4 Steps to Playing with Nature Collections for Kids
July 8, 2020
You need the kids to get out of the house and the weather is worth it! The kids come right back in and say they have nothing to play. They are bored and tired of all the same old toys. Nature is a great supply cabinet of fun, games, and crafts to get the play started. Sticks, rocks, dirt, sand, flowers, nuts, berries, pine cones, bugs, wood slices, water,… the list could go on and on. 4 Steps to Playing with Nature Collections for Kids can inspire outdoor play for kids. The 4 steps are- Collect, Compare, Count, and Create.
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What is a Nature Collection?
This is anything you kids can collect and gather when they are playing out in nature. In the yard, at the beach, on a hike, in the mountains, in your garden, etc.
First, the kiddos will need to collect the supplies. You can make the collection process as simple or as detailed as you want. Detailed would be a scavenger hunt type collection list. You give the kids a list and tell them, what to collect and how much. Simple would be just a suggested idea of something you know they can easily find.
You can make the collection more exciting by timing the collection with a race against another kid or a timer. A more relaxed collection would just be searching until a check list is done or until no more things (parts of the collection) are uncollected or in site.
This step is fun because the collections can change based on your locations. Your yard will be very different from what your kiddo can collect at the family vacation to the beach! During the summer I love to take my kids on little adventures once a week. They are still little enough to enjoy hiking through the woods with me looking for fun new discoveries.
You can do this step during collecting or after everything has been collected. There are so many ways to compare items in a collection. Here are some ideas to get the kiddos comparing their nature collections.
Size (big-small, long-short)
Shape (sort them by shapes)
Color (sort by color, notice the bright objects and the dark)
Texture (sort by rough or smooth, wet or dry)
This step is pretty self explanatory, but there are many different ways you can count and practice numbers.
Create sets by sorting the different objects collected and count them.
Count how many items you have collected total.
Create a number of sets to add and subtract.
Create the number shape with the match number of an item.
Count how many rocks you can stack, how many leaves you can stab with a stick, how many sticks long is the driveway, the flower, etc.
Get creative with the collections! Make some works of art! You can do these with all the items together or with the sorted groups.
Create a Rock Garden
Layout the Collections in a pattern or picture. (Don’t forget symmetry!)
Create a letter and number shapes with the collections.
Create a race track with sticks, a finish line with flowers, and race some insects or toads!
Listen to the sea in a seashell.
Trace the shapes of the leaves and rocks in your collection on paper, on the sidewalk with chalk.
Storing the Collection
Some collections you may want to keep! You might want to play with them again tomorrow or save some of them to create a craft later. Some little creatures like minnows, frogs, and crayfish are fun to keep for a little while and show off to others. If you are able to keep the things you collect here are my recommendations for saving your collections!
Getting your kiddo their very own camera would be a fun way to save collections that you cannot remove from their place. Many State and Nation Parks have rules about removing any nature. A camera would be a fun way to keep them collecting! Here is an awesome kid-friendly one on Amazon.
Keeping little creatures that have been caught to show off and then release again is more complicated. Here are our favorite ways to catch and keep creature collections.
Small Pieces Storage
Keeping collections of leaves, nuts, and sticks if a lot more simple. I save containers from the kitchen. Jars, cans, and tubs all make great collection storage. You can also get all kids of storage boxes on Amazon or at the Dollar Tree to keep collections.
Recording the Collection
Another way to “store” a nature collection is by sketching, drawing, tracing, and, writing and rubbing. Get a notebook and show your child some of those ways to record their nature collection!
Nature is a “natural” teacher. If you show interest it will help build your child’s interest. Then the possibilities are endless! Even in some of the most urban areas some nature still exists. Trees, dirt patches, rain puddles! It can all be added to a nature collection!
I have many Themed Preschool Busy Boxes with fun flashcards and other ideas. They can add to the nature collection experience. Use the alphabet flashcards to make a matching letter from sticks or rocks. Count and create sets with real flowers instead of the fake ones I suggest in mySpring Themed Busy Box.