Learning outside is magic. Do you remember when your teacher would look out the classroom window and then say ” Get your things we are going outside!” BEST DAY EVER! That is why I love getting my kids outside to learn. One of the big struggles at our house is finding time to do these activities with my son who is in public school for most of the day. The way we do it is to pack a lot of learning into short but valuable activities. Help your kids boost their interest and skills in math and science by having fun outside! Playful Learning Ecademy who is sponsoring this post has a wonderful eCourse called Backyard Science that we have been having fun with. I thought I would bring together some of our favorite outdoor math & science activities in one spot for an easy resource. Check out some of our very favorites below.
Numbers in Nature
When we do scavenger hunts of any sort I need them to be adaptable for both my kids. When my son is doing a less active activity my daughter is less apt to want to be a part of it but once he’s running around searching for something she can’t wait to get in mix. Because of that this activity is easily adaptable to a wide range of levels.
- You will need some fun felt leaves , a sharpie and a backyard or park where your kids can pick things.
- Add numbers to the leaves. Even though this is for a 3 and 6 year old I still kept the numbers small. For the 3 year old her task was to recognize the number and find that number of things in the garden. For the 6 year old I put two leaves together and his task would be to do mental math ( why I kept the numbers small) and add the numbers together then represent the sum with natural items found in the yard.
Fresh air + numbers + exploring the yard = serious fun and learning!
4 More Outside Math Activities
When I think of Backyard Science I think of going outside to turn over rocks or doing giant vinegar and baking soda volcanoes. There is so much more for kids to explore though from colors, sounds, habitats and yes messy gooey science too. In the Playful Learning Ecademy course kids become naturalists and use their own backyard as their lab. What I love most about these activities are the videos that support them. The activities are short but valuable and the planning is done for you. It’s a perfect combination for mindful but busy families.
After school one day my son chose to do the Sound Map from Backyard Science.
- We grabbed some paper, a clip board and a pencil.
- He plopped down in a good spot in our back yard and put an x on the paper to represent himself.
- Then he listened. He made marks and wrote what he heard in different places in relation to where he was sitting.
I was so fascinated by how still he was. He is 6 and wiggles constantly as most do but to see him still and focused was thrilling. We talked about what he recorded and went to see if we could find any of the sources of the sounds, well the natural ones. We knew where the lawnmower sound was coming from. This ended up opening up a dialog about conservation since we could hear more man made sounds than nature ones and we live in a semi rural area.
4 More Outside Science Activities
What math or science activity do you do with your kids outside? Share your favorites in comments!
fThis post was sponsored by Playful Learning Ecademy – I love working with them because their eLessons are rad and my son loves doing them.
This outdoor math for kids can be done with beanbags, baseballs, water balloons… or Nerf guns like we used. My mantra is to use what they love to make them love learning and that is what we did. Nerf guns are big news at our house right now because I just relented and let my kids have them. Using the darts are an outside only activity although they are loved less for their shooting ability and more for a pretend play prop. Either way they are the bright shiny new and novel item at our house so I used them to make learning fun after school. My goal with all the activities in the Learning After School series is to make the activities for school age kids that are educational without making them feel like homework. Here is what we did with this math for kids activity and yes they LOVED it!
Gather your materials. You will need some plastic cups, a permanent marker, something to use to write down the tally, a nerf blaster , and eye protection. If you don’t want to use a Nerf gun you could use a bean bag or ball.
This activity was made for my 6 year old not my 3 year old but so when she shot them down I had her simply identify the numbers on the cups. I am planning on doing this again with her using a bean bag instead of a Nerf gun and the goal of hitting specific cups down. I will post it when I do.
Set the cups back up and go again. Add the tally up. I did the addition for my daughter but got her to write some. My son did his own writing. It’s not a ton of practice but it’s a little something in the midst of a fun activity so I will take it!
Like I said this was designed for my almost 7 year old not my 3 year old. She did well with it and had fun but I would never use this activity with a group of 3 year olds – nerf guns while safe to play with still hurt if you get one in the eye or at close range which is why they had safety glasses on. You know best what your kids are ready for but I just wanted to be clear that this is meant for our big kids !
I love lazy summer days and trying to have a few before we all head back to school. This is such a simple reading comprehension activity and can be done with kids of any age. There is something awesome about reading outside, I love grabbing a blanket and some books and reading with my kids under a huge blue sky. This art activity takes that simple idea one step further by adding on an artistic retelling activity. I have been working hard to get my son to draw and write more this summer and drawing with his younger sister helps boost his confidence , lets him show her how to do things, and it’s made such a difference. Also his strength in retelling helps balance his lack of confidence in the drawing.
- Gather your materials. You will need a book , some clip boards, a blanket and your art materials. We used paper ,watercolor colored pencils, water , paint brushes, and some water.
- Start by finding the right spot. We found some shade in our yard and spread out the blanket.
- Pass out the clip boards and art material.
- Start reading. As you read encourage your kids to draw what is happening in the story or something that sticks out for them from the book. Their favorite part, the saddest or happiest part … they can or you can choose.
- Make sure to have extra paper on hand my son made 3.
- After they are done with their art work as them about it. Instead of saying ‘ What is that?’ which could make them question their artistic ability as well as gibe a much shorter answer say “Tell me about your picture.” I have found that when we do activities like this both my kids end up retelling the whole story naturally which is an important part of early literacy development. It builds comprehension and because it happens very organically no one feels like they are being quizzed on a lazy summer day. If they don’t retell the story on their own try asking :
- Where did the story take place?
- Who was the story about?
- What happened to them in the story? What happened next?
- How did it end?
Try having your child retell stories from time to time and if they struggle do it more often. If they are really not understanding what is going on try simpler books and try asking these questions throughout the reading not only after finishing the book.
All of these books have story lines that are clear and younger children can successfully retell the major events while older children could use them and retell in greater detail. These links are affiliate links.
- The Three Bears by Byron Barton
- The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- Freight Train by Donald Crews
- Ordinary Amos and the Amazing Fish by Eugenie and Henry Fernandes
- The Little Red Hen by Lucinda McQueen
- The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
- If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
- Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
- Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
One of the great things about the summer is to take plain old activities like cutting and finding fresh ways of doing them outside. This scissor skills activity was inspired by a pin I saw from Raise A Boy and I re-worked it for our yard and my daughter’s love of picking flowers and plants out of our garden. Scissor skills develop differently with all kids. My daughter loves to cut things and we are trying very hard to get her to hold the scissors correctly- but it’s a challenge. In the photos below she is NOT holding the scissors in the proper way. Her index finger should not be in the handle of the scissors. Offer kids lots of practice with activities like this so you can work on issues like these gently with lots of time before they develop bad habits that are harder to break. Scissor skills work on building the muscles and coordination needed for writing so don’t shy away from cutting practice!
- Gather your materials. You will need some kid safe scissors, a bucket, a bin or water table ( without the water) and a yard to gather things to cut. The goggles are completely optional though very fashionable.
- Start by exploring your yard. This step took a long time, we went all around our yard talking about the flowers that were blooming, the flowers that were dying, grass etc… take as long as you can with this step. Also if they aren’t into the exploring no biggie, there is nothing wrong with our kids not loving every idea we have. I have had many that never got blogged about because they didn’t get finished. It happens to all of us sometimes.
- Bring your spoils back to your water table or bin and dump them out.
- Start cutting ( with your goggles on if you have them) . I like providing a few different pairs of scissors in an attempt to find the one that feels good in the proper grip. My daughter would hold them correctly at first then pop all three fingers back in the handle. It’s just going to take time and persistence which is always fun with a stubborn child…no clue where she got that trait!While you cut together talk about what you are cutting, explore with your senses. I invited my daughter smell many of the items ( especially the herbs) and crush some in her hands and smell her hands. We talked about which things were easy to cut ( petals) and which were harder to cut like the stem of a dead daffodil. I playfully asked her how her “pointer” finger sneaked back in that handle and she pretended to be shocked.
- Leave the scissors and cuttings out and return to it later. My son joined in and they pretended to be in herbology class at Hogwarts. My daughter had no clue what that was all about but happily went along with her brother who could use some scissor practice too.
My daughter loves flowers , especially picking the petals off so I channeled that into a fun summer craft. These easy to make placemats aren’t only cute they are functional too. We’ve been using ours all week. The other thing I really love about this activity is that it gets kids outside exploring their garden. Another way to explore the garden is to go on a scavenger hunt or try our sticky window for flowers. Here is how we did it.
- Gather your materials. You will need a full sheet of construction paper or card stock , scissors, clear contact paper, and a bucket to collect flowers. You will also obviously need some flowers to pick.
- Start by folding your paper in half horizontally.
- Cut the middle out so you have a frame.
- Send your little one off to pick flowers. Our back garden is very small so she can’t wander too far. I was able to get the contact paper cut and the back peeled off without her offering any help.
- Place or frame on the contact paper. The sticky side should be up.
- Time to pull the flowers apart. My daughter loved this. She does it all the time and it’s great for her fine motor development.
- Add the single petals to the contact paper. Make sure they are inside the frame. My daughter only wanted pink petals so I made a mat with some of the other petals she picked.
- After all the petals are added Add a second layer of contact paper and carefully sandwich the petals between them. Press. My daughter decided to sit on hers to press it.
- Trim the edges and you are ready to go!
Books About Flowers
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 !
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. My son liked this book but didn’t make it all the way through, which I expected since it is a long book for a 2 year old.
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is a lovely book about having confidence, loosing confidence and regaining it in the end. Chrysanthemum is a little mouse who loves her name until she goes to school and is picked on for it being out of the ordinary. Who can’t relate to this? I know I can . Thankfully my son has yet to experience this all too common, but still so heartbreaking experience . I love that I have a book like this to share with him and open up about it before it happens. Ultimately Chrysanthemum learns to love her name again and regains the confidence she once had. Another fantastic book from a consistently wonderful author.
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