10 of the Best Hands-on Nature Activities for Kids
Getting outside is a great way to learn more about the environment. From hunting bugs to making seashell magnets, these awesome hands-on activities are a great way for your child to get a little closer to nature.
Kids learn best when they have the freedom to explore, create, manipulate, and get down and dirty. These ideas are simple, fun, require minimal prep, and your kiddos will have a blast exploring the world around them. You can easily add these outdoor activities to homeschool lesson plans or just get outside with your kids in a more structured way. Immerse yourself and your kids in nature, or bring materials in and continue exploring from the comfort of your home with these fun nature activities.
1. Bug Hunting
They fly, they buzz — they can even light up! It's no wonder most kids think bugs are cool. This outdoor learning activity requires zero prep and can have a big payoff when your little one finds interesting insects. Take some time to observe the bugs in your backyard with your child, and get up close and personal with a magnifying glass. Talk to your child about what colors they are, how they protect themselves (do they sting?), and how they work together to build a home (an anthill is a great example of an insect colony.)
Learn how to start Bug Hunting.
2. Create Rock Art
Nature crafts are fun to display both indoors and outdoors, and rock art is one of the easiest. Take your kids on a rock-hunting adventure and gather rocks of all different shapes, sizes, and colors. When you get home, pull out the paints and paintbrushes and let your kids go to town decorating them. Encourage them to be creative by painting funny faces or animals on them. When they are dry, store them in a box for safekeeping, lay in the garden for a pop of color, or distribute them around a local park for other walkers to enjoy. It’s hard not to have a smile on your face when you stumble upon a beautifully painted rock while taking a stroll around the park.
3. Summer Memento Wreath
If your child loves to collect mementos from your trips to the beach, playground, or other summer destinations, save them and turn them into a wreath to display in your home (or, ahem, perhaps in your child's bedroom). Heavy cardboard makes a sturdy base for gluing heavier objects (like seashells) and will allow you to easily hang your masterpiece for all to see. Help kids with the glue gun, but allow them freedom of placement so that they feel ownership over their wreath. Every time they look at their creation they will be reminded of all the fun they had outside in nature over the summer.
Get the instructions for making a Summer Memento Wreath.
4. Pressed Flower Placemats
Keep summer alive all year by pressing your favorite flowers and turning them into placemats! Your child will get a kick out of seeing her favorite colorful blooms on the dinner table all year long. This is a great opportunity for a nature lesson all about different flowers, the various parts of a flower, and the life cycle of a flower. You could create a nature journal that your kids can take notes, drawings, sketches, and include some pressed flower petals to document their observations.
Get the instructions to make Pressed Flower Placemats.
5. Make a Nature Bracelet
All you need for this simple craft is tape! Wrap a piece of masking tape around your child's wrist sticky side up, and head out for a nature walk. As you explore, have your child find different items to attach to the tape to make a bracelet. Different flowers, leaves, and even grass all make great additions! Your little ones will love collecting natural items in a meaningful way and creating their very own bracelet. You will also appreciate that you’re not having to fill your pockets with little trinkets that get crushed or crumpled while out exploring.
Get the instructions to make Nature Bracelets.
6. Nature Scavenger Hunt
Work with your child to create a list of natural objects you can find outside (such as a bird feather, wildflowers, pinecones, and a green leaf). Make your list into a super easy printable, add pictures for little ones, attach it to a brown paper bag and get outside. You can even turn it into a game for multiple children — the first one to find all of the natural materials on your list wins! This is a fun way to get some fresh air and help young children focus on the natural world and surroundings. Once you have gathered materials you can bring the bag home for some sensory play. Make pine cone prints in playdough, add leaves and feathers to contact paper for a natural suncatcher, count acorns for a math activity, or create a collage for an easy art project. The options are endless, which makes a nature scavenger hunt just the beginning of a series of learning activities.
Plan your own Nature Scavenger Hunt.
7. Build a Terrarium
A terrarium is a completely self-supporting ecosystem. Build your own and watch it come to life! You'll need a glass container, some plants, and a few easy-to-find supplies from your local hardware store to get started. Your kids will love watching their terrarium thrive throughout the summer. This is a great way to bring outside learning in, and observe life cycles, ecosystems, and observe how the environment supports itself.
Get the instructions for making a DIY Terrarium.
8. Make a Bird Feeder
If you want to get a close look at the birds in your yard, a DIY tree feeder will help attract them. Simply string popcorn, berries, raisins, fruit, and anything else you think birds might like to eat on a sturdy piece of string. Loop your string around a tree in your yard (evergreens work well since the needles will easily hold the string in place), and watch as birds flock to your homemade feeding station! This is an especially great activity for the winter when birds are having to work harder to scavenge for food. It’s great for all age groups, so don’t be ashamed if you’re the one at the window watching the birds come and eat!
Get the directions to make a Homemade Bird Feeder.
9. Nature Colors
Take a walk with your child and gather a variety of colorful items that can be found in nature (such as flowers, plants, leaves, weeds, etc.) The more colors you can find, the better!
When you return home, spread out your findings and have your child draw a picture of each item on a piece of paper using crayons that match the color of each. This simple activity is a great way for your child to learn his colors, and to see how colorful nature can be!
If you’re really looking for a challenge, see if you can set out and find all the colors of the rainbow. Decorate the driveway with a sidewalk chalk rainbow, and add all the materials you discovered to the corresponding colors.
Get the directions for planning a Nature Colors craft.
10. Magnetic Seashells
Turn your seashells into magnets to hang on your fridge! Have your child decorate her seashell however she wants — she can paint it, adorn it with silk or dried flowers, or even roll it in glitter! Afterward, attach a magnetic strip to the back with a glue gun, and use your new magnets to display your favorite family pictures from the summer.
Get the instructions to make Magnetic Seashells.
For even more fun ideas on the best outdoor activities for kids, check out our Tree Planting Activity Guide.