Nature’s Classroom: Dirt, Critter and Water Activities for Kids

The summer season is upon us, and this fleeting time of year needs to be filled with adventures and sunny fun. After a crazy year of Distance Learning, Homeschooling, and Shelter in Place orders, its time to get outside and dive into Nature’s Classroom.

Currently, I live in a neighborhood with several families with elementary-aged kids. Watching these kids immerse themselves in outdoor fun (and argue with mom when she says its time to come in) reminds me of my own pre-Internet days growing up.

Dirt, critters, and imagination were my friends and the fresh air and sun were the best vitamins my parents could give me.

The following is a list of creative ideas that showcase the beauty and innovation of using nature’s classroom to continue learning even after school it out.

There’s Something in the Water:

Something is mesmerizing about water, especially with kids. We all know summer fun would not be complete without lots and lots of WATER. Aside from swimming, water can act as a tool of fun, a chance for play, and even an opportunity to learn about science. Here are some “out-of-the-lake” ideas for implementing water in your summer camp fun (all need adult supervision):

  • Fun games like a Bucket Relay Game or Water Balloon Target Practice.
  • Moving Water Boat Races (use tools like garden hoses, meat basters, and scoops to motivate the boats to move).
  • Creative Boat Building Using Materials from Nature: What’s a boat race without a fun vessel, right?
  • Homemade Aquarium (use smaller containers of water, natural aquatic plants, and toy water creatures).
  • Absorption Experiments: Use different materials like sponges, paper, cloth, and wood to create some sensory fun for your campers.
  • Water Nature Hunt: Tap into the wonder that lies at the water’s edge of lakes, ponds, or streams with a good ‘old fashioned scavenger hunt. Pond by Donald Silver is part of the One Small Square series and a great way to show kids what they can find in one small square of a pond. There are also experiments and activities inside. 

Go on a Critter Hunt:

I know not everyone shares my enthusiasm for reptiles, bugs, and amphibians…but they are COOL!

We have a toad that lives by our front step. We named him Jeromy and watching him hunt for bugs and just be a toad is fascinating. Did you know that some of the most interesting creepy crawlies come out at night? Nature’s creepy-crawlies are the perfect opportunity for some learning fun. Arm your kiddoes with some bug spray and a flashlight and go on an after-dark bug hunt. Sides of building and leaves are great places to find unique, multi-legged nightlife. 

IGameMom has 8 simple science activities with bugs for kids of all ages, from preschool to school age. Fun outdoor STEM activities for insect theme. Check it out!

Rocking Hunting:

Rocks are everywhere and yet another piece of nature we take for granted. But have you ever noticed that some rocks increase in beauty once water is applied? Many stones like quartz and agates drastically change in appearance once they were washed, allowing mom and dad to create a fun gem hunting adventure. Arm your young explorer with a squirt bottle and a bucket and send them out a rocking gathering expedition. 

Rocks ad minerals are also an awesome tool for learning. I’ve found that these two books, My Book of Rocks and Minerals: Things to Find, Collect, and Treasure and Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals are  awesome for budding geologists. 

Poop and Tracks:

OK, so I know the thought of eyeballing some critter’s scat is cringe-y…but you can’t deny that animals of all shapes, sizes, and species leave both behind. And as gross as it sounds, it’s still a great way to keep young adventurers about how the animals in our communities live. To make it a little less awkward, check out the MasterPieces Jr Ranger – Poop Tracks Kids Card Game from Jr. Ranger. 

Make a Den:

Many wildlife animals prepare a home for themselves, also called “den.” Dens can be in the ground, in a tree, in a cave or in a pile of fallen branches. Have your nature savvy campers research different types of animal dens, like a bear’s den for example, and create their own backyard version using nature’s own material like branches, leaves, and plant life.

Be Bird Watchers:

This last spring I set up two brand new bird feeders outside my office window and bought higher-quality birdseed from our local Farmer’s Market. The reward was a plethora of gorgeous birds that my 54-year-old self hasn’t recalled ever seeing! This prompted the purchase of a Bird Identification Book and my daughter and I have marveled at the beauties that continue to visit our feeder. 

Bird Identification book for kids

Something like this is also an excellent opportunity to engage your kids in non-device-based learning. Encourage your child to observe the birds, watch how they fly, where they fly to, and even how they interact with each other. Arm your youngster with crayons of color pencils and have them create their own “bird I.D. guide.”

Help our Pollinators:

Believe it or not, you have a bee to thank for every 1-in-3 bites of food you eat.

Honey bees — wild and domestic — perform about 80 percent of all pollination worldwide. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. Grains are primarily pollinated by the wind, but fruits, nuts, and vegetables are pollinated by bees. Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops — which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition — are pollinated by bees. Greenpeace USA has great tips and behind-the-scenes info on all of us can work to save the bees.

Food giant General Mills’ Cascadian Farm division also launched Bee Friendlier in 2014, a program to increase awareness of the decline of bees and what the company can do to help them thrive.

But our cherished bees are facing peril in the form of the disruption of natural habitats. This disruption is in the form of lack of “bee flowers” due to the widespread overuse of pesticides, and numerous bee diseases and parasites have pushed bees to the tipping point. Families can do their part by planting “bee-friendly flowers” like coneflowers, verbena, sedum, climbing petunias, and not treating those flowers with pesticides (insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides). That simple act can help to keep bees healthy and firmly on their own six feet.

In the vibrant ebook from the creators of Jump Into a Book, The ABC’s of Bookjumping: The Best of Jump Into A Book, there is a super easy, super fun activities kids can do to help our pollinators. Check out the ebook on Kindle HERE and look for the section on Making a Bee Watering Hole.

What memories will you create this summer?

Making reading an adventure and not a “task/ chore/requirement” during the summer months is a great way to help them increase the desire to learn and keep them interested as well. Setting aside time as a family and selecting a summer reading list is a great way to not only make the idea of reading more exciting but also to involve kids in voicing their thoughts and options on what it is that they would like to read.

summer reading for reluctant readers

Well…we’ve added a whole new level of “learning is FUN” layer to summer reading with our new kidlit book-inspired activity ebook!

The ABC’s of BookJumping: The Best of Jump Into a Book by Valarie Budayr and Rebecca Flansburg allows frustrated parents of reluctant readers to enjoy hand-picked book reviews and unique companion activities that will reignite your child’s love of reading and encourage screen-free family time.

What if you could “live” inside the pages of the children’s books your family reads? What if you could enjoy the same adventures as the characters? Bookjumping is taking the solitary act of reading a book and transforming it into an event that can be shared with others. It’s the process of pulling books off shelves and stories off pages. It’s making kids’ books come ALIVE by “jumping” inside the pages. Readers of this ebook will enjoy hand-picked book reviews and unique companion activities that will reignite your child’s love of reading and encourage screen-free family time.

“This fun picture-book-based e-book contains over 150 hand-picked book reviews, unique book-inspired activities, and recipes. Just in time for #summer reading!” Amazon reviewer

We purposely made this book an ebook for the “portability factor” and affordable to fit every budget and family need.

Go here for more details on what you can expect from with awesome ebook and learn more about the authors.

Grab your copy of The ABCs of BookJumping: The Best of Jump Into a Book on Kindle HERE.


summer reading for reluctant readers
summer reading for reluctant readers

Happy Reading!

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