Getting outdoors to explore nature is a vital part of early years education, and childhood as a whole. A well-planned learning environment, indoors and outside, is an important aspect of pedagogy. It can be as simple as grabbing your wellies and going on a bug hunt. Renowned educator Charlotte Mason shares that you should ‘never be indoors when you could rightly be out’. And we love outdoor play at Cosy!

5 simple activities to get children outside and exploring nature:

1. Explore nature on a Nature Trail

Find a spot that is local to you with plenty of natural interest. It could be a stream, a pond, the local woods, or even your garden. What can the children find? Leaves, pinecones, bugs, birds, flowers. Can they find new shoots in the spring? Encourage children to notice what they see. Lift logs to find minibeasts (but remember to put them back!) Can the children talk about the seasons and what happens to the leaves and trees? You might like to take a clipboard, a magnifying glass some paper and a pencil with you and jot down what you find. It’s also a good idea to encourage the children to take photos and look back at them when you return to the setting.

2. Collect natural loose parts for mandalas, small world play and counting activities

Nothing quite beats a pine cone or an acorn when it comes to natural hygge counting or loose parts play. Grab a basket and see what you can collect. A great benefit of this is that your play space will be ever changing as nature offers different seasonal goodies.

Your little ones might collect leaves, pine cones, conkers, flower petals, and stones. Take them back to the setting or home and think of the ways you can incorporate them into your play. Perhaps they could become part of your small world set up, or you could create an acorn mandala! The possibilities are endless!

3. Make stick people, nature wands or nature brushes

Make nature wands or a nature brush to paint or mark make with. Use a potato peeler to whittle the stick, removing the bark to discover what is underneath. Use string, leaves and feathers to attach to your sticks.

Autumn activity ideas - leaf kebab

Create a beautiful leaf kebab by skewering leaves onto a stick. Why not create a whole family of stick people?! You might like to support this play with books like ‘Stick Man’ by Julia Donaldson or Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.

4. Foraging for Blackberries, Strawberries and Raspberries

Check out those hedgerows next time you are passing. What sweet treats can you find? Often local farms will have fruit picking fields for children to pick their own. You could make blackberry crumble, strawberry kebab sticks, raspberry smoothies, or even create your own nature paint with any left over mushed up fruit.

5. Sensory discovery - Nature sounds

What can you hear? Quite often we are so busy that we forget to stop and simply listen. If it is dry, children can lay down and look up at the sky, trees and simply listen for 30 seconds. Ask children 'What can you hear?' Birds tweeting, leaves rustling, wind, people talking, an aeroplane flying above. Ask other questions such as 'What can you see?' and 'What can you smell?' This is great for encouraging communication and language development.

6. Campfire

The excitement of a campfire is sure to engage many children. Toast marshmallows and enjoy singing songs or telling your favourite stories in the woods.

7. Pop up Mini Mud Kitchen

Create a pop up mud kitchen with a wooden crate, a muffin tin, a saucepan, wooden spoons and sticks for stirring and a small bottle of water. Simply add mud and some loose parts from your natural collection.

8. Clay creatures

Take a bag of clay on your adventures. Give children a small ball each to create their own forest bug or creature. Add in loose parts for facial features or body parts. See if you can make the Gruffalo!

outdoor play activities - exploring nature

We hope that you have got lots of ideas to take away from our simple activities to get children outside to explore nature.

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With thanks to The Cosy Creatives for this blog post.

Outdoor play activity gallery: