Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day Nature Activities

We pulled some nature activities together to share at our local nature center, Woodlawn Nature Center. We had a basket of pine cones, sticks, and sweet gum balls, adding pipe cleaners, pom poms, and valentine colored yarns. The pom poms and pipe cleaners are easy for little hands to coax into the pinecones. It helps with exploring seeds and seed dispersal in pine cones as well! 

Really, this activity could be adapted for ANY holiday--just switch out the colors of the materials to match the holiday! 

It was neat to see the older kids get into it, as they brought a different level of experimentation to the loose parts. One made a bag full of acorns from a recycled mesh bag. He's planning an experiment to see how long it takes the birds and squirrels to eat them. 

We had a Valentine's book collection. To be honest, there is an opportunity for nature themed Valentine's books. I'm not sure what that might look like, but it's always nice to have themed books! I have had this "Love Bugs" pop up book forever, but it's not really science based.

We also had a station of hearts in nature. I have a set of heart shaped nature pictures from Nature Explore; however, I don't see them online. You could make some of your own pictures or from images found online. We included some nature "shape" activities to go with this center.  I like that the backs of the cards have a variety of questions, activities, movements, etc. to extend the learning on the cards. These could be brought along on a hike, staged to find on a hike, and/or used to look at/experience once a week. 

I've loved this little book, Discovering Nature's Alphabet. (aft link) We looked at the simple lines in nature the form letters/shapes.

We had another table full of Valentine's stuff, such as stickers, paper, cut outs, etc. to make your own Valentine. 

On the light table there was an invitation with tissue paper, laminated heart doilies, laminated tissue hearts, etc. 

We also worked on fine motor skills, making bird feeders with cheerios on pipe cleaners. With a little adult help, it was easy to make a heart shape to put on a tree. Other years, we have cut out cardboard hearts, spread peanut butter on them, rolled in bird seed, and hung from a tree. It was fun and easy to put this together and less messy than the peanut butter!

Part of the fun is finding a good spot to leave it in the woods! 

I think what we enjoyed most was a little heart hike. There are MANY variations of how this might be done. I laminated a variety of hearts--doilies, tissue paper, etc. I just used what I had in my Valentines box. I laminated as I wanted them to be durable over several uses and wanted to use them outside where I knew it might be snowy/wet. Here are a few ideas on using them. How might you use them? 

  • Find things you love in nature on your walk. Take a picture with the heart to document what you loved. If desired, make a book out of the experience. This would be good with an early childhood class, capturing the children's words to document the experience and caption the photo.
  • Leave a trail of hearts for others to find! Let others find the hearts on the path (schedule with another group). Leave the hearts near interesting items that they may enjoy as well. 
  • Hide the hearts before heading out to find them with your little ones. 
  • Find items in nature or outside that match the colors of the hearts. 

Happy Valentine's Day! Need more ideas? Check out ideas we've pinned on Pinterest for Valentine's Day for lots of inspiration!