Tips for Nature Study with Toddlers and Preschoolers

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We’re sharing our best super simple tips for nature study with toddlers and preschoolers today, with our friend Colleen Kessler.

Don't be intimidated by science! Check out these easy tips for nature study with your toddlers and preschoolers.

One of the things I love best about staying home to teach my little ones is that I get to see the wonder in their eyes as they discover new things.

 Don't be intimidated by science! Check out these easy tips for nature study with your toddlers and preschoolers.

I get to hear about the birdsong they heard in the backyard.

They run to me to share the pretty rock they found near the fire pit.

They each hold one of my hands as we walk toward to the playground on a nice afternoon, chatting about the shapes we find in the clouds.

Preschoolers and toddlers are at the perfect age and development to love nature study.

 Don't be intimidated by science! Check out these easy tips for nature study with your toddlers and preschoolers.

No matter the weather, there is likely something outside they have never seen or understood before. The next time you plan to head outside with your little ones, try one of these ideas to tune them in to the amazing glory of God’s creation:

 Don't be intimidated by science! Check out these easy tips for nature study with your toddlers and preschoolers.

 1. Give them a nature journal and some “tools.” 

Even my littlest — who is only two — loves to take her “notebook” and colored pencils outside. Since she usually uses crayons, she feels so important toting her pouch of pencils like a big girl, along with her special sketch book, to wherever we’re going. When we head out with these simple tools, we wander until we find something that interests the girls, sit down, and sketch. While we watch and work, I talk to them about wings on birds or water droplets in clouds or pollen in flowers, whatever we’re looking at. They get a short lesson on observations or the science behind something, but enjoy the drawing and fellowship.

 2. Take them on a “micro hike.”

 For this easy activity we use a hula hoop, a magnifying glass {for my little ones I just use cheap plastic ones from the party favor section of the party store}, and their journals and pencils. We go to the backyard, a park, a hiking trail, or some other open area that’s safe for me to be with little ones. My girls each choose an area close by and toss their hula hoops, then kneel down with their magnifying glasses and journals, and look for small “stuff.” The girls draw what they see or tell me about it and I write lists for them in their journals.

 Don't be intimidated by science! Check out these easy tips for nature study with your toddlers and preschoolers.

3. Press some flowers.

On a nice spring afternoon we like to find a field of wildflowers and pick a few. Then, we press them between two pages of our nature journals. Sure, there are flower presses available on the market, and they’re not that expensive {I even own a few, but forget to bring them out with us more than I remember}, but all you really need are plain sheets of paper and a few heavy books. After we’ve soaked up the beauty of the field, we head home with our souvenirs safely hidden in the pages of our journals and put them on a shelf, buried beneath a stack of heavy books for a few days. When we check on them, they are pressed flat, and we look at their parts through a magnifying glass and chat about what we see.

 

 Don't be intimidated by science! Check out these easy tips for nature study with your toddlers and preschoolers.

4. Send them out in the yard.

Kids today spend so much time indoors and plugged into video games {even the little ones!} that we just need to get in the habit of getting them out. If we’ve been cooped up for any length of time, I simply send my girls into the backyard with their journals, pencils, magnifying glasses, bug boxes, binoculars, and whatever other tools I can find lying around the house. Sometimes these unplanned an unscripted nature studies end up being the best ones of all. On one such afternoon, my older son {9} found a geode in a rock pile at Grandma’s that had been unearthed when their house was built. This, along with my 4 year old’s subsequent discovery of dolomite, spurred a long interest in geology among the Kessler kids {all ages}, and we are still enjoying our rock-hunting.

The bottom line is that nature study with little ones does not have to be over-planned or very structured. In fact, these guys and gals are perfect to take outside and see what they delight in, then talk about it with them. Teach them to see God every time they look outside, step with bare feet in the grass, or watch a bird gather twigs for its nest.

 Don't be intimidated by science! Check out these easy tips for nature study with your toddlers and preschoolers.

Helping your toddlers and preschoolers see the Heavenly beauty that is the out-of-doors is what nature study is all about.

Colleen Kessler is a former teacher of gifted learners who now stays home to teach her own highly gifted kiddos. She has written more than a dozen books for kids and educators, mostly about science and nature. Her newest book, Free Resources for Elementary Teachers, is a compilation of over 240 pages of resources to help anyone who teaches little ones do it without draining their wallets. Visit her and the kids at Raising Lifelong Learners, follow along on Twitter, or check her out on Facebook.

 

 Don't be intimidated by science! Check out these easy tips for nature study with your toddlers and preschoolers.

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Comments

  1. Oh, I just love, love, LOVE this post! 😉

    Your little ones are just lovely and they look like they had so much fun with their nature journals.

    So very glad you joined in with MMM!

    ~Michelle @ 5MFSN

  2. Thanks for the comments about the girls, Michelle. 🙂 They love being outdoors as much as they can {though not always in cute sweaters and dresses — we were at a friends’ and went on an impromptu nature walk because, well, dresses wash up!}.

  3. CharityHawkins@TheHomeschoolExperiment says:

    Wow, I love this post as well, and the gorgeous pictures really make it wonderful. Isn’t the wonder in their eyes the most precious thing?
    Also, I’ve never been to this blog, and I know you (blog author) are different from this post author, but I love that tagline, “We may not have it all together, but together, we have it all.” I might need to hang that up somewhere! 🙂

  4. Thank you for this simple but inspiring post! I always did a lot of nature study with my older boy, who is now almost 8, but since we also have a 4-year-old, I’ve been totally bereft of ideas for how to make this work for both of them at the same time. They’re very different children with very different needs (the younger one is more introverted and likes to stay close to me, while the older one is wild and needs to be watching lest he run too far off or jump off a cliff or something). This has some great ideas for how to manage both of them at once. I can’t wait to get started.

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