Spending the day at the park? Make the most of your visit with these nature activities for young children.
Make a fairy house. Nurture imagination with this tradition from Great Britain. Gather sticks, leaves and flowers to shape into a miniature house for fairies to use. (Remember that fairies are shy and won’t visit the house until you’ve left.)
Fly a kite. The sight of the wind lifting a kite into the sky can be magical for all ages. Bring a store-bought kite or make your own newspaper kite ahead of time. Older kids can fly the kite themselves with guidance, while younger kids will love watching you try to get the kite into the sky. Make sure to let them help hold the string once the kite flies.
Play nature detectives. Take a magnifying glass or pocket microscope to examine the plants, insects, stones and more. Very young children can get a hands-on lesson in colors, shapes, sizes, and vocabulary. Preschoolers and older children can help look up that pretty butterfly or fantastic flower in a field guide.
Draw with sidewalk chalk. Most state and local parks contain at least a few sidewalks and similar surfaces perfect for sidewalk chalk art. Bring a selection of colors and let your child express his or her artistic vision. Sidewalk chalk is also great for simple games, such as hopscotch. Or, if you prefer, draw a target square with several areas marked with different numbers. Take turns tossing a small rock into the square to see who can earn the most points. For more ideas, check out this list of 32 chalk and pavement games.
Gather materials for a collage. Take a bag with you to collect small leaves, pine cones, acorns, flowers and twigs to make a nature collage. At home, help your child to glue the objects onto construction paper or cardstock to create a picture or an abstract art piece.
Play photo hunter. If you have a child-friendly camera, help your child to take photos of the wildlife and other natural elements that catch your eyes. If your child is too young to safely work a camera, ask him or her to tell you what they’d like to photograph. At home, review the photos together and create an online album or choose favorites to print.