Turn your little ones into nature lovers with these fun activities—no batteries required.
Become an Animal Detective
It sounds simple, but one of the best ways to help kids appreciate a love of nature is to take them on a walk,” says Rafael Rosa, Vice President of Education at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. “You don’t need to be too structured, just let your kids guide you as they explore and discover the world around them.” Rosa also often encourages kids to become “animal detectives” by looking for signs of animal life, such as tracks in the dirt, half-eaten leaves, or remnants of a feather. “You’ll be amazed by what you find when you really start looking,” says Rosa, who recommends taking walks at different times of the days including just after dawn or right before twilight.
Start a Collection
As many parents know, kids love collecting things, which is why Rosa thinks gathering natural items like as rocks, flowers and leaves is such a good fit for young children. “As you walk around with your little ones, encourage them to pick up and examine ‘treasures’ they find along the way,” Rosa says. “Not only will your children learn to hone their observation skills, but they’ll also feel more connected to their surroundings.”
Gather Data for Scientists
“A fun way to get children involved in natural science is by encouraging them to be part of the scientific process,” says Nicole Kowrach, Director of Teaching and Learning at the Museum of Science and Industry. Kowrach recommends using “citizen scientist” websites that ask families to help researchers observe and track different types of wildlife. For example, families can visit the Lost Ladybug Project to learn how to find, photograph and record different species of ladybugs. Frog-lovers can collect data on frogs via Frogwatch USA and aspiring birdwatchers can track their findings at the Great Backyard Birdcount.
Visit Different Ecosystems and Build One of your Own
“Visiting different ecosystems is a wonderful way to foster an appreciation of nature,” Kowrach says. “After all, your backyard is different than a forest preserve, which is different from the beach.” When talking about different ecosystems, Kowrach suggests comparing and contrasting the environments based on simple observations, such as the way rocks or insects differ in each location. You can also teach your children about ecosystems by building one of your own with this neat terrarium craft courtesy of the MSI.
Want more science fun? Visit the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum to learn all about the happenings inside and outside the museum including their butterfly haven, and new Family and Children programs.
And be sure to sign up for the Museum of Science and Industry’s Summer Brain Games, a free online activity guide filled with cool science projects and activities that will keep your kids happy and engaged and their critical reasoning skills strong.