For the month of May I participated in the David Suzuki Foundation 30 x 30 Nature Challenge, along with Eco Novice and Eco Yogini. I value time in nature, not just because it is good for my health, but also because I enjoy the sensory experience of being outside. I enjoy observing the insects as they go about their business. I find it relaxing to listen to the wind rustling the leaves, and I have been known to fall asleep to the sounds in the Mama-Do-Nothing-Chair. And to me there is no better smell than the wet soil after a rain storm.
Now that the challenge is over, I am looking for a variety of ways to continue to spend time in nature. Play is important for children, but I believe that everyone should play. Time in nature provides so many opportunities to play beyond they typical nature walks and hide and seek.
Here are some ideas for nature play that will get everyone, young or old, interested.
My daughters, like most kids, enjoy collecting little nature treasures of rocks, leaves and sticks when we go on walks, and I am continually finding acorns and leaves in my bags and rocks in the washing machine. Creating a mandala, a circular pattern, is a great way to use the special collections that kids keep. Once the mandala has been created, take a photo of it and make a mandala scrapbook.
Playful Learning has a great tutorial for creating nature mandalas.
I am always amazed and intrigued by the seemingly precariously balanced rock sculptures I see on beaches and river banks, and I have always wanted to try making one. The possibilities are endless with this one, and it can be turned into a rock balancing competition too.
For the younger folk, My Nearest and Dearest has fun ideas for making pictures with rocks.
Light sensitive paper is a wonderful way to create imprints of natural materials. I have used these with my own class of ten and eleven year old students when we were learning about connecting with nature (this David Suzuki Foundation education guide). We went on a nature walk at a nearby nature park, talking about what we saw and collecting a few natural items we found on the ground. Then we lay our favourite items on the light sensitive paper and placed in a window. The paper that is exposed to the light turns white, but when it is rinsed in water it creates a negative impression, with the exposed paper turning a dark blue, revealing the white silhouette of the item left behind. We turned this into an inquiry project because the students wanted to know if it would work with different types of light. We created an experiment comparing our results with direct, indirect, fluorescent light and candle light.
If you don't have access to light sensitive paper it is fun to create nature prints using a toothbrush or paintbrush to splatter paint onto paper covered with natural items. Remove the items after drying to reveal a print.
If creating isn't your thing, you can play games outdoors using found items, like this tic tac toe game. Instead of painting on the rocks, one person can be rocks and another can be leaves or shells, and the board can be lines drawn on the ground.
Nature Scavenger Hunts
For more active play, scavenger hunts are a great way to get small or large groups of people involved in playing outdoors. You can create your own scavenger hunt lists or find some already created.
Debi at Go Explore Nature, who is a big outdoor play advocate, has great suggestions for creating your own scavenger hunt. She has also created hunts for each season, and I am looking forward to trying one out this summer.
Creative Family Fun has created a listening walk hunt, which I love to help kids be more mindful of their surroundings. Using this idea, it would be fun to make a hunt for each of the senses!
This is just a beginning to experiencing nature in different and unique ways. Do you have any ideas to add to the list?