- Family and Parenting
Teach Young Children About Nature With Fun Summer Activities
Summer is the perfect time to get out and about with your children. You can make your trips fun and educational by coming up with activities that are based around the theme of nature. Beaches, woodland and wildlife parks are ideal places to explore a little of the natural world. You can plan some activities in advance of your trip and spend some time afterwards discussing the things you have seen with your children. You can create paintings of the places you've been to, make up little stories together, or simply take lots of photos while you are on your trip and arrange them in a collage when you get home.
A trip to the beach can be really fun for children of all ages and it can also be educational. As well as giving you the chance to bond by playing games, building sandcastles and paddling in the water, a visit to the beach gives you the opportunity to start to teach your child about the natural environment. You can talk about the sand and the sea and begin to introduce environmental issues by explaining the importance of not leaving litter behind and talking about the different habitats that living creatures inhabit.
Before you go to the beach, you could make a list of things for your child to find when you get there - shells, birds, plants etc. You could use your PC to create an illustrated list of items that can be found at the beach and print it off to bring with you on your trip. Let your child tick off various items on the list as he finds them and give a reward for finding them.
If there are rock pools at your local beach, explore them with your child, being sure to keep a close watch on them at all times. There may be crabs or even little fish living in the rock pools and you can point these out to your children.
You can also use the opportunity to teach your child about some of the creatures which live in the sea and explain to them the importance of protecting the environment so that the dolphins, whales etc. can thrive. You may be lucky enough to live near to a beach where you can spot dolphins or porpoises in the water and this will give you a great opportunity to teach your child about marine life. If you live in a place where there are jellyfish, you can teach your child to avoid them.
When you get home from your trip to the beach, try to keep the learning experience going by doing some activities with your child. Draw pictures of the things you saw at the beach and put them on the wall of your child's bedroom or pin them up on the refrigerator. Make up little stories about the things that you saw on your trip and encourage your child to add some of the detail. If you took photographs, make a colorful collage to display them.
Taking your child to a wildlife park or zoo can be a great opportunity to teach them about different types of animals and also to begin to educate them about conservation issues and about the natural habitats of animals. Many zoos and wildlife parks have great educational facilities on-site and you should make the most of these to ensure that your child has a rewarding day out.
Try to find out as much as you can about the zoo you intend to visit in advance. Discuss with your child some of the animals and birds that are there and ask them to make a list of the ones they most want to see. Make it a priority to visit your child's favorite animals when you get to the zoo. If there is information about the animal posted next to its enclosure, read this out to your child and tell them a little about the creature's natural habitat, what it eats etc.
Get involved in any fun educational activities which are happening at the zoo or wildlife park that day. My local wildlife park has a great educational department and they usually have face painting and then activities such as quizzes. The children have great fun having their faces painted so they resemble their favorite animals and they learn a lot from the games and quizzes.
When you're at home again, spend some time discussing the animals you saw and find out whether your child has any new favorites. You can enhance their learning about the zoo by buying colorful books and puzzles about the animals they have seen. Do lots of drawings, paintings, or make up a scrapbook of photographs you took on your day out and be sure to look at it with your child every now and then.
As well as being a great chance to spend some quality time with your children, a nature walk can be a very inexpensive activity. In fact, it doesn't have to cost you a penny. If you are fortunate enough to live near to a woodland location with walking trails, that is a great place to take your children. You can teach them about different plants and trees and animals which live in the forest. Take along an illustrated check-list and see if your child can find leaves from different trees, different types of flower or if they can spot a particular animal or bird. Gather some fallen leaves to take home with you - they can be used to make collages or for painting and printing. You might also be able to find pine cones or chestnuts, depending on the types of tree where you live. Gather what you find and use it to base activities on when you get home.
Even if you live in an urban environment, you can still take your child on a nature walk. Make a list of the types of trees, plants, birds etc. you have seen in your neighborhood and check these off as you encounter them.
The woodland trail where I take my daughter has a stream with little fish in it and a variety of evergreen and deciduous trees. There are also deer spotted in the hills above the trail occasionally and birds of prey can be seen from time to time. We try to identify different leaves from the trees and to spot animals when we walk through the woods. Different environments offer different opportunities for learning about nature, but there is always something to look out for.
Leaves, photographs, drawing of the things you have seen on your walk and little stories about the experience make great items to include in a scrapbook that you can look through together from time to time. This is great for bonding but also enhances the educational experience as what your child has learned is reinforced again and again as you discuss it, getting more detailed as they get older.