As families continue to stay at home in a nationwide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, many kids are eager to get out of the house. And now that spring has arrived, going outside is even more inviting. Fortunately, there are several activities kids can do outside while still practicing social distancing. And as a bonus, these outdoor learning activities are educational as well, which is especially important for those kids whose schools are no longer conducting classes.
In the spring, birds, bugs, and other creatures are waking up or migrating to their breeding grounds, and trees and flowers are budding and blooming. It’s a perfect opportunity to get kids outdoors for some fun, hands-on learning while still staying close to home and away from crowds.
Here are five outdoor learning activities kids can do during the quarantine:
Plant a Garden
Gardening is an activity that’s easily adaptable for kids. It’s rewarding, fun, and a little bit messy—what kid doesn’t love digging into some dirt? It’s also a great opportunity to talk about concepts like photosynthesis and plant life cycles. And it helps kids see and learn where their food comes from. Plus, kids may be more inclined to eat their veggies if they help grow them!
If you don’t have a lot of space, try a container garden or a few herbs on the kitchen windowsill. Kids can still enjoy helping to care for their plants and watching their seedlings grow. For more ideas, visit EarthEasy for the top 10 crops to grow with children, and learn how to create an edible garden with your kids.
Animals are starting to get active again, so why not spend a bit of time observing and learning more about them? Make a bird feeder and place it near a window for a fun (and quiet!) indoor activity this spring. Kids can even help out our avian friends (and attract more of them to your yard) by putting out nest building materials. Twigs, bits of string, yarn or thread, pet hair, and cotton are all put to good use by birds. Leave materials outside or hang them from a tree and watch as birds take them to incorporate into their nests.
Find a book in K12’s Big Universe online library or research online about birds in your area to help you and your kids identify the most common backyard visitors. Online identification tools or an app like iBird are a good option too.
Spring is also a great time to learn about butterflies. This is also a great opportunity to talk with kids about metamorphosis and the transformation caterpillars undergo to become butterflies.
For kids who prefer creepy and crawly to pretty and fluttery, try the Picture Insect App, which can help you identify the most common North American bugs.
Go on a Digital Scavenger Hunt
A digital scavenger hunt is a great way to turn a neighborhood walk into an adventure! And this scavenger hunt only involves nature, so it’s safe for social distancing! As you explore outside, have your child snap photos of the signs of spring you see. Go Explore Nature has a nice list of 30 things to look for, such as tree blossoms, caterpillars, and frogs. Or you can write your own list of common sites in your neighborhood and have the kids cross off each as they find them.
Start a Nature Journal
Harness children’s natural curiosity with an activity that will hone their investigative skills and give them an appreciation for our natural surroundings. Kids can draw, describe, paint, or photograph objects they see in nature, and even include pressed flowers, leaf rubbings, or nature-inspired poetry. If they’re interested, you can do a bit of research together on the animals or plants you saw, but keep it low-pressure. This activity is primarily a fun observation and artistic exercise, and not so much about memorizing facts. Nature journaling will also teach writing and observational skills.
Fly a Kite
Spring is typically a breezy season, so it’s the perfect time for kite-flying! In fact, April is National Kite Month. Spend a little time learning about wind together, then make one of these super simple paper kites, and head outside to see it in action. Just be sure to avoid crowded areas.
Did you think of any great spring outdoor learning activities that we didn’t mention? Please share it by posting a comment below.