Go Outside and Play!
Unstructured outside time for exploration, imagination and child directed activity is important and valuable. It leads to development in cognition, emotional, social and physical skills. It has also been demonstrated to reduce stress and foster creativity.
Children today create these imaginary experiences electronically, but have limited exposure to nature in the real world. The need is urgent to reverse the growing trend to disassociate our children from the great outdoors. While creative computer games certainly play a part in the lifestyle of today’s children, the wonder that we all experienced as children has been lost to this generation of youth.
Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights
- Camp under the stars
- Catch and release fish, frogs and insects
- Celebrate the natural environment
- Climb a tree
- Discover prairies, dunes, forests, savannas and wetlands
- Explore nature in neighborhoods and cities
- Follow a trail
- Plant a flower
- Play in the mud
Great Ideas to Encourage your Budding Botanist!
Nature activities for children and families
Create a nature wonder jar
Keep a mason jar handy to hold all your collected treasures from time spent outdoors. They can be easily admired and removed for study and investigation.
Having a few source books on hand is a plus. Or use the Internet to learn more about your finds.
Create a nature journal
A simple notebook or discarded photo album can be the beginning of a great collection of natural wonder. Draw, sketch, nature prints, notes on what you’ve seen and experienced are a good beginning. Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E Roth is an excellent resource for ideas.
Dig a backyard pond
If you have limited space establish a water garden on a porch or patio. Many home improvement centers sell plastic liners for this purpose. Plants are available at area nurseries. Add a few goldfish and a small pump to control mosquitoes. You’ll be amazed at the wildlife you will attract. Frogs will be frequent visitors or new neighbors.
Go for a walk
It’s as simple as that. In your neighborhood, a local park, a nature preserve. Look around you, take note of the wildlife, and look closely at the ground, what can you see? Make a few notes, draw a picture, take a picture with a camera. Talk with your child about all you observe. If there are questions, use a filed guide to find answers.
Try wildlife photography. Digital cameras need not be fancy to capture the moment. Print your finds on inexpensive paper and glue them in your nature journal.
Invite wildlife to your backyard
Add a birdbath to your garden or yard. Place a birdfeeder in a sheltered spot and try different seeds. Keep a list of the birds you notice visiting your yard. Use as few chemicals as possible on your lawn and landscape.
Nature Craft: Hammered Flower Print
You’ll be surprised at how real flowers share their colors when you hammer them onto fabric or paper! Click on the link below to download instructions for making your own print.
For Teachers and Parents: Explore Biology and Art, and Their Roles in Conservation
This Smithsonian in Your Classroom website offers ideas and lessons for children of all ages.
View Project: Hammered Flower Print
You will be surprised at how real flowers share their colors when you hammer them onto fabric or paper. Parental supervision recommended.
What you’ll need:
- Paper towels
- Waxed paper
- Paper or white T‐shirt or plain apron
How to make it:
- Take the stems off the flowers and lay them face down out on whatever you are hammering them on to. Place a paper towel under the top layer of the t‐shirt so the color won’t soak through to the back.
- Put a piece of waxed paper on top of the flowers.
- Hammer the flowers until they are flat.
- Carefully peel off the waxed paper and remove the petals that remain.
- If you made a t‐shirt or apron, soak it in salt water to make it permanent.
60 Rhode Island WildFlower Coloring Pages
Among Rhode Island Wildflowers has made available a selection of coloring pages for 60 Rhode Island Plant series of coloring pages based on the illustrations and text from Wild Flowers of the North-Eastern States by Ellen Miller and Margaret Christine Whiting published in 1895. Each wild flower includes information and a color photo of the plant along with updated family and nomenclature information. The entire collection can be dowloaded or you download each plant individually.
Important to note that while all these Wild Flowers were present in 1895, some have their origins on other continents and some are invasive. Coltsfoot for example is listed on the invasive/banned plant list in Massachusetts and Connecticut.