Fall is in the air and kids are heading back to school! Or possibly heading to school for the first time if you have a preschooler like me. I had been in search of some preschool activities even before Covid-19 happened. Homeschooling was always the direction I had been leaning towards, but a worldwide pandemic kinda cemented that for me 😂.
Of course, for quite a few people, homeschooling was an option that hadn’t really been considered previously. Nevertheless, more parents than ever are choosing to continue their children’s education at home and suddenly find themselves responsible for coming up with their own homeschooling ideas.
This can certainly be overwhelming for those who have never found themselves within that realm (and even for those who have). But one huge benefit of educating at home is the freedom to use the outdoors as a teacher!
When considering school options for my own son, I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of him going to a building and being forced to spend much of his time in a highly structured, mostly stationary, indoor classroom every day. This is why I’ve loved discovering preschool activities that utilize nature and promote learning outside!
Nature and forest schooling are concepts that have gained quite a bit of traction in the past several years. And while I won’t necessarily claim to be solely a proponent of these methods, I do like a lot of the concepts. And I obviously believe in the benefits of spending time outdoors. Which is why it’s definitely a goal of mine to incorporate outdoor learning into my son’s home education.
Prep & Set-Up
Before we get started on any of these preschool activities, you’ll want to do some basic prep so you have what you need ahead of time. That way everything will be ready to go for these lessons! The most important bit of prep is to gather your materials ahead of time. Almost every activity on here requires nature objects to work with, so head out and gather some materials together!
Look for rocks, pebbles, pine cones, acorns, twigs, chestnuts, etc. The only exceptions are flowers, leaves, and grasses since they’ll dry out over time and crumble. For any of the preschool activities that require these, you’ll want to gather them right before. Once you have a good stash, keep it stored away and ready to use.
Here are a few other items to keep together with your nature materials that will also come in handy:
- clipboard with paper attached
Whenever possible, try to do the activities outdoors! Have a simple area set up outside with a place to sit and a flat space for some of these projects. We just use a picnic table on our back deck. Nothing fancy required!
Now that you’re all set up, here are some preschool activities to teach 8 concepts to kids using nature!
Language Preschool Activities
1. Letter recognition
Letter recognition is probably the first step for most kids after learning the alphabet. As a result, it’s a huge focus within the realm of preschool activities. For this one, try a letter scavenger hunt outside!
Write out letters on a clothespin and walk around your yard, clipping each letter onto an item that begins with the same letter. I didn’t happen to have any clothespins around, so we used these wood slices. Have your child walk around and find all the letters, identifying each as they find them.
Have them also try to name the item that the letter was found on! It might be a little challenging to find an object outside to match every letter of the alphabet, but see if you can get creative!
2. Letter writing
Practice letter formation with rocks, twigs, leaves, etc. Depending on where they’re at, have them either copy a letter you’ve already written out for them, or have them do it from memory. For this activity, make sure you have some flexible items like vines or grass for the curvy letters.
Smaller items like pebbles would also come in handy, as well as twigs trimmed to different sizes. Bring out the tape or glue to make sure your letters stay in place once you’ve formed them!
3. Letter Sounds
Learning letter sounds is one of the more advanced concepts addressed in preschool activities regarding the alphabet. This activity is basically a continuation of the scavenger hunt listed above. Once your child finds and identifies a letter, have them name the item that the letter was found on and make the sound of that letter.
Math Preschool Activities
Counting is one of the essential preschool activities for basic math skills! Get out your bucket of nature materials and create piles of each item. Count how many of each one you have and create the number with twigs. You may want to plan ahead of time to make sure you have the correct number of materials for them to do numbers 1-10 (or however high you want to go).
Kids are expected to know their shapes heading into kindergarten, so they’re obviously the focus of many preschool activities. Take your nature materials to a flat surface and have your child create shapes with them. Focus on the major ones: Circle, square, triangle, oval, rectangle, heart, diamond, and octagon.
This is one of the preschool activities that can double as a fun art project! Explain the concept of patterns to you child: something that repeats or is the same over and over again. Then demonstrate by getting the pattern started for them.
Begin with a simple every other repetition of just two items and see if they can continue the sequence on their own. Then work your way up to more items and more complex repetitions. If they really seem to get it, have them create some of their own!
This is one of the more enjoyable preschool activities for little ones who are artistically inclined. Regardless, it’s a also a great way to learn about symmetry, and leaves or flowers are the perfect tool to use for this concept!
Head outside together and gather some leaves and flowers of different shapes and sizes. Try to avoid the ones with tons of lobes and points that may be a little too tricky to draw freehand. We don’t want to discourage the little lads and lassies!
Fold or cut your leaves and flowers in half, then tape them to a piece of paper. Explain the concept of symmetry, then have them try to draw the missing side of the flower or leaf. If you can find some examples of items that are not symmetrical, include those as well!
Admittedly, this one doesn’t quite fall under the category of preschool activities. Addition and subtraction are usually tackled a little bit later, but I still thought I’d include it here! This is a great concept to move outdoors as most kids will grasp the idea much better if they can visualize it.
Gather your nature materials and find a place to sit with a flat surface. Demonstrate some basic addition and subtraction problems, allowing them to count it out to get the answer.
And those are our ideas for nature based preschool activities!
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