I have LOVED creating this list! I am currently working on an outdoor preschool curriculum and found/came up with all these cute ideas. Once my curriculum is completed, I will let you know! In the mean time, check out these 50 (plus a few) nature learning activities that you can do with your preschooler!
- Find an outside object and tell the kids what color it is. Then have the children go looking for other same color objects. Have them say the color when they find the other matching thing. (also practices matching)
- Create a treasure hunt with pictures of each color. Have the students find the items in the pictures and then return back with items of each color.
- Tape paper on a tree with duct tape. Then use different color crayons to rub the bark and make wavy lines. The kids say the colors as they work.
- Bring paint/crayons/water colors outside and paper. Assign a student one color. Then have them draw something they see outside with that one color. Have students share their color and object with the other children.
- Tie-Dye Some towels or clothes with specific colors!
- Find rocks and paint them colors that match with a flower. Arrange the rocks to match the colors of the flowers.
Letters or Name Spelling
- Take a bucket of water and some old paint brushes. On concrete or asphalt, write the letter or name and then then have the child trace over it.
- Do the same activity with either side walk chalk, or in the dirt with sticks.
- Find letters in nature. Either focus on a specific letter or the letters in their name. (for instance, a tree could be an L or a ball could be an O)
- Make the letter shapes with your body or with a friend. Be creative! (gross motor too!)
- Verbally spell small words or the child’s name. Then, jump up for letters that go above the middle line while writing, hold arms out in front of you for letters that hit the middle line, and touch the ground for letters that go below the bottom line. (gross motor too!)
- Pick a number 1-5. Count to it with your fingers. Then have children go find that many objects that they think are cool. Show off the nature items (or even bugs!) with the group.
- Play duck-duck-goose only count each child as children walk around the circle. All the kids sit in a circle, then one walks around tapping each child’s head saying “duck” or counting. Then the counter chooses who to pick by saying a word. The sitting was was picked, gets up and chases the student who was tapping. If the tapping student makes it back to the open spot in the circle, the sitting student then becomes the tapper. They can still say goose to choose the students to run or they say something silly like Banana.
- Count how many nature items they can see like birds, or squirrels, etc.
- Play hide and go seek. Have the seeker count to a specific number before finding.
- Draw hands with sidewalk chalk and count each finger.
Language and Vocabulary
- Create an 3 or 4 step obstacle course for kids to follow. Walk through it first using all the different prepositions (over, under, around, through, left, right).
- If students find something interesting, or teacher notices something cool, ask questions about how the interesting object arrived. (What do you think this is? What color is it? How do you think it got here?) Then look up the answers. If necessary, model for students how to start the sentence, “I think this is…” “I think the color is…”
- Allow students to complete art outside and then ask what they are drawing. Allow them time to describe it.
- Practice going through social situations with the toddlers. Sometimes doing this outside makes it more real. Some ideas include: Asking a friend to play. Saying, “No, Thank you.” Suggesting a game. Asking for a turn. Sharing a great toy.
Music and Rythmn
- Have children find natural ways to copy rhythms. Find a fun chant or poem, and have the kids play the rhythm with you. Ideas include tapping sticks, rubbing pine cones, snapping twigs, whistling on a blade of grass, tapping a rock, or tapping two rocks together.
- Don’t forget that just singing and dancing outside can help children feel more relaxed and increase chemicals in our brains that help us feel happy.
- Create rain sticks from small rocks, sand, or pine needles, and a plastic bottle. Then slowly shake them to hear the “rain.”
- Try using your rain stick, bell, or shaker in a variety of ways. Can you play it on a tree? On your leg? Jumping on one leg? On a rock?
- Tape paper onto a tree and then use the broad side of crayons to rub the wax onto the paper. Watch the wiggly lines on that the bark makes on the paper.
- Sit down and find something interesting to draw that is outside.
- Find things in nature that can make colors. Rub them on a piece of wood or a piece of paper. See what colors and creations the kids can make. (also works with colors)
- Use natural items to dye hard boiled eggs. Consider using berries, leaves, etc. Check out this website for more ideas.
- Use sidewalk chalk to outline each other. This is also a great motor skill activity.
- Pick wild flowers and do flower printing.
- Look for colorful or beautiful rocks and then arrange them in the yard.
- Print out a picture of child’s face or animal and then find outdoor items to glue on and decorate it!
Specific For Gross Motor Skills
- Don’t forget to add in games like tag, hide and seek, freeze tag (you are frozen when you’re tagged and can be released by a team mate), and duck, duck, goose.
- Play hop scotch. Take chalk and make squares with numbers that move out in a line. Space the squares one in a row, or have two blocks together. Then throw a rock or small bean bag onto a square. Have kids hop on one foot in each square and around the square with the bean bag. (also works with counting and numbers)
- Play leap frog. Have multiple kids line up in row squatting low like a frog. Then the child in the back spreads their legs and hops up through the line to the front. You can time kids and see how fast they can go, or sing a song while they jump.
- Sing “Skip To My Lou” and practice skipping on each foot.
- Create or put together a mud kitchen. Let kiddos make some tasty outdoor treats and use their imagination!
- Depending on how old and how many kids there are, try playing a game of tag or freeze tag. This helps kids learn how to “touch” instead of push. And increases good sportsmanship.
- Corn hole is a fun way for kids to start working on balance and coordination. Plus, it’s soft so it’s less likely for anyone to get hurt.
Simply Exploring Nature
- Have kids sit or lay down on the ground and listen to the sound around them. Let kids share what they heard. (also language skills)
- Find a place to “hide” and watch animals living in nature. Talk about what you see. For instance, how squirrels dig to save their food for later.
- Get shovels and look for bugs and worms. Try to identify them and then put them back in their home. (also motor skills)
- Create a nature perfume. Take paper dixie cups and fill them with a little bit of water. Then go and smell things in nature and add them to the water. Make sure to whiff, before you sniff! It can get strong!
- Pick up trash around the neighborhood and talk about how our earth can’t break down plastics. Talk about recycling and using less.
- Make piles or collect “living” vs. “non-living” items from outside. Have kiddos describe each object.
- Identify and watch clouds.
- Make a leaf collection and practice identifying what plant the leaves came from. Consider pressing them in between plastic wrap, plastic sheet covers, or gluing them on paper.
- Go for a walk or hike and talk about the different plants you see around the area. Which ones are their favorite and why?
- Go fishing! This is still a cheap and fun way to get kids outdoors.
- Go Mushroom hunting!
If you loved that list, you may be interested in learning more about Finland’s play based learning model. Get the research and idea behind it here. And with kindergarten coming around the corner, I’ve done some research on kindergarten start times as well! Read it here.
Have any other activities that you love? Let me know!