It doesn’t matter how old your kids are nature study is something that you can easily introduce your kids to whether they are home educated or in school. Weekend walks, garden activities and seasonal activities means that you and your young kids can understand more about the world around them and older children and teens can benefit from connecting abstract ideas in science and geography to real life situations.
We’ve put together our favourite nature study activities as well as some resources, books and more so that you can explore the nature around you with your kids.
Benefits of Nature Study with Kids
Although we are passionate about playing outside whenever the weather is great (and even if it’s not with the right gear) adding in nature study activities connects even more deeply with the natural world and helps your children to understand even more.
It is a great way for children to disconnect from the screens especially as much of their schooling is now online or involving screens of some sort as well as games, TV and the social networks that older tweens and teens may be members of.
Exploring nature, seeing the seasons change and learning about plants and animals that are both local and the wider world benefits in more ways than one. It brings them in contact with traditional beliefs, customs and inspires them further. Foraging for blackberries and learning that after Michaelmas the blackberries are ruined by the devil an old wives tale but probably true as the frosts at the end of September would have ruined the fruit.
From your point of view as a parent, the awe on your children’s faces seeing deer in the wild for the first time or hearing a cuckoo as spring arrives on your walk is amazing.
But, if you are new to nature activities where do you start?
Getting Started with Nature Study
So your ready to get started with your kids but where you do start? Is it going to cost you a lot of money in equipment? How about knowing what you are looking at etc…
It’s really not going to cost you a lot and you don’t need a lot of equipment. To get started why not put together your own Nature study kit, this can be taken out on a walk with you or let your children use at the local park, nature reserve, or even your own backyard.
Once you are heading out for nature walks you will probably find that you have lots of nature finds in your pockets and bag. We have always had a little nature display at home and when I taught had a nature table in my classroom. The space doesn’t have to big but it’s a great way to show your kids that you are interested in their finds and discoveries and gives you opportunities to explore those items further. Read about setting up a nature table and some of the books that we keep to add throughout the year.
Throughout the year it’s great to observe what happens with the sky. Whether this is seeing the moon during the day and or laying out at night under a clear sky and seeing how many stars you can spot and some of the constellations. Check out our recommendation for an easy telescope for younger kids that actually works as well as exploring the phases of the moon with our FREE printable moon calendar and cards.
Check out these 50 simple outdoors activities for a nature filled childhood.
Nature Activities for Spring
As the world awakes after winter it’s seems the perfect time to indulge in even more nature activities than normal check out some of our favourites below.
As soon as the weather starts to warm up head to the local pond and look out for frog and toad eggs or spawn as it’s called. If you are lucky enough to find some then why not follow our guide on raising tadpoles and collect some to teach your children about the life cycle of the frog.
Why not watch our video for a glimpse at the amazing sights you will see raising your own frogs with kids
It’s also time to start growing things whether you have a garden or windowsill there are plants, flowers, and even vegetables that you can grow. Our bean in a jar is a great way for kids to see what happens below the soil as a seed begins to grow.
Of course, if you’ve got space get out and plant things whether it’s food or flowers touching the soil and the joy of having grown things is such a thrill for kids and adults alike. Start off by looking through our list of easy and quick plants to grow with kids and then choose some seeds and use an egg carton seed tray to get them started.
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If you are lucky enough to have a nest box then it’s also the time to watch out and see the busy birds as they build a nest and raise their young.
With any spring storms if you live near a lake or beach it’s worth heading there and exploring the strand line (debris left at the highest tide mark) and see what you can discover, from crabs and starfish to algae and more you and your kids will be amazed at what you can find.
Summer Nature Activities with Kids
Head to the shore and explore the pools left in rocks by the tide to see what wonderful creatures you can find. Never done it before, don’t worry it’s so much fun and as you can see you can even take toddlers to do it just follow our rock pooling guide, want to see how much your kids can find then we have a rock pool scavenger hunt that is perfect for some summer fun.
Nothing says summer more than heading to the seaside and going crabbing. We love this and it’s one of the kids’ favourite activities to do. We release them back to the water at the end but bringing them up over the side of the jetty and into our net is great fun.
Crabbing keeps you out of the water but if you fancy getting wet then nothing beats shrimp netting. It’s fun and you’ll be amazed at what you can discover below the waves. As a child this was one of my favourite things to do at the beach and the prawns and shrimps we found if they were large enough would be brought back to the campsite and cooked on the barbecue for dinner.
As summer starts to end then head to the countryside with your container and pick some fresh blackberries once you have some get baking and make some delicious blackberry sponge cakes they are ideal to cook with young children or your school kids can cook independently.
Autumn Nature Activities for Kids
As the weather gets colder it’s time to come closer to home and spend time preparing for your nature study next spring. We love planting spring bulbs early in autumn around the garden so that we can see the seasons change from our windows as well as when we head outside.
Head out on a nature walk and hunt for leaves, can you identify them? Don’t forget to collect some as they can be used to make some of these wonderful leaf crafts or even try this symmetry art project with your kids.
Before it gets too cold why not make a log pile house in the garden so that any animals that hibernate or need a little more protection from the cold have a home to go to. If you are lucky you may find hedgehogs, toads and more appear from it next spring.
Autumn is also a great time to try out your woodworking skills and create a nest box with the kids. They’ll love observing the birds coming and going next year and if you are lucky you may even find one that uses it for protection throughout the winter months too.
Autumn is also the time to make sure you have food out for the birds, check out our recipes for bird food so that they have enough to survive the winter. Don’t forget to put out some water as well.
Autumn and winter are the perfect time of the year to hunt for fungus, I promise once you start you will be noticing them everywhere. Why not go on a fungus hunt and then graph and record where you have found them ideal for discovering the ideal conditions that fungus need to grow where you live.
Nature Study Activities for Winter
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean your nature study needs to stop. Whether it’s snow or mud it’s a great time to take a walk in the wild and spot some animal tracks. The deer print above was found on a snowy walk but we’ve also spotted them in the fields in the mud.
If it’s cold the birds will need a little extra energy and our homemade fat balls are perfect, they are so easy to make and involve no heating of fats so ideal for even young kids to do (although they will need help as some elbow grease is needed).
Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, teacher, mum, and home educator from the UK. She loves getting creative, whether it is with simple and easy crafts and ideas, activities to make learning fun, or delicious recipes that you and your kids can cook together you'll find them all shared here on Rainy Day Mum.