It’s Spring time finally! This is a magical time for children. Birds and animals come out of hiding. Insects reappear, some that create their own science experience when they turn into beautiful butterflies. Jump inside the mind of a child to make the most of this season.
I once was outside with a toddler when she said, “What’s that?” I listened for a moment and said, “A truck driving by.” That wasn’t what she heard so she asked again, “What’s that?” I listened more carefully this time, “A tool called a chainsaw, next door.” Nope, I still wasn’t catching on. Finally I took myself out of the everyday adult world, listened and thought very hard. Oh, she was hearing a tiny little cricket! Imagine the excitement when we found it and she confirmed that is what she heard. Kids are so new to this world that they still see and hear the beauty in a cricket chirping or a bird singing, while adults sometimes pass by the simple beauties of nature. I have a few of my favorite spring activities to get your kids enjoying the weather and exploring the world!
How many ways can you use spring as a learning experience?
- What is this thing called mud? Prepare to get messy! A great book to introduce mud is: MUD, by Mary Lyn Ray. After reading it, can you make it? What do you need… water, dirt, a big bucket, and large drop cloth. When the ground begins to thaw, go outside and jump in it, feel it between your fingers, and make mud castles. (Make sure to ask parents what clothes they don’t mind getting dirty)
- Encourage gross motor development as they walk all around the park collecting items in their bucket during a scavenger hunt. Provide index cards with a picture and the written word so they can see the spelling. Siblings and friends will show teamwork as they help each other get through all the index cards.
- Even though the sun has been here all winter, we tend to notice it more when there are warm temperatures that come along with it. When the sun is out so are our shadows! Do the children notice their shadow? Ask them how it got there and where it goes when they run in to the shade. Can they chase their shadow or play shadow tag with a friend? Further the exploration of shadows inside with your hand and a flashlight or on a light table.
- Where were the animals all winter? Ask the children what they think before reading them the books: Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson and Animals in Winter, by Henrietta Bancroft. Create an animal adventure: What animals or insects do you see outside now that warm weather is here? Have the children document what they find by drawing on a clipboard or using a camera on a nature walk. (Little ones can use cameras too. Buy a disposable one and teach them how to look through the lens)
- This is probably an activity you have all thought of: Plant a seed. Instead of planting a flower, check if it’s okay with Mom and Dad to plant a vegetable. Peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, green beans, and peas are easier plants to grow inside. Children will have to take responsibility to care for their plant. What does a plant need to live? Have a conversation and find resources if they don’t know the answers. When the vegetable is ready to eat, have them help prepare the food; they will be so proud!
As the warm weather approaches us, begin planning activities that incorporate science and nature. However be aware of how you can include other subject areas as well, such as literature and sensory art experiences. Never forget that the child should be the center of your planning web. What interests them will in turn allow them to get the most out of the learning experience. Now head outside and enjoy!
Kelsey Plimpton is currently a nanny in Boston and has been nannying for five years. She started as a part-time nanny while earning her associates degree in Early Childhood Education. Kelsey has worked with ages 2 months to 15 years in both nannying and babysitting positions, since the age of 13. While working with children she follows their interests to help create activities targeting developmental goals. She blogs with SitterCycle.com and is the Early Childhood Coordinator.