We all know that learning is fun, but they tend to learn even better when we bring the kids outside! There is something magical about letting kids explore nature. Not sure where to start? The 50 toddler activities below are sorted based on the content area they apply to. Topics included are science, writing, math, physical education, art, and a few social studies. Get outside and let the kids use natural materials, chalk, bubbles, and more to learn today.
1. Nature Scavenger Hunt
There are so many different ways to do a nature scavenger hunt. The image above is one example. You can have the kids use a crayon, marker, or dot marker to check off each item as they find it in nature. This is best done when on a walk or a hike.
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2. Sink or Float
This is a great science experiment. You will need a big tub of water for the activity. Students can explore and grab some items from nature (leaves, rocks, sticks, flowers, etc.). You can also bring out some items from inside like balls, feathers, etc. Talk about if the kids think that the items will sink or float and then let them drop them into the bucket to find out.
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3. Anatomy of a Flower
Show the different parts of the flower to the kids. Explain what each part is used for. Kids can go and collect more flowers and practice sorting them by part.
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4. Observing Animal Behavior
Many animals come to visit our backyards on a daily basis. Practice science skills and have kids identify what behaviors they see animals doing. Explain that animals do these things for specific reasons just like humans. Examples of behaviors they may see are animals eating, running, playing, or cleaning.
5. Create a Dam
This STEM activity is tons of fun! Kids get to use materials to create a beaver dam. You can provide a ‘river’ made out of tin foil and allow kids to create a dam to stop the water by collecting materials like sticks and rocks. After the dam is created, have students pour water down the river to test the dam.
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6. What Melts in the Sun?
Grab a cupcake tin and some random items (kids can pick) and find out what melts in the sun.
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7. Make an Insect Hotel
Insects are important parts of our world and they need homes too. Insects like ants make really fancy homes. Have students use straws, cardboard tubes, egg boats, and other materials to make insect homes. Kids have a wonderful imagination so I’m sure their homes will all be creative and different.
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8. Chlorophyll Painting
Chlorophyll is a pigment in plants. Pigments give plants their amazing colors by reflecting light. Have kids collect leaves and flowers. They can use these to paint by rubbing them onto the paper.
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9. Build a Nest (STEM Activity)
Kids gather materials (much like birds do) and build a nest. You may have to provide some glue and tape.
Learn More: Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust
10. Human Sundial
Choose a sunny spot and have partners trace each other a few times throughout the day to create the human sundial. It is important to stand in the same spot each time. Place an ‘x’ in the spot that the kids will stand in to be traced. At the end of the day, check out the human sundial!
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11. Nectar Relay
In this activity, students learn about bees and how they collect nectar from flowers to make honey. Have each kid have a dropper to collect their nectar (yellow water). Kids run down to their flower to collect nectar and race back to put it into their honeycomb (ice cube tray).
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12. Plant a Seed
Planting seeds is so much fun. Have kids dig up some dirt. For this activity, they can plant seeds directly into the ground or into pots. Explain how seeds grow into plants by using carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight.
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13. Memory Game
Kids love playing memory. This activity requires minimal prep. Just gather some paper plates and a marker to make your large memory game. You can also make it nature-themed by putting different flowers instead of shapes.
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14. Matching Letter Game with Chalk
All you need is chalk sticks! Make a vertical list of uppercase letters. Parallel to that list, make a mixed-up list of lowercase letters. Have students draw lines to match upper and lowercase letters. This is a great activity for letter recognition practice.
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15. Sight Word Soccer
Write sight words on index cards and tape them to cones (or something stationary like a tree). Call out the word and have kids kick the ball to that cone. Repeat this with each cone.
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16. Letters Rock!
Use the letters you wrote for the matching letter game and have students use rocks that they collect to trace over their favorite letters. This is another great activity to practice letter recognition.
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17. Nature Alphabet
Go on a hunt to find things in nature that begin with each letter of the alphabet. This is a great activity for practicing letter sounds.
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18. Write Your Name With Nature
Kids use sticks, rocks, flowers, plants, and anything else they can find to write their name with nature. It’s a great art project that also practices letter recognition.
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19. Alphabet Target Practice – Water Balloons
Draw letters on paper and tape them to trees. You can also draw the alphabet on something that is waterproof like a tote box lid. Fill up water balloons and have students throw them at the letter you call out.
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20. ABC Sidewalk Chalk Game
Draw a game board with various letters throughout using sidewalk chalk. Call out different letters and let kids run and jump on the letters you call out.
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21. Alphabet Sponges
This is an awesome toddler activity. Get some alphabet sponges and place them in a tub of water. Have students grab the letter sponges and paint with them to make their own alphabet on the pavement.
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Physical Education / Fine Motor Skills Activities
22. Run and Sort Pom Pom Activity
Throw out a variety of color sorting balls (pom-poms work perfectly) and have students run out to grab a pom-pom. Once they return they will practice sorting the colors. You can do it like a relay race and have kids only grab one pom at a time. Alternatively, kids can grab handfuls and sort them when they return to home base.
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23. Balloon Tennis
This active game involves making tennis rackets with paper plates and large popsicle sticks. The tennis ball in this game is a balloon. Kids will have fun hitting the balloon back and forth.
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Hopscotch is a classic game that gets kids moving and practicing numbers. Draw a large hopscotch board and grab a rock to play this game.
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25. Animal Yoga
Yoga and mindfulness are great activities for toddlers. These activities are even better when done outside. Animal Yoga has children practice different yoga moves that are modeled after animals.
Learn More: Mother Natured
26. Bear Hunt
Go on a bear hunt through the woods. You can play the bear hunt song that many providers for kids make.
Learn More: Buggy and Buddy
27. Leaf Cutting Practice
It’s always important to practice fine motor skills. In this activity, kids practice their fine motor skills by cutting leaves. There is also no mess to clean up!
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28. Obstacle Course
Set up an obstacle course with hula hoops to crawl through and wood for balance beams. You can also use nature’s own obstacle courses and go on a hike to climb over rocks.
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29. Rock Shapes
Have kids gather rocks and pool them together. Kids can make different shapes out of rocks in the grass.
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30. Rock Counting
Draw big circles with numbers inside. Have kids practice counting rocks and putting them in the different circles.
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31. Classifying Nature
This is an engaging activity during which kids sort items they find in nature. Kids classify items based on their size or color. You can make the circles on the ground with chalk; use hula hoops; or write them on paper.
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32. Sensory Bin – Making Smores (Addition)
This activity takes a bit of prep because you have to set up the sensory bins and addition cards. Make a smores sensory bin that contains smores ingredients. You can use cotton balls as marshmallows, foam squares as graham crackers, and black beans as chocolate. Give students the recipe card that tells them how many of each item they need for their smores. Students can dig out their recipes from the sensory bin to make a fake more.
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33. Coloring Math Shapes- Mosaic Art
Tape off geometric shapes using masking tape. Have kids color with sidewalk chalk. Remove the tape to show their artistic masterpiece.
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34. Counting Scavenger Hunt
Print out a scavenger hunt template. Go out and explore nature to check off all of the items on the list.
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35. Measuring Leaves
Grab some rulers and show kids how to measure. Let them practice taking simple measurements of all the different leaves they find.
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36. Patterns with Rocks
Take out some paint and paintbrushes and have kids paint some rocks. For this activity, only take out 3-4 colors of paint. After the paint dries, kids can practice making patterns with the rocks.
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37. Bubble Snake Maker
This is a super fun activity for toddlers during which they make really cool bubble snakes. This is a different take on just blowing bubbles. You need a water bottle, old socks, dish soap, water, and a rubber band. Cut the bottom off of the water bottle and play the sock tightly over it. You can use the rubber band to secure it. Make a soapy water solution and dip the sock end of the water bottle into it. Blow into the water bottle from the other end. Watch your bubble snake appear!
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38. Tree Bark Rubbing Art
Create art from nature by using crayons (remove the wrapper), paper, and tape. Kids can tape up a piece of paper on a tree and then use the bark imprint to create designs while rubbing the crayons over the bark. Have kids switch colors and trees.
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39. Shadow Drawings
Ready to play with light and shadow? Have your kids trace shadows from trees, each other, or they could even place a toy animal or dinosaur figure that casts a shadow in the sun. They’ll then trace the shadow to practice their drawing skills.
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40. Painting with Mud
Kids love getting messy in the mud. Make some mud with water and dirt. Allow kids to use different paint brushes to make a mud masterpiece.
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41. Make a Bird Feeder
Make backyard bird feeders using pine cones, nut butter (or an allergen-friendly alternative), and bird seed. Cover the pinecone with the nut butter. Dip the pine cone in bird seed.
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42. Nature Portraits
Kids gather all different items from nature to make a self-portrait. This is a super adorable and fun activity for kids. You need to provide cardboard and glue, but nature will provide the rest.
Learn More: Happy Hooligans
43. Nature Paint Brushes
There are so many things in nature that you can paint with! In this activity, kids use different flowers, leaves, and sticks as paintbrushes. Kids can paint on white paper or cardboard boxes.
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44. Leaf Faces (Emotions)
In this activity, kids get to practice reviewing their emotions. You can talk about emotions and then explain how we express them with our faces. Kids draw emotions on leaves. An alternate activity would be to draw the emotions on leave ahead of time and have kids search for them. Kids can identify the emotion once they find a leaf.
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45. Rainbow Scavenger Hunt
Print out a color scavenger hunt page for students to use on their hunt. Go on a nature hike to find all of the different colors in nature.
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46. Flower Petal Suncatcher
Kids gather flowers and use them to make a suncatcher. The outside of the suncatcher is a paper plate. To make the flowers stick you put some clear packing tape on the paper plate.
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Social Studies Activities
47. Map Symbols Game
Draw different map symbols like the ones above with chalk. Describe the symbol and have students run or jump on the symbol you are describing.
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48. Water vs. Land
Print out some different pictures of organisms and objects that can be found in the water and on land. Make a big T-chart on the pavement with chalk. Students can sort the pictures based on where they find the organisms. Another activity idea is that you can also print out landforms and bodies of water for kids to sort.
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49. Draw an Earth
Have students use blue and green chalk to draw planet earth.
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50. Where do I live? (Chalk)
Draw circles like the image above to go over where we live. The labels for the circles from outside to inside are as follows: planet, continent, country, state, city, street, house.
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