Connecting Kids to Learning Through Nature

Children are naturally curious and even more so when they’re out in nature. They play longer and stay engaged longer when they’re out in the sunshine and open air, just like the rest of us.

There are so many ways to capitalize on that special kind of focus they tend to have while you’re outside with them to teach them basic concepts in reading, science and math they will soon need for school, if they’re not already there. 

Here are a few enjoyable activities that combine the lure of the outdoors with basic school lessons. 

Sun prints — Kids will learn about the power of the sun’s ultraviolet rays by using loops of tape to secure the back of a piece of construction paper to a sunny outdoor table. Then they can place objects on top of them to see how the sun fades the pigment in the exposed paper over the span of four or five hours, leaving behind a dark print of the object used. More loops of tape can be used to secure lightweight objects like leaves or foam shapes.

Spring bulb growth charts — Similar to marking your child’s height on a wall, only this puts the kid in the driver’s seat. Plant several bulbs from the same or different species, such as daffodils, hyacinths or paperwhites. Track their growth with wooden strips on which kids can draw and color blocks marking the progression of growth, and older kids can measure them with a ruler. Science and math united! 

Jump-rope spelling — Using a grade level-appropriate vocabulary list and a piece of sidewalk chalk, give the child a word to spell while jumping rope, one jump per letter. If they get the word and jump right, they get to write the word on the driveway or sidewalk. If they misspell the word or miss a jump, the caller writes the word down in chalk and the jumper spells it twice, once by reading the letters and then without. The game is done when all the words on the list are written down in chalk.

Photo: City of Prescott Parks & Recreations