Raising a nature lover who is curious about the world around them and is intrinsically motivated to care for other living things in the environment is crucial. Research shows that children who spend more time playing outside are happier, less anxious and more confident. They do better at school and have a higher IQ - thus helping them develop empathy for their peers. Children learn by doing and mimicking what they see. It is thus important for us to lead by example, and provide children with ample opportunities to grow their love for nature.
12 ways that can help your little one appreciate the wonders of nature and spark their curiosity
1. Nature Trail Color Sorting
Use an old egg tray and paint some common colors from your garden. Now ask your toddler to find objects corresponding to each color in the box.
2. Nature painting
You can use the items your child collected from the nature walk to set up an art station. Sticks and small leaves make great tools to paint with, while pebbles and large leaves can be painted on! Leaves with different textures, feathers and pine cones can be used as stamps - simple dip in a bowl of paint and stamp on paper.
3. Nature Sorting
While on a nature walk collect fallen leaves. Once home, sort them by size. Discuss the different shapes, color and length.
Spend as much time as possible outdoors. Picnics are a great way to bring the family together, spend time outside and enjoy a screen free activity together. Simply lay out a blanket in your backyard or a nearby park and bring your toddlers favorite foods for them to enjoy. You can also bring simple items like a ball or kite or a bike to keep them engaged.
5. Growing plants
Moong, wheat and mustard seeds are easy to grow and start sprouting quickly. In a small pot, with some wet cotton add moon or mustard seeds or in a pot of dirt add wheat seeds. Place it on a window sill that receives adequate sunlight and water it daily with your toddler. You can use the child sized watering can available in the level 8 playkit or the pitchers from the level 9 playkit. Within a day or two you will notice a little sprout. Use this as an opportunity to develop language as you introduce vocabulary words like root, shoot, leaf, stem etc. Celebrate the growth of the plant and visit it often to build excitement.
All children love songs. Here is a list of songs you can sing with your toddler
7. Photo book
Whether you cut pictures from a magazine or use pictures from your time at the park or time you spent outdoors when on vacation, add them to a book and place it on your child’s bookshelf. Having a photobook with pictures of your child and close family members makes the book more intriguing. This is a great way to build connections, work on memory and develop language as your child talks about what they see and relive the memories created. Even if your child isn’t speaking yet, they are absorbing everything.
8. Bird Feeder
A bird feeder is a great hands-on activity for your child. It doesn’t need to be something too complex - take a cardboard carton and get your toddler to paint it and glue some colorful images or even use stickers to make it attractive. Cut out a hole and add some grains inside. Poke a small hole and pierce a stick through the hole. Set it outside your window and patiently wait for the birds to come.
9. Nature Walk
Take your child for a walk outside and collect natural materials like sticks, leaves and flowers fallen on the ground. Use a basket for your child to gather all these materials. Talk to your child about what they have collected once you get home to build vocabulary. You can also point out and name the colors. Your child will enjoy feeling the different textures while taking it out of the basket and putting it back in.
10. Frozen flowers
If you have fresh flowers in your house that are starting to wither or if you find some flowers fallen on the ground, add them to an ice cube tray or small metal bowls, fill it with water and freeze. Once frozen, take them out of the tray and add them to a large bowl for your child to explore. You can give your child some warm water in a pitcher from the level 9 montessori box to speed up the melting process. This doubles up as a science activity as your child observes the changing states of matter. You can also give a hammer from level 7 montessori box and make it a rescuing game. This is a great actif your child is going through a throwing or hitting schema.
11. Nature soup
Add elements of nature in small bowls - different leaves, dirt, pebbles, flowers. In the pitcher from the level 9 playkit, add water. Set it all on a tray along with a large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon or ladle. Your toddler will enjoy putting the ‘ingredients’ together to make some nature soup.
12. Tree bark rubbings
Place a sheet of white paper on the bark of a tree about 2 feet above the ground. Invite your child to color the paper with oil pastels to create beautiful prints and designs. You can then fold the paper to turn it into a card for your child to give to a friend or family member.