In what has been repeatedly named as an “unprecedented” time, you may be finding yourself with your family at home a lot more! Perhaps you’ve gone through every puzzle in the house, read every book, and used up every paint jar together. Or maybe you have just been trying to survive the messy transition to online education and homeschooling. Regardless, A Rocha’s Environmental Education team is delighted to share some family-friendly, nature-based activities that you can add to your repertoire. Some can be done in the comfort of your living room while others challenge you to explore the outdoors. Let us know which activity your family enjoyed most!
1. ANIMAL CHARADES
Aim: to think about how living things move and sound
Ages: Grades 1-7
Space: anywhere dry
Materials: charade cards of animal pictures
Activity: Get the kids to select some animals that they are interested in. Ask them to find pictures from magazines or the Internet, and cut them out or print them out. Get the kids to silently act out charades that include the animal, in which environment it is, and what it’s doing. (e.g. a snake slithering through grass)
2. FEEL A ROCK
Aim: to observe with senses other than sight
Ages: all ages
Space: anywhere dry
Materials: rocks of different shapes and sizes, enough for each participant (or cones or leaves or any objects from nature)
Activity: Ask everyone to sit or stand with in a circle, with eyes closed and hands behind their backs. Hand each person a rock (variation: use a cone or any other object such as a shell from nature). Allow them a couple of minutes to get to know their rock/object only by feeling it. Then collect the rocks back. Give each player a rock (that’s hopefully not their original one). Players pass the rock around the circle behind their backs. When they feel their rock they keep it, but they continue to pass the other rocks around the circle until everyone thinks they have found their rock. OR when they find their rock, they step back out of the circle. Can everyone find the correct rock?
Aim: to observe closely the characteristics of an object, engaging the imagination
Ages: any age
Space: any space large enough for the group to sit
Materials: any natural object at hand (cone, clover, leaf, etc.)
Activity: Pass the object around the circle. Ask each person to re-name it as what it reminds them of: e.g.- a clover leaf might look like an umbrella, a mushroom, a mouse nose and ears, a tree, etc. Keep going until you run out of ideas! A second time around the circle with the same object is very challenging or try another object! Get creative!
4. MINI HABITATS
Aim: to observe and identify components of a habitat
Ages: any age
Space: area with mixed ‘life’
Materials: strings tied into a circle, pencil & paper, optional: magnifier
Activity: Place the circle string on the ground anywhere you like (choose an interesting area), and observe what is encircled from bird’s eye view. Observe and identify if possible, all the kinds of life in the habitat (plant, insect, animal—in the ground, on the ground, above the ground) Or just draw whatever you see! If time allows, explore several different habitats and compare the kinds of life found in them.
5. SENSORY MAP
Aim: to observe surroundings using all senses
Ages: Grade 4-9
Space: outdoors in a ‘wild’ place
Materials: clipboard, paper and pencils
Activity: Find a spot in a nearby forest and give everyone a clipboard with paper and pencil. Ask them to spread out from each other but not out of your range. Instruct them to mark an X on the paper to represent where they are. Participants then make up pictures, symbols, and words for all the things they sense around them – whether by sound, sight, smell, or touch. Come back together and discuss their ‘maps’. Did it cause them to be better observers?
6. I SPY
Aim: observe life in your neighbourhood
Space: where you can see out the window
Activity: Look out the window. Notice something living (could be a bug, plant, animal, bird—look carefully!) Say “I spy with my little eye something that is……(name a characteristic: could categorize by colour, type, body shape/size….or whatever you can come up with). See who can guess correctly
—they get the next turn. You might be surprised by how many things you can spot right in your own area!
7. COLOUR/SOUND/LETTER/SMELL/TOUCH WALK
Aim: use your senses to notice your surroundings
Activity: Go for a sound walk (listening for all the different sounds you can hear)
OR a colour walk, noting all the different shades and colours you can find
OR notice as many things as you can, going through the letters of the alphabet
OR….whatever you like!