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Right now, it’s all about finding ways to entertain the kiddo (and myself) within the confines of our yard and neighborhood. My most recent solution is to create our own nature explorer kit!
I’ve actually always wanted to make one for myself but never got around to it. I guess being quarantined with a kid was the final push I needed. 😀 These are super easy to make, and you probably already have most of the materials you need around the house!
I highly suggest involving your kids in the kit creation process as it makes them more excited to use it. It’s also great to hear their ideas for what they want to use it for. I know my little guy had a blast customizing his kit and now he feels more attached to it than if I would have just done it myself.
I did end up buying a few items to really round it out on top of everything that I gathered. Because every little explorer needs a magnifying glass, and believe it or not, we actually didn’t own one!
Here’s how to get started on your very own nature explorer kit!
Step 1) Choose your vessel.
I’ve seen these made a couple of different ways. The first option is to use a backpack or canvas tote. This is ideal if you plan on using it while hiking or on the go. It’s important that it’s comfortable enough to take with you!
I personally think the tote (with lots of pockets!) is a bit more practical because all of your items will be super accessible as you explore. Taking off a backpack, unzipping it, and rummaging around for what you need can be a pain when you want different items from your bag frequently. This can be especially frustrating for young kids which is why the tote seems to be the best option unless you are working with older school kids.
I decided to get a little fancy and sew my own canvas tote from scratch. If you have some basic sewing skills and time on your hands, this is a great tutorial for a simple homemade canvas tote. Otherwise, just grab a backpack or tote that you already have in the house! You can always just spruce it up with stickers, pins, and other explorer paraphernalia.
The second option is to make your kit out of shoeboxes, briefcases, old lunch boxes, etc. Any sort of case would work. This option would be more suitable for plopping down in one place and exploring a smaller area like a backyard. Check out this beautiful example of an explorer kit made from a case!
Step 2) Fill up your kit!
Now this is the fun part! There are so many great options when it comes to stocking your nature explorer kit. Here are some of the ideas we had:
- Field guides
- Nature journal
- Nature printables
- Magnifying glass
- Binoculars (for now, we opted to make a diy pair out of toilet paper rolls)
- Multi-tool pocket knife
- Jars for collecting interesting items
- Bug catching kit
- Tray with compartments
Did I miss something obvious in this list? If so, please let me know. I’m always excited to hear other ideas!
Step 3) Head outside.
Once you have all your items gathered up, head on out, and explore with your kids! Use your binoculars to try and spot some birds or other wildlife. The animals have been super active this past week right in our own backyard and we’ve done quite a bit of bird watching.
Another thing we love to do is to meander around and keep an eye out for interesting nature finds. Look for unique rocks, pine cones, interesting bark, plants, berries, or flowers. Stash anything of interest that you find in your jars or collection tray.
But make sure to keep an eye on what exactly your kids are touching and getting into. Look out for poison ivy, mushrooms, snakes, and other issues you know of in your local area.
A few more ideas:
There are so many ways to utilize your nature explorer kit! These are some things that we like to do.
- Use your field guides to identify plants as you walk. Teach your kids to respect plants!
- Draw pictures or write observations down in your nature journal. I like to ask sensory questions like what colors do you see or what sounds do you hear or what textures have you felt.
- Follow the prompts on some of my printable nature activity sheets (get below).
- Collect bugs and discuss their unique purpose in the circle of life.
- Use the magnifying glass to look around in the grass and see what you can find.
- Try to navigate to and from different areas using a compass.
- Sort and categorize your nature finds once you’re finished collecting. Talk about each item with your kids!
- Dissect items with the pocket knife (using appropriate adult supervision).
Let’s not let familiarity with our surroundings create boredom in us or our kids. I know for me, it’s far too easy to overlook the really amazing and interesting things that happen all around us every day. This nature explorer kit activity was a hit for my little guy and I hope you enjoy it too! Now dive into the details and discover things you and your kids have never noticed before!
If you liked this activity, check out my other outdoor learning ideas here.
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