Kid Made – Nature Gifts

Guest Post by Susan Case

There is a growing body of evidence which indicates that direct experiences with nature are essential for a child’s physical and emotional health. Studies have also shown that exposure to nature can increase a child’s resistance to stress, anxiety, and depression as well as build up their immune system. Ask your child if they would like to go on a nature scavenger hunt or go bird watching. Their answer may surprise you.

Become as a child yourself as you rediscover the wonder and mysteries of flowers, ants, worms, birds, or critters in a pond. Take a free walk around the neighborhood meeting friends, relaxing, and building muscles as your child leads you on an adventure of learning and awe. Bring a sack or basket to collect some of the treasures that you discover.

My friend Katie from Mommy with Selective Memory took these photographs of her twenty-two month-old Little Buddy and three-year-old Munchkin Girl on an outdoor adventure.

Little Munchkin and Buddy took a nature walk with mom, gathering some of nature’s beauty.

When they returned home with their sack of treasures, they helped mom make a Salt Dough mixture so they could make a keepsake.

The children enjoyed combining the ingredients and feeling the texture of the salt dough.

Then they pressed their nature objects into the dough.

Mom baked the keepsakes to harden them. Now they can be used as a gift to grandma on Mother’s Day or kept in their special Treasure Box as a reminder of a fun outdoor adventure.

I asked Katie if the nature walk and salt dough recipe was enjoyable for her children. This was her response: “Yes, they had so much fun they wanted to go back outside and collect more stuff! They spent the next 30 minutes happily collecting outside and talking to each other about all the things outdoors. It was really cute.” If you need a laugh, click here to see what Little Buddy collected the next time Katie gave him a sack.

Salt Dough Recipe:

1 cup of salt

1 cup of flour

½ cup water

In a large bowl, combine the salt and flour.
Make a well in the salt/flour mixture and add the water.
Knead until smooth and shape into a ball (can wrap in plastic or store in airtight container for later use).
Press flat and add objects.
Put on baking sheet in oven at 100 degrees C or 200 F for 2-3 hours, or if hot weather, may dry outside for several days in the sun.

Check out these posts that have more ways you can use your nature collections. Pattern Naturally has ideas for children to learn math by using objects found in nature. Also, Why Craft? Why Art? will give you more ideas and reasons why the art process is so important for children to experience.

Susan Case is a retired teacher, now author and blogger. You can visit her at Kindergarten for Teachers and Parents.

 

Acorn Nature Collage

Exploring nature doesn’t have to be in a far off place, a neighborhood park , school yard or your own backyard will work just great. Explore , talk about what you see, hear and smell. Touch things even they aren’t going into your bag for the collage, explore and take note of how the garden, forrest or park you are in has changed since the spring or summer.  I love when I can do an activity with both kids seemlessly and this one was super easy .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need 1-2 paper grocery bags, scissors,crayons,  glue and a yard , park or forrest to explore.
  2. Start by handing each child a bag and heading outside. Can I just say that my little paint covered point and shoot camera works great for inside crafts when movements around too big or fast, but getting a good shot of either child was next to impossible.  Especially a wobbly 15 month old.
  3. Explore- let your child lead the way. Hopefully the other child( or 5) agree and go the same way, or at least in the same general vicinity.
  4. Put everything they find and want to glue to the collage in the bag . Don’t say no to little things yet, let them discover later of it won’t glue.
  5. Huge sticks are totaly ok to refuse, but let them figure it out by asking how it will fit in the bag. Offer scissors to cut a small piece off.
  6. Head back inside and prepare for part two. I did this while they played in the playroom around me, but don’t feel like you have to do this all in one go. Do this after bed time and continue with part two in the morning if that works best for your family. You will want to empty out the contents and place them on a table – or even a shallow box. Using the bag cut it open and draw an acorn.  Tape it to the table to stay steady.
  7. Now invite the children to chose from their treasures and glue them to the acorn.
  8. Hmm the pine branch is too big  to glue down… what could we do?
  9. Cut it!
  10. I helped my daughter add the glue and she happily banged the leaves she gathered down. I was so surprised to see she remembered exactly which leaves she found and used them in her collage.
  11. Gluing is my son’s favorite part of most art because he pretends it’s a bomb ( yes this stage is still driving me batty but I am trying to roll with it)- his sound effects surprised his unamused little sister…
  12. Let everything dry overnight.
  13. Cut out.  Display if possible – kids love seeing their own creations displayed with pride.

More Acorn Crafts!

If a nature walk isn’t possible for you try another one of our acorn crafts .

Click the images for the original posts

 

Backyard Photo Scavenger Hunt

outside activities for kids

This outside activity is perfect for children who love treasure hunts and can work with multiple ages since there are no words to read ( although you could add them). My goal with this project was to familiarize my son with his new yard and what better way to do that than make it a game. You could build on this activity by returning inside and researching some of the plants, painting with the flowers or even dissecting them.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a camera, printer, self laminating photo pouches, hole punch, binder rings, scissors , a yard and someone eager to go on a hunt!
  2. Pop outside when you are not with your child(ren) and take some pictures of things all around your yard.
  3. Print them out , trim and place in the self laminating pouches. I love these because they are way easier to use than contact paper and are sturdy for outside play. I placed 2 pictures in each pouch so there was one picture on the back and one on the front. I purposely laid out the pictures so my son would have to go from the front yard to the back, to the front etc… this isn’t just about getting to know the yard it’s also gross motor so I wanted to make him move as much as possible.
  4. Punch holes in the corner.  
  5. Add the ring.
  6. Study the pictures .
  7. Go on the hunt! The roses were found right away.
  8. So were the apples.
  9. He knew exactly where the birdhouse was too.
  10. The lily behind him was the tricky one, but we celebrated when he found it.

Please note the sword ( plastic golf club) and Knight’s Shield are completely optional.

Books About Gardens

A Gardener’s Alphabet by Mary Azarian is a fresh and so richly illustrated alphabet book you will likely have the same thoughts I did while reading it with my son ” I need to frame these pages!” they are that awesome. What I think the main benefit of this book is , is that the words chosen for each letter are not the same old ones you see over and over in alphabet books. The words used are things like Japanese Garden for J, Lawn Ornaments for L and my favorite was Underground for U with a cool illustrations of worms, root vegetables and roots !


Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert  will leave you trying to find all sorts of things like butterflies, chickens and fish in leaf piles. The book is about a leaf man who blows away in the wind and the reader is taken past all sorts of animals like chickens and ducks, past rivers filled with fish and butterflies in the air. All are leaves pieced together to make these awesome images , some are obvious, some take concentration to see the animal among the leaves. Wonderful creative book to welcome the changing seasons.


The Gardener by Sarah Stewart Is a really touching book that I would happily recommend for school age children. It’s a beautiful story about a little girl during the depression who is shipped to the city to work in her uncle’s bakery because both her parents are out of work.  She is obviously nervous but knows that it’s something she has to do.  She takes a little of the country with her in seed packets which she plants in the city while she learns about baking and becomes friends with her uncles employees. This is more a story about making the most of hard times, and would be a great way to talk about the great depression with your child. There are so many little things in the illustrations by David Small to talk about , from a picture of FDR to traveling by train and  the general sense of sadness .  In the end it’s a warm hearted book that I can’t wait to share with my son in a few years.

Spring Garden Sensory Tub

spring sensory activities

Sensory bins are such great teaching tools and for this one I wanted it not just to look like a spring garden but to feel like one too. So we stuck with earthy natural colors, all natural contents ( minus the tongs and pots) and talked about how we can ( and will) plant some of the beans from the bin and track it’s growth.  The big lima beans we used are big enough to be a chocking hazard for little ones so remember to only use contents that fit your children’s specific level of development.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some dried split peas, large dried Lima beans, dried orange lentils, dried white beans, mini bow tie pasta and some small flower pots. You will also need a tub – this one was a dollar at Walmart.
  2. Start by pouring the dried beans and lentils into the tub.
  3. Next add a handful of butterflies ( the dry bow tie pasta).
  4. Add some mini flower pots and explore.
  5. My son was fascinated by the lima beans , they are not a staple on our dinner table.
  6. You can simply scoop and pour with the flower pots
  7. Or grab some tongs and sort and count.

Books About Gardening


The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle is a story about a tiny seed who unlike the other seeds from his flower makes it against all odds to continue the cycle of life. I really enjoy this book and love how it shows all the obstacles along the way for a simple little seed. Carle’s distinctive collage will keep your children marveling at the illustrations while learning about plants.

The Gardener

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart Is a really touching book that I would happily recommend for school age children. It’s a beautiful story about a little girl during the depression who is shipped to the city to work in her uncle’s bakery because both her parents are out of work. She is obviously nervous but knows that it’s something she has to do. She takes a little of the country with her in seed packets which she plants in the city while she learns about baking and becomes friends with her uncles employees. This is more a story about making the most of hard times, and would be a great way to talk about the great depression with your child. There are so many little things in the illustrations by David Small to talk about , from a picture of FDR to traveling by train and the general sense of sadness . In the end it’s a warm hearted book that I can’t wait to share with my son in a few years.


Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellington is really useful not just about teaching about flowers and gardens, but also about patience and the annual cycle of a garden. Zinnia plants and waits, waters, enjoys her flowers, then they die, she collects the seeds and plans her garden for next year. I love that the main story is perfect for my almost 3 year old but there is much more for older children with longer attention spans. There is a little journal with notes about what’s happening with her garden, and various facts about plants as well. Like in so many of her books the author celebrates hard work and her characters take great pride in what they do. A fantastic message for readers, big and little. I also love the mix of illustration and photographs in this book especially, it gives the illustrations depth and a really interesting look.

Venus Fly Trap Craft

by Kim

This project came up by accident. We were at the pond and we watched small bugs and tiny new frogs get on the lily pads. We started talking about different plants and I asked my son if he knew that some plants can actually eat bugs. His eyes almost popped out of his head.

So we went to the library that afternoon after I was bombarded by a million annoying curious questions. We found a kid’s book about the Venus Fly Trap that was a really cute fiction book. We also got online and looked up pictures and information about real life Venus Fly Traps.

Then it hit me. We needed a craft/game. So I came up with this. What you will need: cardboard from a pizza (or just cardboard cut in a circle), green paint, green paper, scissors, glue, and a few pieces of black paper.

Paint your circle green. We used the small paint roller (that Allie always uses) and it worked great because the paint came on thin and even. The paint dried really quickly. For a paint free version you can just glue some green construction paper onto the cardboard. You will want to make both sides green.

While the paint is drying you can cut out triangles of green construction paper.

Cut the black pieces of paper into strips or small pieces and then wad them up into small little balls.

After your paint has dried, put a bead of glue around the edge and have your child place the triangles with long points out. I had to do a few to show my son, but he got the hang of it pretty quickly.

When you are done it should look like a big green sun. My son was a tad confused until I folded it in half.

Then he grabbed it and made it chomp. After I finally got him to stop chasing the dogs with his new Venus Fly Trap, I had him stand in one place.

I tossed the wadded up pieces of black paper (our flies) and had him catch the flies with the Venus Fly Trap. He did really well. We counted the flies as we caught them.

We learned all about a new plant (along with a whole new aspect of nature – carnivorous plants), made a cool puppet-like toy, played a fun game, practiced motor skills, and sharpened our eye coordination.

Here is the information on the book we checked out from the library.

Venus the Very Proper Fly Trap by Lynne Burton-Hupp

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Kim is a contributing writer for No Time For Flash Cards, a mom to a toddler, a preschooler, and a foster parent, too. She juggles her day by trying out fun activities and crafts with the kids. After all, she is just a big kid herself.