Are you parenting a busy preschooler? I so enjoyed my children when they were between the ages of two and three because EVERYTHING was interesting to them. And since they were constantly learning and growing, I began creating nature lessons for preschoolers.
You'll find some of these nature lessons, unit studies, hands-on activities and simple printables in our online shop. But honestly, if you simply head outdoors as a family you'll find nature lessons for preschoolers at every turn.
Here are a few ideas on some old-fashioned outdoor nature activities for preschoolers.
Favorite Nature Lessons for Preschoolers
Go on a bug hunt
All of our kids just loved bugs when they were little. Preschoolers especially love to observe bugs up close and personal. (Note as a parent of seven children now aged 31 down to 7, I can tell you that the bug-loving stage doesn't last.)
If your child doesn't like to touch bugs, use a container to trap them. Then spend some time observing those creepy-crawlies.
You'll find all sorts of great bug-catching sets online. They often come with all sorts of gear, ranging from observation cages to binoculars.
I found, however, that a small magnifying glass was just right for little hands.
Once you find a few bugs, start asking your child simple questions about what they see, including
- how many legs on each insect
- the differences in wings
- body shapes
- different colors
- different sizes
Observation is an important part of the Scientific Method so why not include it in your nature lessons for preschoolers?
Build a mud kitchen
I've never met a preschooler who doesn't LOVE playing in the mud. I'm not saying they aren't out there, just that I've never met any. And I've certainly never produced any.
Mud kitchens give preschoolers the opportunity to use materials like mud, pinecones, sticks, and rocks for imaginative play.
This is a really fun way to get your kids to observe nature while honing those fine motor skills. It also gets small children comfortable spending time outside in a natural environment.
A mud kitchen is a fun addition to your backyard.
Equip it with an old worn-out plastic toy kitchen, or put found items together to make an interesting toy kitchen.
Your kids will love making mud pies, string pots of water with flowers and leaves, and playing restaurant with plates of pine cones and rocks.
Start a children's garden
If you've followed us for any length of time you know that gardening is an important activity at our homestead. As a homesteading and homeschooling family, our kids get out in the garden bed with us as soon as the snow melts. (That's usually the first week of June. No, I'm not joking.)
In fact, I think that the garden could be one of my favorite places to encourage nature lessons for homeschoolers.
As we live in a boreal forest in Canada's far north, we're surrounded by wilderness. And that wilderness provides an incredible environment for forest schooling, wilderness survival skills and nature lessons for the children when they're older. But preschoolers are easier to "coral" in a garden. Plus, they're interesting and (hopefully) full of delicious, fresh, healthy food!
Gardens are fascinating places for learning about how food goes from seed to table.
It's a wonderful spot to observe creepy crawlies, earthworms, birds and butterflies.
Growing a backyard garden is a great project for preschoolers to do with older siblings or parents. Growing food and flowers is a valuable opportunity to learn about the botanic cycle of life, to explore color and shapes, and even encourage them to try new foods. Learn about some of the easiest vegetables to grow with kids and get started!
Outfit your children with their own kids' gardening toolsets to make it even more fun. And don't forget to add a few favorite children's gardening books to your home library.
Use nature to do math
Teaching preschoolers math becomes much more fun when it involves hands-on lessons.
And yes, nature lessons for preschoolers can incorporate many mathematical tasks. Use natural items like rocks, flowers, and seeds as math counters to work on counting and basic addition and subtraction with your preschooler.
These math nature lessons for preschoolers will keep them busy when you're working on outdoor chores or just relaxing in the sunshine.
One of my favorite afternoon memories involves me sitting on our deck with a cup of tea. I'd call out numbers to my daughter who was about three at the time. She'd then bring me that number of leaves or rocks.
Explore art with nature
Creating art with nature is a creative way to explore the wonders of nature.
Nature art lessons for preschoolers can be as simple as copying what they see onto black paper with crayons. Staple some blank pages together for a simple nature journal idea. Or with help, they could try a simple nature craft, such as making a DIY bird feeder.
Does your child love flowers? Maybe they would like to help you to make a pressed wildflower bookmark. And drying flowers and waxing leaves is a great activity to help preserve the beauty of nature to enjoy over the winter.
Rock and stick building
We live in an area that's full of rocks and trees. And we've discovered that one of our children's favorite outdoor activities involves building.
They'll stack rocks, make rock patterns, and even use branches and sticks to create walls. In the summer they'll get their bathing suits on and try to make "rock pools" to swim in!
Sometimes we'll even break out the sidewalk chalk to draw on the rocks. After all, after a good rain it all washes away.
Nature lessons for preschoolers don't need a lot of planning or supplies. Use your imagination, and let your child's interest lead the way.