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Published Apr 3, 2024 ⦁ 11 min read
Outdoor Science Activities for Preschoolers: Nature Exploration

Outdoor Science Activities for Preschoolers: Nature Exploration

Exploring nature isn't just fun—it's a fantastic way for preschoolers to learn about the world around them. Here are some easy and engaging outdoor science activities that will spark their curiosity and teach them valuable lessons:

  • Backyard Bug Hunt: Discover the tiny creatures living right under your nose.
  • Planting Seedlings: Learn how plants grow from seeds.
  • Nature Sound Map: Identify and map the sounds around you.
  • Sand & Water Investigation: Experiment with these elements to see how they interact.
  • Weather Watching: Observe and record the changing weather.

These activities not only make learning about science entertaining but also help kids develop a love for the environment. By engaging directly with nature, children learn to observe, question, and appreciate the natural world. Let's dive into how simple outdoor explorations can be a powerful classroom for young minds.

Safety First

  • Always watch the kids closely outside. Have adults lead small groups.
  • Talk about safety rules like sticking together, not picking plants without asking, and not eating anything found outside.
  • Wear shoes that cover the whole foot to avoid slips or cuts.
  • Bring a first-aid kit and know about any dangers like water, steep places, or animals.

Things You Might Need

  • Small magnifying glasses or containers to look at tiny things closely
  • Jars to collect stuff like leaves, seeds, and small rocks
  • Binoculars for watching birds
  • A notebook and crayons for drawing what they see
  • Measuring tape or ruler to see how big or long things are
  • Small tools for gardening

Picking a Spot

Think about places like:

  • Parks with lots of space, paths, and different plants or animals
  • Beaches for checking out the area where the land meets the water
  • Woods or nature areas
  • Your own backyard, or green spots at schools or libraries
  • Places with water like ponds or streams

Choose a place that's easy to get to, safe, and has interesting things to see. Look for spots with lots of different plants and animals but also make sure it's a safe place for a group of kids to explore.

5 Simple Outdoor Science Activities for Preschoolers

Backyard Bug Hunt

Take some magnifying glasses or containers for catching bugs and explore your backyard or a park. Look under rocks, leaves, and logs for bugs.

  • Gently catch bugs or scoop them into a container. Remember to be gentle and not hurt them.
  • Use magnifying glasses to look at the bugs closely. Notice their colors, shapes, and how many legs or wings they have.
  • Group the bugs by their type, color, or size. Count how many you find.
  • Guess what the bugs eat or where they live. Then, let them go.
  • Draw the bugs you find in a journal.

This activity helps kids learn about nature by observing and sorting.

Planting Seedlings

Growing plants from seeds teaches kids about how plants grow.

  • Start with easy-to-grow seeds like beans or sunflowers in small pots.
  • Show kids how to plant seeds, cover them with soil, water them, and put them where they'll get sunlight.
  • Guess how long it will take for the seeds to sprout and how tall the plants will grow. Write these guesses down.
  • Use a ruler to measure how tall the plants grow each week and draw pictures of them.
  • When the plants are big enough, move them outside.

Kids will learn about plant growth by watching their plants grow.

Nature Sound Map

Listening to sounds in nature helps kids pay attention to their surroundings.

  • Stop and listen for sounds like birds or the wind when you're outside.
  • Mark on a map where you hear different sounds.
  • Talk about what's making the sounds. Are they loud or quiet? High or low?
  • Try to make the same sounds with your voice.

This activity teaches kids about different sounds in nature and where they come from.

Sand & Water Investigation

Playing with sand and water lets kids explore and learn by doing.

  • Use things like buckets, cups, and spoons to play with sand and water.
  • Let kids pour, mix, and dig to see what happens.
  • Ask questions like which one flows faster or holds more.
  • Try adding new things like sponges or rocks to see what happens.

This playtime helps kids learn about things like how water moves and what things float or sink.

Weather Watching

Looking at the weather helps kids learn about the seasons and temperature.

  • Go outside often to see what the weather's like. Is it sunny or rainy? Hot or cold?
  • Write down what the weather is like each day. Use pictures for kids who can't read yet.
  • Talk about how the weather changes from one day to the next.
  • Play dress-up with clothes for different types of weather.

Watching the weather helps kids understand the world around them.

Fostering Creativity in Science Exploration

Outdoor science activities are a great way to help little kids think creatively while they learn about how the world works. Mixing art, stories, and imagination with exploring outside makes science fun and helps kids develop important skills.

Get Creative with Art

Using art that's inspired by nature helps kids look closely at what's around them. You can give them:

  • Sketchbooks and crayons to draw plants, animals, and the places they see
  • Watercolors to paint the beautiful colors they find in nature
  • Clay or play dough to make shapes of creatures and things they touch
  • Leaves, flowers, and sticks to put together into art pieces

When kids make art, ask them to talk about the small things they see, like how a leaf looks or the patterns on a bug. Talking about their art helps them think more about what they see and remember it better.

Art helps kids pay attention to details, get better at using their hands, and think creatively.

Spark Imagination with Stories

Telling stories makes kids feel close to nature in a fun and creative way. They can make up stories about:

  • The animals and plants they see as characters in their stories
  • What they imagine animals talking about
  • Fun reasons for why things happen in nature, like why leaves fall
  • Themselves going on adventures in magical natural places

You can help kids tell stories by:

  • Letting them talk or act out their stories
  • Writing down the stories they tell you
  • Recording them talking or acting out their stories

Making up stories helps kids be creative, see things from different views, and find meaning in nature. It also makes them better at talking and sharing ideas.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Asking questions that don't have one right answer helps kids think more about nature and science. Good questions to ask are:

  • What's different about this plant compared to others?
  • What do you think this bug needs to live?
  • Why do leaves change color?
  • What would happen if there was no water in the stream?
  • What else do you want to know about mushrooms?

Don't worry about 'right' or 'wrong' answers. Let kids explain their thoughts and explore what interests them. This shows them that science is about asking questions, guessing, and finding out more.

Mixing science with art, stories, and asking lots of questions makes kids more excited to learn and helps them love learning about nature for their whole lives.


Encouraging Questioning & Discussion

Asking questions is a great way to make preschoolers think more about science and nature. Here's how you can start good talks before, during, and after outdoor science activities:

Before the Activity

  • Start by asking what they know or think about the things you might see, like plants or bugs.
  • Have them guess things like, "How many different bird sounds do you think we'll hear?"
  • Let them talk about what they're excited to find or learn.

During the Activity

  • Instead of just showing things, ask questions like:
    • "What's different about this flower?"
    • "Why do you think that beetle has spots?"
    • "What might happen if we move this stick?"
  • It's okay if they don't get it right. It's all about exploring ideas.
  • Ask more questions to make them think deeper, like "Why do you say that?"

After the Activity

  • Let kids talk about what surprised or excited them the most.
  • Ask what new questions they have, like "What do you wonder about rocks now?"
  • Discuss what they want to learn next and how they can find out.

Other tips:

  • Don't just give them the answers. Ask, "What do you think?"
  • If you don't know the answer, that's fine! Say, "Let's find out together."
  • Make questions fun and creative. Encourage them to come up with their own ideas.

Asking questions in the right way makes kids want to learn and think like scientists. It keeps learning fun and makes them eager to learn more about nature.

Documenting Discoveries with Nature Journals

A nature journal is a fun way for little kids to keep track of what they see and learn outside. It's like a diary for their adventures with plants, bugs, and everything else they find interesting.

What to Include in a Nature Journal

In a simple nature journal, kids can put:

  • Drawings of things they see like trees, bugs, and rocks.
  • What they say about their finds - you can write it down for them.
  • Stuff from nature like leaves or small feathers, stuck onto the pages.
  • How big or small things are using a ruler or comparing to their hands.
  • Questions they have about the things they see.

Let them use colors, stickers, and bits of nature to make their journal pages look fun.

The main thing is to let them be creative and include what they find cool, in their own way.

Tips for Documenting Discoveries

  • Bring a small notebook and some colors with you when you go out.
  • Write the date on each journal entry or use new pages for different days out.
  • If they want to remember something, take a picture and they can draw it later.
  • Talk about what they drew or collected to hear more about it.
  • Help them put their thoughts into words and write it in the journal for them.

Revisiting the Journal

Going through their journal later can help kids:

  • Remember the fun times they had outside
  • See how their drawing and writing gets better
  • Share their adventures with others
  • Come up with new things to find out

It also helps them get better at watching closely, asking questions, explaining their thoughts, and organizing their ideas.

Keeping a nature journal helps kids see that what they find out and think about is important. It boosts their confidence and makes them even more eager to learn.


Outdoor science activities are a fantastic way for little ones to learn by doing something fun. They get to see and touch things in nature, which helps them understand science better. Here's why these activities are so good for them:

  • They make science interesting because kids can see how things like plants grow and how the weather changes right in front of them. This hands-on learning helps them grasp ideas more easily.
  • These activities teach kids to think like scientists. They learn to notice details, measure things, and spot patterns. Keeping a nature journal, for example, helps them organize their thoughts and share what they've discovered.
  • Mixing in creativity with outdoor learning makes everything stick in their minds better. Drawing, making up stories, and asking "what if" questions turn lessons into adventures.
  • Being outside means they're moving around, playing, and working together. This is great for their bodies and teaches them how to get along with others.
  • Starting to love nature when they're young means they'll care more about protecting it as they grow up. Kids who enjoy the outdoors understand why it's important to keep it safe.

The outside world is full of wonders for kids to explore. By taking learning outside, we let nature be the teacher. This way, we encourage kids to be curious, think for themselves, and care about the world around them.

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