Inside: Want to go on a nature study with your grandkids? Here are 8 fun activities to bring nature to life in your backyard!
Nature Study with Grandkids
There is something incredibly soothing about kids being in nature—riding their bikes, going on a walk, climbing trees, playing in lakes and streams, gazing at the sky, hugging a tree, etc.
Being in nature makes kids feel better! Studies show amazing things happen when children and adults spend time in nature or do a nature study:
- improves memory
- makes us happier
- helps us concentrate better
- reduces stress
- keeps us young
- strengthens the immune system
- brightens our moods
All good reasons for spending time in the great outdoors! And keep in mind—nature can be enjoyed and experienced year-round—spring, summer, fall, and winter.
“Nature Study” is the theme at grandma’s house this week. Filled with lots of fun activities; here are our favorites:
#1: A Nature Study: A Listening Walk with Grandkids
Have you ever read the book, The Listening Walk by Paul Showers? It’s a charming story about a father, a daughter, and their dog who go on daily walks. They don’t talk—they just tune into the sounds around them. It’s all about being still and just listening.
Prior to taking our grandkids on a listening walk, we read to them The Listening Walk. I also made a list (including pictures) of different things to listen to while in nature. I attached the list to a clipboard for each child and as we went on our walk, the grandkids marked off all the different sounds they heard. Click here to download our FREE listening walk printable.
To add to the fun, give each grandchild 2 bracelets:
- masking tape bracelet that they can attach any light-weight “treasures” they find on their listening walk. Inspiration: Integrated Learning Strategies
- candy bracelet–the kind you bite off the colored round candies.
As you walk, point out different sounds you hear in nature—
- trees rustling
- birds singing
- crickets chirping
- bees buzzing
- cars & trucks passing by
- jets overhead
- people talking
- squeaky shoes
When you get home, have everyone share their experiences about the listening walk and any treasures they found along the way.
#2: Sensory Play: Water, Rocks, Sticks & Mud–Sensory Toys found in Nature’s playground
Have you ever known a child that doesn’t love water, rocks, sticks, and mud? Kids can play for hours using these 4 unique “toys” found in nature’s playground.
Check out your extended neighborhood and find a place where you can take your grandkids to experience nature toys. Where we live—it’s the canyons—30 minutes away.
We take our grandkids regularly to the local canyons to play in a shallow stream with plenty of mud to dig in, sticks to float and rocks to throw in the water.
Playing with water, mud/sand, rocks, and sticks helps a child’s sensory development with:
- Gross and fine motor development as they dig, scoop, sift, funnel and pour
- Hand/eye coordination as they throw rocks, pick up and float sticks, etc.
- Social skills
- Cooperative play & sharing
- Increases a child’s love of exploring and discovering
Plan to stay for several hours. Pack a lunch, plenty of water, towels, sunscreen, and shades. And then rinse and repeat this activity numerous times with your grandkids.
#3: Nature Study Science: Making Fizzy Stars
As a kid, did you ever make something from baking soda and vinegar that exploded into a white fizz? These 2 little chemicals can create a lot of excitement and surprise!
Keeping with our nature study theme, here’s what you’ll need to make fizzy stars:
- a bowl of baking soda for each child
- a bowl of white vinegar for each child
- 1 Tablespoon for each child
- silver glitter
- several star cookie cutters for each child or other nature cookie cutters (moon, sun, tree)
- plastic flat container to put star cookie cutters in
- Put the star cookie cutters into the flat plastic container
- Pour several spoonsful of baking soda into each cookie cutter star
- Sprinkle glitter over the soda
- Pour a tablespoon of vinegar into the cookie cutter with the baking soda & glitter
- The mixture will immediately fizz creating a fun fizzy star.
- Continue pouring vinegar on the baking soda for more fizz, foam, and fun!
So, why does baking soda and vinegar produce a fizzy mixture?
They react because one is a base (baking soda) and one is an acid (vinegar). Because they are exchanging atoms, the reaction releases gas, the soda receives a proton and transforms into water and carbon dioxide and you get the fizzy exploding reaction.
#4: Kitchen Nature Study: Edible Glaciers
Have you ever heard of edible glaciers? I created this title and recipe 30 years ago when I was reading books to my sons about glaciers and wanted to make something fun in the kitchen to complement our reading.
Glaciers are part of nature so begin by reading books about glaciers such as Interesting Facts About Glaciers: Geology for Beginners by Baby Professor. Then head to the kitchen to make these fun edible glaciers
Explain to your grandkids that glaciers are formed when layers of snow turn to ice.
This recipe is for a one-layer glacier and you can add different fruits to represent edible floating ice, dirt, fish, and rocks.
- 1 large package Blueberry Jell-O
- ½ cup fresh blueberries
- ½ cup each pineapple chunks, mandarin oranges (drained)–optional
- ½ cup crushed Oreo cookies
- Whipping cream
- Follow the directions on the Jell-O package
- After the Jell-O is completely dissolved, stir in the blueberries (rocks). You can also add pineapple chunks (floating ice), and mandarin oranges (fish)
- Pour into a 8x8" glass pan
- Set in the refrigerator
- Let the grandkids crush the Oreo cookies in a plastic bag.
- To Serve:
- Spoon a square of the glacier into a bowl and add additional fresh blueberries
- Squirt a dollop of whipping cream on top (fresh snow)
- Sprinkle crushed Oreo cookies over the glacier (dirt)
#5: Art Nature Study: Making a Rainbow Collage
Here’s an art project you’ve probably seen before—making rainbows out of cardboard. Cardboard is a fun medium and allows your grandkids to experience different paper textures. Inspiration: Cardboard Creations
These are easy to put together and valuable lessons are learned. This project will increase gluing and scissor skills and lets grandkids tap into their creativity as they design their rainbow. Creativity enhances problem-solving skills—important skills needed for life!
- Rainbows cut from cardboard. Depending on the ages of your grandkids—they can draw their rainbows and cut them out. But, cutting cardboard can be challenging
- Collage materials: small squares of colorful paper, glitter, pom-poms, straws, cotton balls, wooden sticks, feathers, etc.
- Each grandchild gets a pre-cut rainbow from cardboard (or see above)
- Encourage them to create a very colorful rainbow using the collage materials you supply
- Tell them to think about what rainbows look like; why they are so colorful and try to make their rainbow fun and colorful, too
Last, as they are making their rainbows, share with them these fun rainbow facts:
Nature Study: Fun Facts About Rainbows
- A rainbow happens when one part of the sky is sunny and the other part of the sky is raining
- The colors of the rainbow are red, orange, yellow, blue, green, indigo and violet
- If you were to look at a rainbow with someone standing next to you—they would see the rainbow slightly different because they are seeing different raindrops Source
#6: Art Nature Study: Creating a Nature Mural
These murals can be made individually (11×14 cardstock) or on a long butcher paper mural. All you need is plenty of glue and nature-like materials for your grandkids to create their mural (supplies from Dollar Store & Amazon)
- Green moss
- Wooden nature animals/insects: butterflies, ladybugs, owls
- Plastic butterflies
- Dot markers
- Tempura paints
After completing these pictures–ask your grandkids what they love most about nature.
#7: Nature Study Books
The libraries and bookstores are filled to the brim with books about nature! Take this list and your grandkids to the library and check out at least 20-25 books on some aspect of nature: trees, birds, flowers, weather, sky, clouds, rainbows, etc., to read and discuss together.
Nature books are also available on Amazon. Do you have a monthly book budget? If not, you should. Books and reading aloud to your grandkids are an investment in their future and is related to their success in school.
We read books every time the grandkids come to visit and our son has created a “read-aloud” daily chart where his kids list the books they read aloud each day.
- Backpack Explorer: On the Nature Trail: What Will You Find by Storey Publishing
- The Hugging Tree: A Story About Resilience by Jill Neimark
- Glacier on the Move by Elizabeth Rusch
- Tornadoes by Gail Gibbons
- Rainbow by Marion Dane Bauer
- The Listening Walk by Paul Showers
- The Sky is Full of Stars by Franklyn M. Branley
- Nimby by Jasper Tomkins
#8: Nature Study Music
There is something magical about music. Depending on the music, it has the power to lift our spirits as nothing else can.
Be sure and add music each time your grandkids come to visit. Play it in the background as they are doing art, science, or sensory projects. Use it as an activity where you give your grandkids rhythm instruments and you march and move to the music.
Here are 5 fun selections of music that tie into the theme: Nature Study.
- Over in the Meadow
- Over in the Meadow: Laurie Berkner
- How to be a cloud: Kira Willey
- Fireflies beauty of nature: Kira Willey
- Breathe Like a Bear Kira Willey
Do you have a favorite nature activity that you do with your grandkids? Please share in the comment section below.
Want to remember this post? Post, “How to Have Fun on a Nature Study with Grandparents” to your favorite Pinterest board.