Outdoor enviro-activities for kids

Photo: iStockphoto.com/David Benhoff

Want to get your kids enthused about the environment? Try some of these fun outdoor activities that will help your kids connect to nature.

Activity #1: Nature Scavenger Hunt

A good way to get your children to take notice of the plants and flowers around them is to plan a nature scavenger hunt. Head out to the local park, wooded area or nature trail and get them to explore. You can also have the kids decipher a map to find a treasure or have them earn points for snapping photos of wildlife.

Basic planning

Before starting take into account the ages of the children and decide if hunt will be a contest or not -- some children may enjoy the competition but younger children may just feel left out. One good way to avoid upsets is to have prizes for different things like a prize for someone who checks off the most things or someone who finds a hard to find item. Group prizes like ice cream or other treats for everyone will also work.

Tailor your scavenger list according to the amount to time available and location so you can have a manageable list. There's nothing worse than not having enough time to find anything. Mix up the list with easy items and those that take a bit longer. You don't want the kids finding everything in the first ten minutes.

Tools for the scavenger hunt

  • cloth bag to carry all the treasures
  • glass jar with a lid to transport insects and any other critters. Poke some air holes in the lid beforehand
  • sunscreen and bug repellant
  • healthy snacks and drinks – remind the children not to leave any litter behind
  • Small notebook and coloured pencils
  • Insect net
  • Magnifying glass
  • Binoculars to see birds and other animals up close
  • Things to collect or find

  • pinecones, acorns and seeds
  • dandelions or other flowering weeds
  • insects like butterflies, ladybugs, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and beetles
  • spider webs
  • leaves from trees
  • flowers of a particular colour
  • small animals like newts, frogs and toads
  • wildflowers (encourage the kids just to look and not pick)
  • mushrooms and wild berries (warn your kids not to eat anything until it's been identified)
  • seashells
  • bird feathers
  • ferns or moss
  • butterfly cocoons or chrysalis
  • flat, coloured or unusually shaped rocks, quartz or fossils
  • Activity #2: Web of Life
    A good cool-down game after the scavenger hunt is the Web of Life group activity. This activity helps children understand how life is an interdependent web where each species depends on the rest for survival. For this activity, you need a ball of string and a group of kids standing in a circle. Have each kid choose a part of the ecosystem they want to represent. The supervising adults should choose to be the humans. As kids pick their role, pass the string across the circle, weaving a web of string. Then ask the kids to name something humans do that damages the ecosystem. Those representing the systems hurt or in danger then let go of the string. Then ask what parts of the ecosystem are dependent on the first one and have those parts let go. Continue this process and watch as the damage ripples through the circle until all the kids have let go and only the human remains. Discuss how the human will survive and the implications of our interdependence with the rest of nature. This is a fun but tangible demonstration of how humans need the rest of nature to survive and will help your children understand why we need to respect and care for the earth.