Fun in the Forest

Early Nature Activities

It’s so fun to have a Teddy Bears Picnic in your backyard woods or a park. 

Invite your favorite bears and set up the most magical picnic you can think of! Here are a few ideas of some things you might like to include in you picnic:

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  • A blanket to sit on

  • Cushions to make your picnic cozy

  • Teacups

  • Snacks to nibble on

  • Water or juice to drink

  • A book to read your bears

 Sit them on a blanket and picnic together while they try out new foods and new ways of feeding themselves. Added bonus: cleanup for you doesn’t involve scrubbing floors, walls, windows or highchairs. If they still need support when sitting, try a “bumbo” type seat with a tray or just bring their highchair out with you.

Whatever you decide to include in your Teddy Bears Picnic be sure to picture worthy. Have someone take pictures!

Why not listen to the Teddy Bears Picnic songwhile you set up picnic!


How to turn a trip to the park—or an afternoon in the yard—into an eco-adventure for baby.

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Want to raise a child who respects nature? Explore the earth with your mini scientist. You’ll find plenty of things to see, hear, and do outdoors. These tips will get you started.

Get Rolling

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Where to do it: A local park, a wooded trail, or any other spot where you can walk or push a stroller

Perfect for: The youngest babies, stroller playdates, or a change of scenery

You need:  A carrier or stroller, snacks, and sun protection Please understand that if they are laying flat on their backs in a stroller, all they will see is the clouds.

Search for: Birds in flight, buzzing bees, slithering worms, and other area wildlife. Identify all by name. Mimic the sounds they make and imitate their movements. Along the path, look for green trees, blue skies, and yellow flowers—and, of course, name them.

Duration: Half an hour or longer if your baby seems relaxed and comfy

Search for Icky and Pretty Stuff

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Where to do it: Your own backyard, a park, or nearby schoolyard

Perfect for: Older babies and toddlers

You need: A spoon, shovel, a small bucket to carry things, a plastic bottle or small box with air holes (for wildlife), baby wipes (because you’re going to get dirty), and a blanket to sit on

Search for: Moss, grass, weeds, ants, bugs, worms, and other things that lurk at and below ground level. Encourage your little one to dig, pluck, lift, roll, toss, and carry home some or all of his discoveries. Check out wildlife and follow their movements. Use words like big, small, wet, dry, smooth, fast, slow, rough, and sticky.

Duration: VariableActivity ends when your Indiana Jones runs out of patience and/or curiosity

Transform Nature into a Magic Show

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Where to do it: A patch of grass, a lawn, a local park, or a patio

Perfect for: Those looking for a peek-a-boo upgrade

You need: A blanket (for sitting), paper towels, and a small collection of pointy, flat, smooth, bumpy, colorful, wiggly, slippery, and fuzzy items you seek together

Search for: Leaves, seeds, ladybugs, flowers, weeds, grass, rocks, stones, sticks, and soil. Cover each object one at a time, and ask your baby: “Where did the leaves go?” or “Where are the ladybugs hiding?” Remove the cloth to reveal the item. Continue the game with other items.

Duration: 15 minutes, counting search time

Chat with the Animals

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See Also: Happy Birding!

Where to do it: A park, farm, zoo, your neighborhood or public fairgrounds

Perfect for: Kids old enough to enjoy petting zoos, and those who grasp language, vocabulary, and the art of conversation

You need: Your animal voice and the eye of a ranger

Search for: A variety of domesticated animals you can see and touch (but only after confirming they’re baby- and people-friendly). Let your child hear how cows moo, lions roar, sheep bleat, and monkeys chatter.

Duration: 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the facility’s size and how much there is to see and do there

Pretend You’re a Scientist or Botanists

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Where to do it: Your own backyard or anywhere else that’s green or grassy

Perfect for: Curious toddlers

You need: Magnifier glass, blanket to sit on and a pail or bucket to hold your findings

Search for: Pine needles, pinecones, tree bark, acorns, leaves, and flowers. Grab samples of vegetation and examine them closely like scientist would. Look for similarities compare and contrast items for differences in color, shape, weight, and texture. (Avoid poison oak, poison sumac, and poison ivy; carry a guide to help identify them.)

Duration: 15 to 30 minutes

Host a Scavenger or Loose Parts Hunt

Where: Your backyard or a playmate’s

Perfect for: High-energy and curious toddlers

You need: A list of items (use pictures instead of words), buckets to collect things, a magnifying glass to search for small specimens

Search for: Something wet, dry, shiny, smooth, bumpy, green, or yellow. Or ask for three flowers, or three leaves, whose appearance differs.

Duration: Hunt ends when kids grow weary, or you get tired of chasing them.

Engaging Toddlers in Nature Play


Your child is watching your every move and picking up cues based on how you interact with nature. If your aim is to instill respect and love for all things wild, try these simple activities with children ages three months to two years old:

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  •  Let baby crinkle dry leaves on the ground. Crunch the leaves with baby as he enjoys the sound.

  •  Visit shrubs and trees to allow baby to touch and grab at the green leaves. Smell the leaves with baby.

  •  Invite baby to grab and feel soil with hands and toes.

  •  Quietly watch birds fly overhead and squirrels pitter patter.

  •  Listen to bird sounds and mimic them for baby: “teacher-teacher-teacher”, “peter-peter-peter”, or “caw caw”!

  •  Visit nearby flowers. Gently touch and smell the flowers. Say color names to baby and describe how the petals or leaves feel.

  •  Pick up twigs and seeds for baby to manipulate. Try tossing helicopter seeds to watch them spin.

  •  Blow bubbles in the wind. Listen to the sounds of the bubbles pop on blades of grass.

  •  Make sounds with what you find outside. Try tapping acorns, walnuts, or twigs together and invite baby to join in.

  •  Touch tree bark and describe how it feels to baby (rough, smooth, bumpy, scratchy).

  •  Pick up a worm, cricket, or ant and show baby how it moves in your hand. If baby is welcoming, let the tiny animal crawl in baby’s hand.

  •  Stand your barefoot baby on soft grass or moss. Encourage baby to touch the grass or moss with fingers, too.

  •  Play in a puddle. Stir up water with twigs, dip fingers or toes in, or float leaves in the water.

Your curious child will develop positive feelings about nature through happy, sensory associations of nature play with you. As you explore together, you are making more than memories; you are nurturing baby’s lifelong love of nature!

Walking the trails

Never underestimate the value of a nice long walk along a trail that takes you through your favorite park. Walking in the forest is great for stimulating children’s senses. They will smell nature, listen to birds chirping, touch vegetation, observe plants, etc. A walk in the forest also provides children with the opportunity to test their limits and work on their balance. They will climb a rock, step on a variety of different textures, admire the colors… You can invite other adults to accompany you to ensure your entire group is always supervised.

Chances are if you had a fall or winter baby, then springtime will be the first chance to enjoy being outdoors and delighting in the dirt and nature. Remember your baby is looking at the sky if they are on their back in a stroller. Although cloud watching is fabulous for a few minutes, your baby is missing out on the fun below. Sit them up or use a carrier so they can see everything our world has to offer them.

Always inform someone before heading to the woods. Tell a friend or neighbor or write a note on your door. If you get lost or something happens, someone will know that you went for a walk in the woods and will therefore be able to find you. Be sure to have a stroller, carrier or other means to transport young children if they get tired or are unable to walk. If children are able to walk the whole way, a stroller can still be used to transport your survival kit, extra clothing items, your lunch, etc. 

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How to Prepare for a Preschooler for a Nature Walk


Do your preschoolers love being outdoors? Do they love exploring nature? If so, they’re sure to love taking a nature walk with you. Don’t forget to print out your scavenger hunts before you go.

To make the most of nature walks this spring, it is helpful to do a little preparation in advance. With a few simple supplies and the printables shared below, you can turn your next walk into a fun learning experience.

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Brown paper lunch sacks are the perfect size for collecting nature findings on your next walk. Kids can fill their bags with sticks and rocks and feathers.

Nature Walk Collections + Printable Activity Sheet

Once home, preschoolers can spread out their findings for further investigation and observation. Have them sort the objects by type, size, or color. Have them line the objects up from biggest to smallest. 

It’s fun to see how different their bags end up after each walk. After we are done, they show each other their findings while talking about the differences and similarities. We often find that the kids each love to collect a variety of leaves.

If you don’t have any trails or parks nearby, this can also be done on a neighborhood walk or even in your backyard.


Bring along a small camera. Your cellphone will do. Help your kids take pictures of the things they find that they can’t put in their bags.

Maybe, they’ll see a beautiful bird in a tree or a frog in a pond. They might think the neighbors flowers are very pretty, but they know not to pick them. Let them take pictures of the things they can’t bring home with them.

Have your preschoolers glue each picture into a nature journal. If they glue the image at the top of the page or one side, they can use the rest of the page or the opposite page to sketch their findings.

Nature Investigation Explorer Pack


When my kids were younger, we loved exploring our neighborhood pond. I put together a backpack to carry along so the kids could explore nature up close and personal. Look HERE to find some ideas of things you can add to your nature walk backpack.


Here’s a little collection of nature scavenger hunts for all seasons. There’s one for summer, spring, winter, and fall. No matter the season, it’s always the right time to head outside and take a with your preschoolers!

Point Out Signs of Seasons

Take the children on a nature walk in the yard or to a nearby park. Look for signs of a new season. Here are some things to look for in spring, summer, fall, and winter:


  • Buds on trees or bushes

  • Snow melting

  • Birds building nests

  • Robins looking for worms to eat

  • Spring bulbs poking up

  • Frog eggs in pond water


  • Warmer weather

  • Green grass

  • Lots of flowers blooming

  • Lots of birds

  • Fruits and vegetables in gardens

  • Rainbows during rain showers


  • Leaves change color

  • Leaves fall from trees

  • Cooler weather

  • Acorns and pine cones fall on the ground

  • Squirrels gathering seeds and nuts

  • Some birds migrate south


  • Cold weather

  • Snowy days

  • Icicles

  • Some animals hibernate

  • Outdoor plants wilt and turn brown

  • Shorter days

Outdoor Family Fun

60 Fun Outdoor Activities for Kids for the Entire Year

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Studies have shown that spending time outside is good for your health. There are plenty of fun activities you can do outdoors in every season. Here are 60 Fun Outdoor Activities for kids to keep you going the entire year!

During the summer, when the weather is warm and the kids are out of school, it’s natural to play around in the yard or take a dip in the pool. But there’s no good reason you should miss out on the benefits of the great outdoors during the rest of the year!

Fun Outdoor Activities for Kids By Season

Spring Outdoor Activities For Kids

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#1. Read Outside

Pick up your book or e-reader, find a nice comfortable spot to sit, and get to reading! There’s no need to stay cooped up indoors when you could be out getting some fresh air while you read.

You May Also Enjoy 50 Outdoor Activities for Kids to Make this Spring a Breeze

#2. Play in the Rain

Spring is generally the wettest season, so if you ever find yourself with free time during a gentle shower, don’t be afraid to get right out in the middle of it. Walk, run, skip, or dance through the droplets. Here is our list of the Top Ten Things to do Outside in the Rain.

#3. Jump in Puddles

After the rain – or even during – splash around in some of the puddles that have formed.

You May Also Enjoy Galoshingly Good Rainy Day Activities for Kids Outdoors & 12 Kids Rainy Day Games Outdoors for Guaranteed Fun

#4. Get a Little Muddy

If you’re fine with having a mess to clean up later, why not squish around in the mud? Get your toes dirty or make a mud pie!

#5. Climb a Tree

Get some exercise as well as a bird’s eye view of your neighbourhood! You could also get the kids to measure a tree.

#6. Fly a Kite

It’s easy to be enchanted by kite flying at any age. Just make sure you find a nice, open field and go out on a breezy day for the best results. You could even try your hand at making a kite.

#7. Jump Rope

This is one of my personal favourite outdoor activities. Use a short, single-person rope or find a longer rope so the whole family can get involved, alternating who’s turning and who’s jumping.

You May Also Enjoy 11 of the Best Outdoor Activities to Ensure Your Kids Stay Fit

#8. Try Growing Something

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Whether it’s a single pot or an expansive garden plot, try your hand at growing something. It’ll teach the value of hard work when you’re later rewarded with beautiful flowers or tasty veggies to eat.

Here is how to grow your own pizza garden & tips for making your garden a fun place to be.

You May Also Enjoy 50 Fun Outdoor Activities for Kids

#9. Have a Picnic

Grab a blanket and a basket full of goodies and head outside for a picnic lunch! It could take place in the comfort of your own backyard, or you could venture to a nearby park. Make your own homemade lemonade and these chocolate chip cookies for a real treat!

#10. Go Geocaching

Geocaching is just like a treasure hunt, but on a global scale! Get everyone involved calling out directions and scouting out geocaches. Here’s our guide to geocaching to get you started.

#11. Make a Bird Feeder

This is a craft project that can provide plenty of enjoyment for your family – and plenty of food for a local bird family! This list from The DIY Dreamer includes several feeders that can be made from used or recycled materials. Or try your hand making this bird-feeder.

#12. Engage in Pretend Play

Encourage your children to stretch their imaginations and develop their minds through pretend play.

You May Also Enjoy 20 Fun Outdoor Activities for Toddlers 

#13. Create Some Art

Is your kid dying to get their hands on a paint set, but you’re hesitant because of the mess it could make? Just pack up your paints and take them outside! There are loads of crafts or art projects your child could work on outdoors.

#14. Host a Clothesline Art Show

Once you’ve accumulated a collection of your kid’s masterpieces, go ahead and put them on display! You can invite family and friends, serve refreshments, and make an event of it.

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#15. Play Outdoor Scrabble

Test your vocabulary skills, practice spelling, and have a blast through this oversized Scrabble game from Constantly Lovestruck, where your yard is your game board!

#16. Brush up those math skills

Sneak some math lessons into your kid’s day through games, pretend play, and more! Reading Confetti has some great ideas for outdoor maths games.

You May Also Enjoy 12 Cool Garden Games For Guaranteed Outdoor Family Fun

#17. Do Some Science Experiments

Feel free to get a little messy when you tackle these fun science activities – 5 Fun Science Experiments for Kids to Try at Home

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Summer Outdoor Activities For Kids

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#18. Go to the Playground

Growing up we had a swingset in our backyard, and I spent countless hours out there, swinging until my little legs got tired. If you haven’t got play equipment in your yard, just head over to a nearby park or playground and use theirs!

#19. Ride Your Bike

Whether it’s down the driveway, down the block, or around the neighbourhood, bike riding is a fantastic way to pass the time during the summer.

#20. Rollerblade or Roller Skate

If you’ve been blessed with impeccable balance and coordination (unlike me), roller skating is also a great way to get active.

#21. Swim in the Pool

Take a dip in your backyard pool, or head to your community pool with your family. (Just be conscious of pool safety please)

#22. Cool Off With Water Activities

There are seemingly endless ways to have fun with water during those hot summer months. As a child, running through the sprinkler was always my favourite. You could try setting up a water slide, playing with water balloons, and plenty of other creative ideas.

You May Also Enjoy 10 Wickedly Wet Water Games for Kids & 27 Innovative & Fun Ideas for Water Play

#23. Play With Sand

Climb into the sand box or make your own sand table for loads of fun playing in the sand – no beach required!

#24. Blow Bubbles

Simple pleasures like blowing bubbles and watching them float through the air cannot be beaten. Here are some bubble ideas to get you started!

#25. Catch Some Critters

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Summertime is when the bugs come out in full force – but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Go digging for worms, or place a few ladybugs in a jar. Or if you live in a fairly wet area where frogs or toads are likely to reside, chase one down and see if you can catch it. Here’s a Big Bug Scavenger Hunt for you to try.

#25. Play Hopscotch

Bust out your sidewalk chalk and draw up a Hopscotch board. Or, if Hopscotch isn’t your thing, Kids Activities Blog has fun suggestions for other games that involve chalk.

#26. Have a Party

Any excuse is a good one to throw a party! You don’t need much more than good friends, a bit of food, and some sweet tunes to listen to. Here’s how to throw a cool outdoor party!

#27. Go on a Nature Walk

Go for a nature walk and encourage their wonder about the world around them. You can enjoy fun nature activities, or enjoy a scavenger hunt while out for a walk.

For something a bit different, try this Sound Scavenger Hunt, or we have lots more ideas in 10 Mega Fun Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Kids

#28. Play a Game

You can’t go wrong with classics like Tag, Hide & Seek, or Cops & Robbers. Here are some classic games you might remember from your childhood.

#29. Go to the Zoo

Load up the car for a day full of animal-spotting at your local zoo, farm, or animal park!

#30. Play Sports

It could be something simple like dribbling a basketball or kicking around a soccer ball, or you could get teams together for some kickball or Ultimate Frisbee.

#31. Stargaze

Dust off your telescope and point it toward the night sky! Or you can simply lie down on the grass and admire the stars for their beauty – just remember to bring a blanket! Here’s our guide to stargazing for kids.

#32. Play with Sparklers

These are a safe (and legal!) alternative to firecrackers or fireworks, and they come in a variety of different colours. It’s super fun to draw shapes or spell out your name with sparklers.

#33. Catch Fireflies

Once the sun goes down, head outside to look for fireflies! Watching them fly around and light up the night is mesmerising enough, but you could also try catching a few.

You May Also Enjoy 50 Fun Summer Activities For Kids & 50 Interesting Things to do at Beach

Autumn Outdoor Activities For Kids

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#34. Play in the Leaves

Before you break out the rakes and tend to your yard, have a bit of fun jumping into piles of leaves or tossing armfuls into the air.

#35. Collect Leaves

You could use them to put together a scrapbook, to supplement a science lesson, or you could gather a few simply to admire them.

#36. Go on a Nature Hike

Take a walk and marvel at the gorgeous fall colours!

#37. Make a Scarecrow

It doesn’t matter if you have a garden that needs protecting or not, a scarecrow could be an amusing addition to your yard. See how to make a scarecrow here.

You May Also Enjoy 8 Fun Autumn Activities for Preschoolers

#38. Play Football

With football season starting in September, why not toss the ol’ pigskin around in your own yard?

#39. Host a Bbonfire

Crisp fall weather is ideal for having a bonfire. Swap stories, warm your hands over the flames, cook some hot dogs – and don’t forget the s’mores!

#40. Go on a Scavenger Hunt

Make a list or draw up a treasure map featuring all the items you need to find. The autumn is perfect for this, whether you’re searching for different natural objects or you want to hide the treasure under a bunch of leaves! We have a free downloadable autumn scavenger hunt, just print it off and let the kids loose!

#41. Go Camping

Take a trip to a campsite for a day or two, or pitch a tent in your own backyard!

#42. Pick Apples or Blackberries

Apple-picking was a yearly tradition in my family. There was just something about it that made every September feel complete.

#43. Get Lost in a Corn Maze

Many apple orchards also include attractions, such as a corn maze.

#44. Go on a Hayride

These are truly a staple of the fall season, and haunted hayrides are great for celebrating Halloween with a scare.

#44. Visit a Pumpkin Patch

Things to do in Ireland at midterm Halloween fun

Take a stroll through row upon row of bright orange pumpkins. If you can’t get to a pumpkin patch, kids can create their own pumpkin here.

#45. Carve a Pumpkin

If you pick up a pumpkin of your own while out at the patch, carve it up and turn it into a Jack-o-Lantern for your family to enjoy. And, if you’re really daring, cook up the seeds and have them for a snack!

#46. Make Apple Cider

Personally, I think hot apple cider is the perfect drink for those chilly autumn days!

You May Also Enjoy 10 Spookily Easy Halloween Recipes

#47. How Your Own Olympics

Host your own version of the Olympic games right at your own home. Each event can be tailored to the age level of your participants, and you could hand out small prizes at the end.

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Winter Outdoor Activities For Kids

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#48. Go Bird Watching

Whatever feathered-friends you’re looking for should stand out very clearly against the barren winter landscape or the white of new-fallen snow.

#49. Look for Animal Tracks

Check the snow for outlines of prints and try to figure out what animal they belong to.

#50. Have a Snowball Fight

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as getting snow-covered and rowdy in a snowball fight – especially if there are no real rules. Just remember to bundle up first!

#51. Make Snow Angels

Flop down in the snow, stretch out your arms and legs, and spread the snow around so when you stand up you’ll leave the outline of an angel behind.

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#52. Go Snowshoeing

This is a great way to play around in the snow that doesn’t require any skill.

#53. Build a Snowman

I will admit, I always get that song from Frozen stuck in my head whenever someone talks about building a snowman. But it is true that coming together and working toward a common goal – like constructing Olaf – is a great way for your family to bond!

#54. Go Sledding

Grab a sled or some other form of makeshift vehicle and find a steep hill to go riding down.

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#55. Build a Fort or Igloo

If the snow is wet, not powdery, it’s ideal for packing together and building all kinds of structures!

You May Also Enjoy 50 Fun Winter Activities For Kids

#56. Go Ice Skating

Bring the kids ice skating for some winter fun.

#57. Play Ice Hockey

Lace up your skates and get a little competitive with a game of hockey. Depending on how rough you want to play, you might want to put on some protective padding before you hit the ice.

#58. Hit the Slopes

Go skiing or snowboarding.

#59. Catch Snowflakes

See if you can catch snowflakes on your tongue!

#60. Try Your Hand at Ice Fishing

If you live near a body of water that’s populated by fish, you aren’t restricted to catching them when the weather’s warmer. Haul out your supplies and try to snag a few after you’ve broken through the ice.

Connection with Nature &

Babies in the Forest

Any walk into the forest grants you the opportunity of experiencing perfect sensory child-led outdoor play, encouraging and stimulating curiosity, exploration, understanding and self-reflection – and this is true for children of all ages…Babies are sensory motor learners.When newly born, they have a well-developed sense of touch overall, but limited finger pad sensitivity and – due to nature’s programmed survival instinct – most of their senses are concentrated around certain areas on their bodies, for example, their lips.

To aid babies’ development, adults need to provide a sensory-rich environment with many textures, temperatures, colors, smells, and sounds. Consequently, the great outdoors is an ideal learning environment for even tiny infants, as here all of their senses are engaged. Their physical development is advanced to new levels in response to the many different sources of stimuli: varied environmental effects motivate them to move their bodies in many different ways, encouraging them to learn to pull themselves up, to reach, to grasp, to sit, to crawl and also to walk. Being outside also supports babies to begin to use their hands, as natural physical support (e.g., sitting between logs) helps them to concentrate on other activities, rather than the sitting itself.

The outdoor environment has a great impact on the development of vision, hearing, and touch of babies, too. In the open air, their brains, motivated by the abundance of stimuli, build new neural pathways – the ‘wiring’ of the brain – in order to cope with the vast amount of new information they are processing. This increased brain activity supports all areas of development, as while receiving and learning to decode the new information, the developing brain also has to store, use and link it; it to older information. 

When baby’s activities are slow and easy, they activate the brain’s movement centers and the brain can process all the new information for future use. So, take it slow and enjoy your time in the woods.  In forest program, where time and space is given to allow slow and concentrated movements, the brain is allowed to be free to make important sensory distinctions.

10 ways your little one will learn as you explore and walk…

In the snuggly, your newborn will feel your heart rate increase as you walk briskly, fondly reminding her of that time not so long ago when she was so closely connected to you in every way. She’ll love the sensory input of your heartbeat.

  • Babies really enjoy looking at all the new sights when you go outside – everything is different! The colors, the movement, the moving light. It’s a whole new world visually!

  • As you walk your baby using a snuggly or infant carrier, they’ll enjoy the rhythm of your movements. This vestibular input helps coordinate movement between the eyes, head and body, helping your baby develop a sense of balance and visual-spatial perception.

  • When we go outside, the big, open air just feels different and elicits interest as your baby looks around and takes it all in. It’s old hat to you, the smell of rain or someone grilling in the backyard. But for your baby, it may be their first time to ever experience that!

  • Sounds are totally different outside. Cars going by, birds chirping, airplanes, dogs barking, lawnmowers – all these sounds give you a chance to talk to your baby and give words to describe what they’re hearing. “Do you hear Cooper barking? I think he hears us walking by on the sidewalk. He’s saying hello!” As you narrate what your baby is experiencing, you’re helping with language development.

  • Neural connections are different when we go outside. Sensory stimulation is less rapid, more fluid, allowing a ‘pause’ of sorts. This enhances brain development and can even affect a child’s behavior (see reference below)

  • Toddlers and older children who walk on their own have lots of chances to discover and learn as they walk around the block. There’s countless opportunities for physical development as they walk keeping rhythm with your steps, jump over cracks on the sidewalk, run ahead, hop instead of walk and all the other beautiful ways children naturally “practice” their emerging physical skills.

  • And of course, as they walk, they’ll stop to look at bugs and other critters along the way, picking up sticks and other stuff, smelling flowers, noticing patterns along the way. All these ‘treasures’ support math and science in a spontaneous, self-discovery method of learning.

  • Walking with your child is not a fast process, like the brisk walk you take to get a little exercise. Slow down, allowing time to inspect storm drains, weeds in sidewalk cracks and other fascinating things along the way. This natural intellectual curiosity is how your child takes in new information and draws conclusions about the world. Allow lots of time for pauses along the way.

Simple Nature Walk


  • Look at the Clouds  Talk about the shapes and colors.  Watch them move.

  • Collect Leaves  Find leaves, stack them, talk about their shapes, colors, and sizes.  Which leaf is bigger/smaller?

  • Crinkle Leaves  Talk about how it feels.  Talk about the smells.  Throw the little pieces of leaf in the air and watch them fall to the ground.

  • Collect Sticks  Find big sticks and little sticks.

  • Play with Sticks  You can stack them or build with them.  Stick them in the ground.  Throw them (safely, of course!).  Break them.  Dig with them.  Rub or tap them against different surfaces and talk about it – “that’s loud/quiet”, “that’s bumpy/smooth”, etc.

  • Find Rocks  Talk about sizes, textures and shapes.  Line them up.  Count them.

  • Stack Rocks  See how many you can stack.  Count out loud.  Make it a fun challenge.

  • Bring Playdough  Make imprints of rocks, leaves, sticks, acorns or tree bark.

  • Look at Birds  Observe and talk about the bird’s behaviors.

  • Look for Bugs  Flip over rocks.  Observe and talk about the different bugs you see.

  • Observe Animals  What animals can you find?  Squirrels, lizards, turtles, ducks?  Observe and talk about what you see.

  • Make Nature Stew/Pretend to Cook Pick grass, fallen leaves, weeds, etc. and mix together to make pretend stew.

  • Pick Up Litter  If you see litter, pick it up and take the opportunity to talk about littering.  Make sure you use hand sanitizer afterwards!

  • Sit on the Ground  Take a break and just sit.  Run your hands through the grass or feel the cool ground with your hands.

  • Lay on the Ground  It’s amazing how laying on the ground vs. just sitting on the ground can give you a completely different experience and perspective.

  • Play in the Dirt  Get those hands dirty!

  • Explore Tree Bark  Touch it, talk about it, compare different ones.  Look for fallen tree bark.

  • Go Climbing  Kids love to climb – it’s in their nature (see what I did there!).  While ensuring safety, allow kids to climb on tree roots, tree limbs, tree stumps or large rocks.

  • Drive Toy Cars Through Various Terrain  Bring along a little toy car.  Have fun driving it through the dirt, grass, rocks, tree roots and other various terrain.

  • Bring a Favorite Toy  Bring along your child’s favorite toy and incorporate it in your nature adventures!

  • Have a Picnic  Bring along a snack or meal to enjoy on your nature walk.

  • Smell Flowers  Stop and smell the flowers!

  • Draw Nature  Bring along some paper and crayons.  You can your child can draw things you see on your nature walk.

  • Draw With Nature  Using water and dirt, you can draw on paper or pavement.

  • Splash in Puddles  Go on a nature walk after a rainstorm and you may come across some puddles – perfect for jumping in and splashing around.

  • Take off Your Shoes  Take off both your shoes and feel the grass and dirt under your feet.  Talk about what it feels like (is it warm/cold?  is it smooth/rough?  does the grass tickle your feet?)

  • Sing Songs  Sing some of your favorite songs while outside.

  • Listen to Music  Play some music from your phone.  It can be relaxing or upbeat!

  • Dance Get all your kid’s wiggles out!  “Freeze dance” is favorite in our house that always gets us dancing!

  • Act Out “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”  If you haven’t heard of this book, we highly recommend it!  There’s also various renditions of the story in song  form!

  • Pretend to be Different Animals  Let your surroundings inspire you!  Can you pretend to be a bird?  Or let your imagination run wild!  Is that cow I hear?

  • Play a Game of Tag Run around and chase each other (if it’s safe to do so!).

  • Read a Book  It’s amazing how reading a book outside can totally change the experience!

  • Stretch/Do Yoga  Use nature as your inspiration!  “Can you reach up and stand tall like a tree?”

  • Make a Birds Nest  Gather some sticks and twigs and see if you can make a birds nest.

  • Talk About Colors  Look for specific colors (for example, things that are yellow) or point out what colors you see.

  • Talk About Sounds  Point out the different sounds you hear.

  • Talk About Shapes  Point out any shapes you see.

  • Talk About Letters  Be on the lookout for any letters you see and point them out and talk about what they spell.

  • Talk About Smells  There are so many different scents to be found outdoors! Smell around and talk about them.

  • Talk About Texture  Feel various natural objects around you and use them to teach about the different ways they feel.

17 Themed Walking Adventure’s
with Older Infants

:: Signs of the Seasons: looking for the first signs of a new season

A baby walking in a grassy area

Description automatically generated with low confidence

:: Plant Hunt: looking for a particular plant that is in season such as snowdrops, daffodils, bluebells

:: Bird Watching:focusing in on the birds that you see, trying to identify them, watching their behavior

:: Bug Hunt: take your magnifying glass with you and see what you can spot, on trees, plants, and on the ground

:: Color Walk: see if you can find a leaf in each color of the rainbow

:: Footprints Walk:look for tracks – great in the sand at the beach, or in the snow

:: Sense of Smell Walk

:: Sense of Hearing Walk

:: Sense of Touch Walk

:: Sense of Taste Walk: a wild foraging walk, or visit an orchard or fruit farm

:: Cloud Watching:take a picnic blanket to an open spot in a meadow or at the beach, lie back, and see what you can see in the clouds. Use a weather book to identify the types of clouds you see

:: Bat Walk: head out at dusk in the later summer and see if you can find any bats

:: Star Walk: take a nighttime walk and look up at the sky, see which constellations are visible

:: Moon Walk: head out and take a walk by moonlight. You can time this with a full moon, or take several walks through the month to observe the phases of the moon

:: Rainy Day Walk: go puddle jumping!

:: Dawn Walk: get up early and head out to see the sunrise. This is best for winter months as you won’t have to get up quite so early!

:: Sunset Walk: watch the sun go down. This one is wonderful on the Summer Solstice. We headed up onto cliffs, with the girls in PJs, to read bedtime stories as the sun set over the sea. We even saw a pod of dolphins in the bay, so truly a special midsummer
::Walking in the rain: When the weather is warm and it is raining lightly, go for a walk in the rain with your group. Encourage children to notice the sensations associated to raindrops falling on their skin. We often forget this simple pleasure.

::Collecting Nature's little treasures: If you have the opportunity to take your group for a walk on a pedestrian path, you will be able to let toddlers walk safely. You don't have to go very far. Just a few steps will be enough for little ones to make plenty of discoveries. Provide small buckets or containers (egg cartons work well since they can be opened and closed) and let children collect treasures.

Children and nature:
Are we supporting the connection?

Nature activities for children and ideas for using more natural materials in the child care environment.

Children and nature: Are we supporting the connection?

Children and nature have always been connected. We all are connected to the natural world. The natural world is one of the best environments for children to explore, absorb, and enjoy. As those who care for young children, are we supporting the connection children need to have with nature? Some researchers suggest that children seem to be exposed less and less to the open invitations of nature.

Today’s children are on tight schedules, with child care, school, and extracurricular activities. Even if the children are outdoors, the activity is usually structured, and not one of free adventure and immersion into nature. Often, outdoor experiences are for a short period of time only. As adults working with young children, we need to find ways to support not only our own connection with nature, but the children’s as well.

pine cone bird feeders

Nature’s invitations

When young children are exposed to nature, they see the beauty just as we do; but more importantly, they begin to interact with its offerings. Children automatically become hands-on in nature. Just think to a time you were in nature with children: Did you see children jumping in puddles, climbing on rocks, swinging from trees, and picking things up?

Children begin to wonder in nature. Natural materials such as pine cones, grass, rocks, leaves, rain, spider webs, sticks, frogs, fossils, dirt, seashells, pebbles, and sand provide endless possibilities for play and imagination. These materials don’t come with directions: The children come up with ideas of how to use them. What are they? What can they do? How do they feel? What do they look like? How does it move? How does it grow? What can I do with this?

Nature provokes children into thought, action, and formulating their own ideas. When children are involved in experiences with nature, they are absorbed and completely attentive to what is at hand. This exposure to nature can be simply going for a walk, playing in the yard, or hiking in the woods. There are many advantages to all types of exposure to nature.

How can adults help?

Adults can help children by providing natural environments to explore and adding tools to enhance explorations, such as shovels, magnifying glasses, pencils and paper, cameras, and related resources.

It is important to observe where and what the children are interested in and support those interests by asking open-ended questions. What did you discover? How does it feel?

What does it look like? How does it move? What should we do? Ask questions that will encourage the children to observe and to describe their observations. It is vital that adults share the natural world with children by planning related activities, but it is important for children to have the opportunity to discover nature on their own. When children connect with nature and freely explore its components, they develop their own personal relationship with nature. It is this relationship that will carry meaning into their understanding of nature.

Bring nature inside

Twig mobile

Nature can also be brought back to our homes or classrooms. Some early educators use many components of nature in their indoor environments. Tree stumps are used for sitting or for the block area. Water, sand, and dirt are explored, measured, and poured. Tree branches are suspended from the ceiling and display children’s artwork.

Loose materials, such as pinecones, stones, seashells, leaves, and twigs, are displayed in baskets for children’s imaginations to provide an idea. Nature’s artifacts, such as feathers, a bug’s shell, fossils, or a bird’s nest, are used for exploring.

Bringing nature to the classroom reinforces its beauty, purpose, and gifts. Open the door to the outside and support wonderful connections with nature!

Nature’s gifts

Children need consistent contact with nature and ample time to explore and become familiar. Nature inspires physical challenges: climbing over a rock, walking up a hill, rolling down a hill, swinging from a branch, running freely, or scooping and digging dirt. With the rise of childhood obesity, nature is a positive encourager to physical well-being.


Nature also provides us with a sense of calm and visual images of beauty. Children become observant and use
their senses, such as listening to leaves in the wind, or looking at spiders’ fancily woven webs, or hearing the call of a bird. Even though open spaces in nature invite children for wonderful spurts of running, jumping, and climbing, they also invite children to slow down.

Providing children opportunities to care for nature, such as watering plants, feeding animals, picking up trash, and treating “creatures” gently, supports a sense of respecting nature and developing empathy. It also creates opportunities for children to work together. Experiences such as these help build lifelong skills and give children a connection that may in the future support caring for their environment, as well as each other.

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Children and nature: Are we supporting the connection?


Exploring and Collecting
Hunting for Loose Parts

Loose parts: What does this mean?

Ideas for adding and using loose parts for activities at home or in a child care program and even the classroom.

Loose parts: What does this mean?

Loose parts

is a wonderful term coined by architect Simon Nicholson, who carefully considered landscapes and environments that form connections. Nicholson believed that we are all creative and that “loose parts” in an environment will empower our creativity. Many play experts and early childhood educators adapted the theory of loose parts.

How can I provide loose parts?

Loose parts can be natural or synthetic. It is helpful to think of loose parts as something that will help children inspire imagination and creativity on their own terms and in their own unique way.

Giving meaning to loose parts

Giving meaning to loose parts requires us to think about the possibilities of how a child learns and consider the materials and environments she uses. Loose parts create endless possibilities and invite creativity. For example, if a child picks up a rock and starts to play, most likely that rock can become anything the child wants it to be. Imagination, creativity, curiosity, desire, and need are the motivation of loose parts.

Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, redesigned, lined up, and taken apart and put back together in multiple ways. Loose parts can be used alone or combined with other materials. There is no set of specific directions for materials that are considered loose parts. The child is the direction. 

Loose parts encourage open-ended learning

A term strongly connected to loose parts is open-ended. Open ended materials, environments, and experiences encourage problem solving and are child centered. Children involve themselves in concrete experiences using loose parts, which lead to explorations that occur naturally, as opposed to adult directed. However, adults do play important, intentional roles in preparing, guiding, and documenting open ended learning experiences.

Consider how often children enjoy bringing materials from one area to another and making connections, such as the child who brings pretend food from the dramatic play area into the block area or the child who offers a plate of rocks and grass and shares his recipe for spaghetti; how creative! When children are encouraged to integrate play materials and areas in their own creative ways, they are experiencing open ended learning.

Going outside literally opens up a whole new world of opportunities for playing with loose parts.

My biggest tip would be to take the children to a park, forest, beach, … and let them play.
Once they get into it, they’ll naturally start exploring, collecting, creating and constructing. It’s what they do. Do join in too, it’s surprisingly therapeutic!

Even in your own backyard there is a huge opportunity for exploring loose parts in a way that you can’t do inside. Usually there’s a bit more space outside so children can explore bigger materials and/or explore on a bigger scale.

A scavenger or loose parts hunt is a great way to keep the kids active in the great outdoors. Basically you challenge them to find particular things, either on their own or in teams, and see if they can collect the lot. There are loads of different ideas for scavenger hunts on the internet. Some we've tried have been finding things which:

  •  are a particular colour-  can you find 6 yellow things, or can you find one thing for each colour of the rainbow?  

  • begin with a particular letter- who can find the most things which begin with the letter b?

  • are a particular shape- can you find 4 round things?

  • the same but different- can you find 5 different leaf shapes or different feathers?

If you're doing it as a party activity, you could give them a list of things to find- there are lots of printables online, either in words or pictures, but I'm not generally that organised, it's usually a spur-of-the-moment challenge when they're flagging on a walk or wondering how to occupy themselves in the garden.

Can you find a creature with lots of legs?

Can you find something which rustles?

 We also used to hunt for imaginary things! If we walked through the woods we inevitably searched for Gruffalo tracks, walking cross country often included a bit of a bear hunt- "Uh oh! Mud! Thick, oozy mud!" When the boys dressed up in their Knightly costumes they hunted dragons and other monsters, foam swords in hand.

What can you find at the bottom of a rock pool?

My own favourite place for hunting is at the beach. Beach combing is such a relaxing activity and you never know what you might find. Searching for interesting shaped pieces of driftwood, pebbles with a hole through, particular types of shell or beautiful sea-smoothed bottle glass is my idea of a perfect holiday activity, plus you can use the things you find to create pictures on the sand.

 One of the highlights of summer vacation in the islands was when dad set up an island-wide treasure hunt, with a series of written clues to follow, and all the kids would set off on a mission to find the treasure. I remember one year it was a 50p for each of us in the zip pocket on Grampa's hat!

My boys are a bit little for this kind of hunt just yet, but I hope I can find a safe place for them to enjoy the same kind of challenge when they're older- it gave us such happy memories.

Of course, if the weather continues to be this cold (please, please let it be for not too much longer!) our main source of hunting fun will have to be indoors hide-and-seek or sardines, tho how many more times I can pretend to be surprised to find Richie under our bed I'm not sure!

*When working with loose parts, be sure not to disturb living things."

Examples of loose parts in…

a natural play area:*

water • sand • dirt • sticks • branches • logs • driftwood • grasses • moss • leaves • flowers • pinecones • pine needles • seeds • shells • bark • feathers • boulders • rocks • pebbles • stones

a playground:

balls • hoops • jump ropes • tires • sand • water • dirt • straw • boulders • rocks • stones • pebbles • buckets • cups • containers • digging tools • chalk • scarves • ribbons • fabric

From your indoor environment:

blocks • building materials • manipulatives • measuring • pouring devices (cups, spoons, buckets, funnels) • dramatic play props • play cars, animals, and people • blankets • materials • floor samples • water • sand • sensory materials • recycled materials (paper tubes, papers, ribbons, caps, lids, wood scraps, wire, foam, cardboard) • plastic gutters • small plungers • tools • art materials (buttons, spools, natural and colored popsicle sticks, beads, straws, paints, brushes)

Children choose creative, loose parts over fancy toys

Loose parts

During a holiday gathering, two young children were fortunate enough to receive holiday gifts and toys. The parents noticed that the children spent the most time doing three things: eating, playing with their aunt’s long necklace of large beads, and pouring water from cup to cup and floating carrots in the water. Yes, the toys were played with, but the most time and joy came from the eating, playing with the beads, and experimenting with the water.

It is in this free exploration and creation from the children that adults can see their concrete ways of thinking and doing, or as the famous psychologist Eric Erickson put it, adults can see their “natural genius of childhood and their spirit of place.”

The cleverness and connections to formal learning that unfold from loose parts is amazing and is a motivation to make sure practitioners include loose parts in early childhood environments, whether it is home care, center care, or group home care.

Choking Cautions

Young children can choke on small objects and toy parts. All items used for children under three years of age and any children who put toys in their mouths should be at least 1 1/2 inch in diameter and between 1 inch and 2¼ inches in length. Oval balls and toys should be at least 1¾ inch in diameter. Toys should meet federal small parts standards. Any toys or games labeled as unsuitable for children under three should not be used.

Other items that pose a safety risk and should not be accessible to children under three include, but are not limited to: button batteries, magnets, plastic bags, dollar store plastic toys, styrofoam objects, coins, balloons, latex gloves, and glitter.

Also available in Spanish (PDF).

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Loose parts: What does this mean?

Play dough and Natures Treasures

Play dough and natural materials are the perfect combination! They allow kids to be creative as they experiment with different colours, smells and textures.  It is a simple activity to set up, because all you need is play dough and materials you can collect on a nature hunt in your backyard or nearby park.

Some natural materials you can use with play dough include:

  • bamboo, bark, driftwood, sticks, wood rounds

  • flowers, grass, leaves and moss

  • acorns, conkers, gum nuts, pine cones, seed pods, walnuts

  • pebbles, rocks and stones

  • dirt and sand

  • feathers and shells

You can make your own natural play dough at home and add all kinds of different sensory ingredients, including:

  • cocoa, coffee and tea

  • bulgur wheat, dried beans, lentils, oats, barley, popping corn, rice, split peas

  • poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds

  • bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, lavender, mint, nutmeg, paprika, rosemary

  • eucalyptus/lemon/orange/peppermint/rose essential oils

Some fruits, vegetables and herbs/spices you can use to naturally dye play dough include:

  • pink – beetroot, plums, raspberries, strawberries

  • purple – blueberries, blackberries, red cabbage

  • yellow/orange – carrot, onion skins, paprika, turmeric

  • green – spinach, matcha or spirulina powder

  • brown – bark, cocoa, coffee, fennel

Here are some of our favourite ideas for play dough and nature activities for kids:

Playdough and nature activities your kids will love from Mother Natured

Natural play dough recipes – with nature play ideas from Sun Hats & Wellie Boots

Playdough nature landscapes from Be a Fun Mum

Play Doh play using natural materials from Kidspot

Outdoor play dough invitation to create from Toddler at Play


Build a bird nest from Mama’s Happy Hive

Nature’s stampers: impressions in play dough from Danya Banya

Spring tree play dough invitation from Fantastic Fun and Learning

Garden flower play dough from NurtureStore

Natural playdough from Squiggles & Bubbles

Sand play dough with loose parts from Mama Papa Bubba

Jungle play dough from Picklebums

Naturally coloured & scented playdough with free recipe from A Crafty Living

Wooden Blocks  from
Our Tree Branches

Wooden Blocks

 Wooden blocks are wonderful learning toys for kids.  Wooden blocks can come in all different shapes and sizes and can be very easily homemade.  My 3 year old absolutely loves playing with blocks right now, so we decided to make him some wooden blocks for outdoors. Here is how we made our wooden blocks:

1. Find/Scavenge/Steal (um … never mind the last one) an old cut down tree or old logs or branches.

2. Allow to dry for awhile.  I really don’t know how long is needed.  I quickly realized my husband was delaying the cutting process – so I am not sure how long he held me off for unnecessarily.

3. Cut the branches/tree/logs into 2 or 3 inch pieces.  This can be down with a handsaw (if you have hours and hours – oh right – you have kids too – so …) a chainsaw is much faster.  I am afraid of chainsaws, so my hubby did this step.  I really should get braver – I just think how often I cut myself with a kitchen knife ….

4. Sand the edges (optional).  I intended on doing this, but the edges were really not too rough.  No real risk of splinters or cuts.  We started and I think did 2.

5. Wax (optional).  You can put a natural beeswax on your blocks to seal them, if you are so inclined.

And then let the learning begin!  Within the first day our wooden blocks were:


wooden blocks



Stepping stones

sorted by size

A Bridge

I commented on how the bridge looked a bit like an animal, and my creative Madeline turned it into a frog:
Wooden Blocks