Nature Play at Home

April 2, 2020

a child digging in the dirt with small wooden tools

The world around us has slowed down and many of us are looking for signs of hope. One great place to look is to nature—even if that’s in your backyard, on your porch, or at your parkway! March 19 marked the first day of spring. Birds are chirping, the sun is peeking through the clouds, and flowers are beginning to bloom. Soon, we hope to be dusting off our shorts and strapping on our sandals.

Check out these fun and easy nature play activities below without venturing far:

Make a magnifying glass: Fill a clear jar with water and secure the lid. Hold the jar up to anything you’d like to observe up close!

Observation BINGO: Being outside is the perfect sensory experience! There are so many sights, sounds, and smells. Use our BINGO sheet to help keep track of your observations if you’re out on a walk.

Clay impressions: Use clay to explore textures! Press a pinecone, roll a rock, scrape a stick, or use various items from around the house. In need of clay? Follow this easy recipe:

In a large pot, stir together 2 cups flour, ¾ cup salt, and 4 teaspoons cream of tartar.
Add 2 cups warm water and 2 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil. Add a few drops of food coloring, if you’d like!
Cook over medium-heat, stirring until the dough has thickened and begins to form into a ball.
Remove from heat and place on wax paper to cool.

Water painting: This activity is a favorite for two reasons: Evaporation allows you to do it over and over again, and clean up is a breeze! Find a surface (sidewalk, rocks, or colorful construction paper, etc.) and use water as your paint. Paintbrushes, sponges, and toothbrushes are all fun tools that help build fine-motor skills.

Sensory bins: Bins and containers filled with materials for digging, pouring, and sorting are always fun. In many ways, nature is its own sensory bin. You can fill a sensory bin with almost anything: water, rice, dry pasta, cotton balls, etc. Use an empty storage bin or large mixing bowl. If you can, set aside a small patch of backyard, flower box, etc. for digging and exploring. Measuring cups, Tupperware, and other kitchen utensils make great tools for sensory exploration.