Friday, August 1, 2014

The Magical Exploration of Nature with a Preschooler



Here are a few tips that may be useful to interact and play with your preschooler and nature:
  • ·      Create invitations to explore and interact with materials.  An easy way to allow children to role-play and interact with natural materials is to create these magical small worlds to explore how nature interacts. Sensory bins with natural materials, nature-based play dough and elements, and using nature as the basis of art supplies allows further exploration.
  • ·      While a preschooler “plays” or interacts with nature, create dialogue. Ask questions, such as “Why do you think . . .?”, “How can you observe this in another way?”, etc. Use this time to talk about observations and add more information.
  • ·      Use songs, movement, fingerplays, books, etc. I’ve found several action cards to help inspire children to imagine they were insects or animals. Simple songs that teach natural concepts abound.
  • ·      Follow the child’s lead. Often I may have a “plan” of how I want our nature exploration to go; however, if I follow my son’s lead, we can explore his interests and what he notices as a natural explorer.
  • ·      Provide opportunities to document. Use paper and clipboards, nature journals, video recordings, art, pictures, etc. to record observations.
  • ·      Use tools to explore, such as a sturdy net, bug jar, tweezers, shovel and bucket, etc.
  • ·      Host a natural busy bag exchange with others. Build up a supply of ready-made materials by exchanging nature based busy bags with others.
  • ·      Use resources like Growing Up Wild and Project Learning Tree Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood.
  • ·      Find natural play areas and/or create your own. A downed log becomes a balance beam. A pile of mulch, dirt, or sand, a bucket, and shovel are invitations to explore. Simple and inexpensive natural elements can create learning and discovery opportunities.
  • ·      Share nature with friends. Start a family nature club, invite tag along friends, or attend preschool nature programs in your area. Learning is often a social activity, whether it is with siblings, friends, or in an organized manner.


Another mom and I host a nature based preschool program at a local nature center. I collected various ideas by season on my Pinterest Boards, for fall, winter, and spring. Feel free to explore ideas that may be helpful in your own learning situation with your child. Rachel Carson stated, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” We can be that person to discover nature with our child. We don’t necessarily have to “teach” our child but can spend time connecting with nature and allowing exploration. 

I recently wrote this article for Handbook of Nature Study for the August Newsletter. Barb always has great ideas and inspiration for nature study! Subscribe to her newsletter at the top right corner of the page here. The monthly newsletter is free and chock full of information. She also has a subscription service to the many, many valuable resources she has developed over the years. 

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