hoop or whatever you have on hand. A simple magnifying glass is all you need to discover what is hidden below.
Grab a few books, bring a blanket to sit on, find a tree to lean up against or build an outdoor fort. Read together or allow your child time to read to him or herself – whichever feels appropriate.
Catch a bug
An inexpensive bug box and a keen eye is all you will need for bug observation. Pick up an insect field guide from the library as a fun tool to take along. Remember to release your critter after you have taken a good look!
Registration for early childhood programs at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center is open and ongoing. The Center meets all areas of Ohio’s Early Childhood Learning Outcomes including math, science and language, while providing a nurturing environment for nature-based classes that prepare children for future success in school and cultivate their curiosity as lifelong learners. For more information, visit www.lensc.org or call 440-871-2900.
Morgan Paskert is on staff at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.