My pre-schooler loved going to the park every day. Not for the slides and swings. Not necessarily to play and interact with other kids. He loved picking up fallen flowers, talking to (and unintentionally startling) the pigeons, and looking at the different colors in the evening sky.
When the mandatory lockdown started, it was easy to keep him occupied at home but it got me thinking – do I really want him to lose that ability to find happiness in nature? And lose that connection he has with it? Of course not.
There’s a reason why children (and even adults) are drawn to natural environments – the sights, sounds, scents, and textures of the outdoors are the perfect gateway for boundless exploration while promoting creativity, and increasing attention span while reduces stress. This high level of curiosity doesn’t last forever – so if we don’t let our kids experience nature while they are young, it might just become an invisible backdrop.
With the pandemic, letting children play outside is risky for them and scary for you. So here are some indoor activities for kids at a time when we have to be careful about the time we spend outdoors.
Help your child create a kitchen garden or grow some microgreens. Just grab a handful of any of seeds from your kitchen (fenugreek, mustard, coriander), soak them and sow them in a container. Let your child sprinkle water every day and watch its progress. There’s something magical about watching a seed grow into a plant and it’s even more magical seeing your child’s face light up when they experience it.
Make Nature Faces
Thinking of outdoor activities for children is easier than coming up with engaging indoor activities, but you can blend the two with this one. If you do take the kids out for a walk – have them collect twigs, leaves, pebbles, etc., and use them later to make faces, animals, and other drawings on the floor at home.
Match the Rock
Trace the outlines of a few rocks and pebbles on paper and have your child match the rock to its outline. Once you start with this activity, you can encourage your child to pick up a different rock during every outing, and soon you’ll have your very own rock collection.
This is one of my favorites, and it’s a great sensory activity for children. Have them close their eyes (or you can blindfold them) and let them guess what spices and herbs you present before them – one by one. I usually include basil leaves, a stick of cinnamon, some pods of cardamom, a few cloves, and even a slice of lime. You can talk about each after they smell it and tell them the names of the spices in different languages and how they’re used.
Paint with Nature
Remember those flowers, leaves, and twigs we collected earlier? Here’s another use for them. Tie some of these leaves and flowers to the ends of strong twigs and let your child use them as paintbrushes.
Tie a piece of twine to a thin twig and have your child thread some leaves with it. It’s a great gross motor skill activity and the outcome looks very pretty!
Lay out stones of different shapes and sizes and see how many they can carefully stack up before they all come tumbling down. This activity helps improve concentration and focus, hand-eye coordination, patience, and creative processing.
Bonus Benefit – it will also help them become champion lagori (or seven stones) players!
Float or Sink – Water Sensory Bin
Yes, this one involves water, which means there probably will be a little mess, but it’s definitely going to be a lot of fun. Just fill a little tub with water and leave some light and heavy items out for them to experiment with. You can include leaves, dried orange or lemon slices, pebbles, shells, etc. Have them feel the object and guess beforehand if it will float or sink and then let them find out for themselves.
A Few Tips…
Nature stories: Pick storybooks books about animals, nature, and the great outdoors
Relive experiences: Keep talking about certain trips or experiences like the last visit to the zoo or the beach
Nature on TV: Instead of just cartoons, let TV time include some nature and animal documentaries
Get a pet: Having a pet is always great for a child to develop non-verbal communication, compassion, and empathy. Give that it’s a lot of responsibility, you can consider something small to begin with – like a fish or a hamster
These tips will come in handy (even in the years to come) when it’s not always possible to take the children outside or let them participate in outdoor activities. If your child is already an outdoor-enthusiast, these fun nature activities will help nurture that connection, and if your child isn’t particularly fond of the outdoors yet, hopefully, some of these suggestions will help foster a love for nature!