Backyard Safari and Map Activity

map activity for preschoolThis map activity was a huge hit because it included pretend play. Preschoolers love jumping into a fun pretend play scenario and adding a big dose of imagination to a regular old activity. My daughter loves going on safari when she plays dress up so I used that love to turn a simple hunt into a map activity. Reading maps is an important skill not just for the future but it teaches directions ( as we played we practiced left and right)  and uses spatial thinking skills . This took less than 5 minutes to set up and even if you don’t have a yard you can pop the toys in a backpack and try this at the park, beach, or even inside your home.

 

Gather your materials. You will need some toy animals, toy binoculars ( or make some like these binoculars), safari dress up, a clip board, markers and paper for making the map.backyard safari supplies

I started by mapping out our yard. It took me two tries before I got a somewhat accurate map. You could probably google earth your house and get a great shot of your yard but I don’t plan that far ahead so I free handed it.map activity for kids backyard safari

Then I added and X for each animal. Some spots have two Xs because there are two animals together.safari map for kids

Invite your little explorer to get ready for the safari!backyard safari dress up

Show them the map and go over it with them by asking them if they know what it is. What each part represents etc… don’t explain it all to them, let them explain it to you and you can fill in any big blanks if they arise.safari map activity for kids

Get ready to find some animals. I only helped once when she was really getting frustrated. The little alligator was tiny and well hidden. backyard scavenger hunt for kidsEvery time she found an animal she kissed it and put it back. gross motor safari game for preschoolI explained that when you go on Safari you observe the animals but you don’t take them with you.map activity for preschool  As we went along she found them even faster as well as got into the character , she was running so fast from one to the next.gross motor map gameMake sure you take a few moments to talk about what kind of animals they are and a little bit about them. We talked about herbivores and carnivores and how they are different.  She was very proud of herself for being able to read a map. For older kids have them create their own maps of the yard and add the Xs on after.back yard safari scavenger hunt

Story Books Featuring Safari Animals

all our book lists include affiliate links.

books about being different

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae is a very sweet story about a giraffe who gets laughed at because he doesn’t know how to dance. A cricket gives him some great advice and with new found confidence that different isn’t always bad he starts to dance!  This has been a favorite in our house for years!

Elmer
Elmer by David McKee is another book with a great message. Elmer is different, he isn’t gray like all the other elephants, and he’s a little bit of a goof too! He’s not so sure he likes that though. Like all of us it takes some time for Elmer to accept who he is but in the end he sees that patchwork is just who he is!

Hilda Must Be Dancing

Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson is a lovely story about a big hippo that loves to dance, although her neighbors aren’t as keen. See Hilda is bog and when she dances she shakes and rattles everything, it’s noisy and disruptive and is making her friends very angry. They suggest that she try new hobbies, but knitting and singing won’t do it’s simply not in her heart, Hilda needs to move and groove!  I loves that a solution is found that makes everyone happy, that Hilda doesn’t have to give up her passion, but that she isn’t so selfish as to simply say ” too bad” to her friends either.

Outdoor Alphabet Hunt

alphabet hunt outside learning It is so easy to turn a simple game into a educational one with a few additions. This alphabet hunt took me 5 minutes to plan and put together, including the maker test you will see below. I decided to use Duplo because even though it was sunny our yard has countless things that might get blocks wet or dirty. The Duplo are easy to clean and the connect together to create a full alphabet. This wasn’t the main purpose even though she naturally wanted to make the alphabet. Alphabetical order is not a huge concern at this age although using it as a tool to work on letter recognition can be useful. We used it as one way to see if we had all the letters. For children not eager to look for 26 letters try the letters in their name instead for older kids try sight words. For more alphabet ideas check out our Alphabet For Starters series.

Gather your materials. You will need some Duplo or other plastic interlocking blocks, a sharpie or two, a yard and you’ll want a dry erase marker to take the letters off when you are done using these blocks as letter blocks.duplo alphabet letter hunt outside

Start by doing a test on one block to make sure that the permanent markers you have will come off the blocks. I tested it out on a orange block. I wrote test on the block and waited 5 minutes. It was totally dry and then using dry erase marker I covered the whole word. Then wiped. It came off. I repeated this days later after doing the activity and the letters came off no problem. Test out your own on a small spot on the inside to make sure your marker comes off. duplo letter hunt

Write the letters on the blocks. alphabet hunt outdoors with duplo

Hide the blocks outside. We have a pretty big front yard so I spread them out!outdoor alphabet block hunt for kids

Time to search!alphabet hunt outside for preschoolers She found the first one right away. alphabet scavenger hunt for kidsNow depending on how many children are participating and what your specific learning goals are for your child you can add in some learning as they find the blocks too. I didn’t ask for every letter but every few blocks I would ask her what sound the letter made. Remember the sound is much more important than the name. I would also ask her to name something that started with the letter.alphabet hunt for kids outside

She started putting some letters together right away.alphabet hunt enjoying the sun

She took a break to soak in some sun.alphabet hunt outside for little kids

After we had many we put them into alphabetical order using the alphabet song as a guide. We also counted them and discovered we were missing some. We found all but one pretty easily. The v block was missing for a few hours. We went inside and took a break, then returned outside after a rest and snack and found it.

alphabet game outside

Have fun with letters.

Alphabet Books

Here are some great alphabet books to go with your activity. All book lists include affiliate links.

Alphabetter

Alphabetter by Dan Bar-el and Graham Ross is another great alphabet book for you to check out. Each letter is represented by a child who has something that starts with the same letter as their name but doesn’t have what they want which starts with the following letter. It’s such a cute gimmick and so effective while reading that it’s not a gimmick at all! At the end of the book all the children pass the items back down the alphabet and everyone gets what they want. Awesome book for toddlers on up !

Sleepy ABC

Sleepy ABC by Margaret Wise Brown . Although I have a legendary hatred of Runaway Bunny I generally love this author. I like this book, and the illustrations will zip you back in time for sure.  Unlike many alphabet books it has a great rhythm for reading it all without breaks. Like the title suggests it’s a good alphabet book for a bedtime read, it even ends with something I say to my kids every night  “Go to sleep!”

Alphabet soup

Alphabet Soup by Scott Gustafson is a treat! I read a lot of alphabet books and this one stands out for so many reasons. Otter is hosting a potluck and his animal friends are all bringing something to share. Each page is devoted to an animal with a coordinating food item and more. This book is reminiscent of Graham Base’s Animalia but much more toddler friendly. Where Animalia is great for older children because it’s so full of detail, this book brings it down a notch but still enchants you with stunning illustrations and fantastic coordinating text.

 

St.Patrick’s Day Rhyming Game

st.patrick's day rhyming treasure huntRhyming is an important piece of the literacy puzzle and kids love to rhyme so it’s an easy skill to work on while having fun. This rhyming game is simple but throw in a St.Patrick’s Day theme and a treasure hunt and it goes from simple to awesome. The best part of this activity wasn’t watching my daughter work on her rhyming it was watching my son help her. My children are not immune to sibling scuffles, and from time to time when I feel like those scuffles are escalating I give them a task to work on together.

Gather your materials. You will need some shamrocks and a marker. rhyming activity for st. patrick's day

Next write pairs of rhyming words on the shamrocks. I tried to stick with a St.Patrick’s day theme but I don’t think my kids even noticed. I would try to match this with your child’s ability. rhyming treasure hunt for st.patrick's day

Hide the shamrocks. Don’t mind the Easter decor, we are a little early with it this year. shamrock rhyming game

Gather your troops and explain that they will be searching for shamrocks and then working together to match them up in rhyming pairs. shamrock rhyming word treasure hunt

Search! shamrock rhyming word search game

Match up the rhymes.st.patrick's day treasure hunt I asked my son not to match them up until all were found so that his sister could be part of this step as well. With a three and a half year age gap, the ability gap is big right now and my daughter is very sensitive to her brother doing everything for her. By forcing him to slow down and take her feelings into account I am hoping to teach him to be more sensitive to others and to send her the message that she isn’t just running behind playing catch up. Adjust this step to your players.  rhyming game for st.patrick's dayIf kids are having a hard time matching rhymes one of my favorite strategies is to offer two different pairs one rhyming and one not to choose from. Often  hearing two options will help them distinguish between a rhyming pair and two words that do not rhyme.rhyming activity gross motor st. patrick's day Some children get stuck on words with similar beginning sounds thinking that it’s the initial sound they are trying to match. If this is the case with your child make sure you are taking the time to really over emphasize the sounds in the words and saying for example “g-old, s-old they rhyme!  G-et and g- old have the same first sound but do not rhyme. Rhyming is the same last sound. G-old and s-old rhyme.”  A less overt way to continue working on this is to read , lots and lots of books that rhyme.  Check them out here.

25 picture books that rhyme

10 Indoor Scavenger Hunts For Kids

Scavenger hunts for kids

 

Sometimes you just can’t go outside. We will be building an addition on to our house and I know we won’t be going outside as much during construction so I started looking at some of the indoor gross motor activities we’ve done in the past for inspiration. I completely forgot about some of these ideas and started making a list for myself and then thought it might make a great post.  So here is my list of favorite scavenger hunts for kids perfect for a rainy day.

 

Puzzle Hunt
Indoor Bug Hunt
Book Hunt
Color Hunt
St.Patrick’s Day Gold Hunt
Number Hunt
Memory Hunt
Turkey Feather Hunt
Library Hunt
Word Scavenger Hunt and Spelling Activity

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.