Nature walks don’t need any greater objective than enjoying the out of doors. When you and your children are savoring the sky, the plants, the insects, and the wildlife, there is no need for a lesson plan or script.
However, there are an abundance of things you can do as a springboard or a follow up to a nature walk in order to enrich the experience. I share these 100 ideas not to detract from the healing beauty of nature but to offer some zest when nature walks are becoming too routine, when you have children who might be reluctant to go out of doors, or even when you need a bit more academic tie in for whatever reason.
Nature needs no embellishment. And many of these ideas come from the innate fascination children (and adults) will experience when they turn off the electronics and use all five senses to experience nature. If making leaf crafts doesn’t come automatically to your children, you may need to offer a slight nudge to get the ball rolling. But by all means, don’t turn these activities into strict lessons with educational objectives. Let them be methods of exploration that take their cues from your children’s curiosity.
Nature Walk Springboard Activities
Build anticipation for the nature walk with these activities.
- make a pond viewer
- make a juice bottle bug catcher
- make a grass sweeper from a pillowcase
- make a butterfly feeder
- make suet and hang it for the birds
- dissect a flower, leaf, seed pod or (dead) insect
- make a rain catcher or anemometer and keep a record of your findings
- read novels that have nature themes (3 of my favorites are Kildee House by Rutherford G. Montgomery, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.)
- make a nature walk backpack or tote with things like a journal, magnifying glass, binoculars, bug catcher, etc.
- make a bow and arrow
- make a slingshot
- read the Christian Liberty Nature Readers or other classic nature readers
- start a library of field guides and The Handbook of Nature Study
- make or buy a bird feeder and fill it with food for the birds in your neighborhood
- start an indoor garden with kitchen castoffs
- For mom — read Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
Nature Walk Explorations
Most children will come up with their own ideas for play, but if they need a nudge, here are some great ideas.
- make leaf art on the ground
- make stone stacks (cairns)
- in the fall, organize leaves by color, making gradients, rainbows, and color wheels (as best you can)
- collect river rocks
- catch small fish, insects and butterflies; study and release them
- catch tadpoles; take them home to raise to polliwogs and frogs
- make leaf rubbings
- leave sugar grains or bread crumbs near an anthill and watch the ants take the food into their nests
- look at birds, squirrels or other far away animals through binoculars
- identify bird calls
- use a scavenger hunt list and make a collection of items to take home
- use your shadows to enact silly plays; use what you find in nature as props
- make fairy homes
- take a color wheel or paint chips along and match real items from nature to the colors you have
- lash structures from sticks and logs you find in the woods (take along twine or rope)
- build a fire and cook on it
- climb a tree
- build a fort or erect a makeshift tent
- identify constellations
- watch an eclipse (safely, of course)
- sketch what you see outside
- go on a cloud hunt
- splash in puddles
- catch fireflies at night
- catch grasshoppers
- blow bubbles that freeze (in the winter)
- make stick boats and float them in water
- have stick sword fights
- shoot rocks with a slingshot or skip stones on water
- document your nature walk by taking photographs
- make mud pies
- build a snowman or ice fort/igloo
- draw or write in the sand or snow
- build a sand castle
- dig holes and see what’s underground
- examine a small area of the ground in detail
- find examples of symmetrical and asymmetrical things in nature
- make up stories about the natural places you discover (include trolls, fairies, sprites, and brownies, of course!)
- create a natural obstacle course or race track and time each other as you go through it
- wear a nature bracelet — put duct tape, sticky side out around your wrist and see what you collect on your walk
- get “lost” and use a compass to find your way back
- go barefoot and feel the grass, sand, water, etc. with your feet and toes
- look at things in detail with a magnifying glass
- preserve a spider’s web on black construction paper
- make plaster casts of animal tracks
- take the nature walk in your socks and then study what is stuck to them
- close your eyes and listen; identify as many sounds as you can
- lie on the ground and find images in the clouds; make up stories about them
- make bark rubbings with crayons
- roll or sled down hills
- lay a white sheet under a tree and shake it; study what you find
- play pick up sticks with sticks you find
Nature Walk Follow Up Activities
Once you are back home, extend the nature fun with these post-nature walk ideas.
- make paints and inks from nature and create art
- experiment with chromatography using leaves
- study your nature study collections under a microscope
- look at pond water under a microscope
- break open rocks with a hammer, do streak and hardness tests
- use photo sensitive paper to make designs with things you found on your nature walk
- make paintbrushes with evergreen sprigs and create art
- make leaf prints by painting on leaves and pressing them to paper or cloth
- make leaf prints by laying leaves on paper or cloth and painting over them
- hammer leaves or flowers to create prints on paper or cloth
- make foil relief crafts with leaves or flowers
- preserve fall leaves with modpodge or with wax
- use your stick collection to paint with
- color mud with tempura paint powder and make mud paints
- paint the rocks you collected on your nature walk
- make art from the pebbles you collected
- make a simple loom and weave into it the things you collected
- classify the insects, rocks, or flowers that you collected
- press flowers
- write about or draw your nature walk experience in a nature journal
- build a terrarium with dirt, rocks, etc. that you found on your nature walk
- make a leaf/tree guide for your local area
- make a nature table for all your nature finds and collections
- make pictures or 3D art from the leaves, twigs, shells, feathers, flowers, insect wings, etc. that you collected on your nature walk
- study an ant farm (even putting ants into a jar works if you don’t have a fancy kit)
- make a hanging mobile from things you found on your nature walk
- make “fossil” imprints in salt dough (use shells, leaves, feathers, etc.)
- calculate the perimeter and area of leaves from your nature walk
- eat something you gathered on your nature walk or make snow cream
- study some living creature you brought home from a nature walk (Then release it.)
- make perfume from rose petals (or another fragrant flower)
There are lots more 100 Things posts. Click the image to see the other topics.
Photo Credits: SidPix, olivierbxl, rkramer62 all via Compfight cc
Eva Varga says
Jimmie – This is not only very informative but it’s beautiful! I love the graphics you created!
Susan Evans says
I LOVE this list! It makes me want to go run outside with my kids and do some nature study right this minute!
D. Freerksen says
Do an alphabet hike in the woods. Carry an index card with the alphabet written, mark off each letter shape you find in vines, leaves, bark, branches, etc. The letter “V” is the easiest, of course.
Oh my! I was such an outdoor kid. I am ready to go outside reading this list! Great ideas!
We made a little scrapbook out of paperbags with the bottoms cut out and folded and stapled. We made little papers to insert in the pockets. Then the kids collected whatever they wanted, sketched them and labeled them and later decorated them with some pretty papers. The girls loved it!
This is wonderful. I am so grateful for this post!!!!
Deidra L Tolliver says
What a WONDERFUL, insightful, and beautifully presented synopsis on Nature Walks! Thanks so much for sharing!
This is very helpful, and has a lot of fun stuff, I love using this and I will definitely do about everything on here, YEAH!!
Keltie Masters says
Thank you for all your great ideas! As wildlife photographers we want to share the beauty of nature & help people reconnect with nature after being isolated due to COVID for the past 2 months. We are doing a 5 day webinar to encourage people to do this and I am so delighted to find some more ideas that will help people to get back to nature – even if it’s just in their own backyard!