Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nature Activities for Toddlers

I'm a nature-loving mama, so it has always been important to me for my children to experience nature. It's not the same as when I was growing up, because I lived on a mountain surrounded on all sides by a forest. My kids and I live on the outskirts of a city, so we are lucky enough to be next to a river and a nice park that we can frequent daily. 

Here are a few easy nature activities for toddlers. I chose the things my kids enjoy most, but this is by no means the only options. The ideas for play are only limited by your imagination, so get out there and be creative and have fun! Let the kids decide what they want to do in nature and they will thank you for it!

Collect Sticks!

Or stones. Or shells. Or leaves. Whatever you can find and pick up outside in nature will do. You wouldn't think it, but it is so fun for a toddler! My little man loves collecting sticks at the park! He will diligently, and with more focus than he normally exerts, collect sticks for an hour. Then when his arms are full and he can't carry any more, he will set them down behind his "rock slide" and count them (it's his "pretend cave"). Or build a stick teepee. Or make a fence or road with them for his cars. Or have a stick sword fight with his sister. Lots of possibilities! 

He was so proud of himself and even counted all of them to tell Bean how many he found!

Find Insects!

Or birds or animals, whatever lives in your area. My son especially loves finding honey bees and watching them slurp up delicious nectar. We don't know where these bees have their hive, but they are constantly hanging out around this patch of milkweed at the end of our driveway. Butterflies also love it here, but I haven't been able to catch a picture of them. You can just barely see the bee zipping by. 

Go Rock Jumping!

Ok, so for a younger toddler, you may be thinking, no way! But seriously, if your kid is a jumper, let them jump! Obviously, somewhere safe where they won't break a leg or something, but if the rock is only a foot off the ground and they happen to fall down the first few times, it's ok. Kids are resilient and they will get back up on that rock and jump off again! They will learn to balance and be able to work on their coordination skills, along with other important gross motor skills. This is also a great exercise to build confidence! Parents these days are scared of anything bad happening to their kids. I admit, I am one of those moms, even though I was the kind of kid who used to jump off bridges into rivers and swim in lakes where I often saw moose and bears not ten feet from me. And yes, if my kids fall and start to cry, I do rush over and see if they need help. But if they are fine, I wipe their tears and encourage them to go play again rather than remove them from their playing. My son was always really cautious, but the day he decided to climb up on the "rock slide" (it has one smooth side they can slide down), and jump off it, he was sold! Jumping off of stuff is now one of his favorite activities!

Go Swimming!

Find a local beach, lake, pond or river that is safe to swim in. Kids will learn wherever they go, be it collecting shells, spotting fish, finding driftwood or building sandcastles. Some kids will prefer to sit on the beach, digging holes or searching for rocks and shells, while others will want to explore in the water and go swimming. It is always a fun experience for us and gradually over time they become more confident in the water. 

Go on a Nature Walk!

We are very fortunate to have grandparents who own a summer cottage on an island with no electricity. We have to go over from the mainland on a boat and once we are there, we are immersed in a wonderful world. I grew up spending every summer there and now I am glad I can bring my kids there! They love exploring the paths, wandering into the trees and discovering giant June bugs or catching a toad and letting it go. They love that they can walk on their own and be fearless lions (their current favorite animal to pretend to be) that are making a home for themselves on a giant boulder. 

Lastly, if you're stuck in a city and can't get out to explore nature with your little ones, you could create a nature table or a treasure basket filled with natural things to explore at home, like shells, pine cones, leaves of all shapes and sizes, rocks and flowers. Whatever you have on hand or can collect. Our nature collection has grown over time and my kids love it. We have even asked family members who have gone on vacation to bring us home something from where they visited, like a small bag of sand and shells from a beach in Aruba. :)

Be sure to stop by Suzy Homeschooler's too, she is sharing The Benefits of Being Bored Outdoors! And next week is our last week of our Toddler Series! We really hope you enjoyed the activities we shared (and we will share more toddler activities, just not as part of this series). Look forward to our upcoming series! 

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