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The great outdoors provides numerous natural learning opportunities, healthy activities and endless fun for children.

Being outside and exploring the surroundings teaches us about so many things. It gives children natural learning experiences and helps them develop a healthy respect and love for nature. Here are some ways for your children to explore and learn from nature’s offerings.

Clay modelling (aka mud pies)

Look for a good spot to dig up some thick sand. If you have dense, clay-type soil, even better. Add some water and let children mould their own inventions.

Dam building

If you have a stream near to your home, help the children to build a dam across it, using stones or sticks. Their foray into engineering will teach them how water works and why dam walls need to be sturdy.

Fairy houses

Let children find twigs, sticks, long grass, leaves and other natural building materials, then get them to build fairy houses.

Ice suncatchers

Ask children to pick a few bright flowers and colourful leaves. In a small container (an ice-cream box will do), place the items and cover them with water. Add a piece of string, so that one end is in the water and the other is not, and then freeze. Once it is frozen, remove from the container and hang the suncatcher where it will catch the light, preferably in the garden as it will melt.

Leaf boats

Get children to gather a pile of leaves. Select the largest ones – large leaves will float when placed gently on the water. Working carefully, children can construct mini leaf boats. First,  poke a small twig through each end of a leaf to create a sail on one end. Then, stick the other end through the leaf that will be the boat and make sure it is holding steady. Then it’s time to set sail.

Leaf rubs

Hand out paper and crayons, then send children out to learn about patterns. They can get rubbings from different shaped leaves, flowers and bark.

Nature colour chart

Ask children to collect as many colours as they can from the garden. If they have enough, they can make a mosaic rainbow by sticking leaves, flowers and other colourful finds onto a piece of paper.

Plaster of Paris moulds

Send children in search of animal footprints in the sand. Carefully shape out a small circle around the print, then pour in some plaster of Paris and wait for it to dry. Once dry, lift out and dust off. Children can also make moulds with dried leaves and pressed flowers.

Water wall

Find a bare wall in the garden. Let children tape up sections of pipe and run water through them to learn how water flows and how gravity works.

Wind chimes

Teach children about the wind and sound by asking them to collect wooden sticks or bamboo in various sizes. Tie them with a long piece of string around a tree branch, remembering that the chimes need to be able to touch one another, but shouldn’t be touching the ground.

Mother Nature offers so many learning opportunities and deserves our respect and help. We can thank her by upcycling rather than sending waste to our landfills.

Tamlyn Vincent

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