Men cannot worship the Creator and look with careless indifference upon His creatures…Love of nature is akin to love of God; the two are inseparable. ~Joseph F. Smith
Nature Sensory Bin:
For this week’s Invitation to Play, I filled a large plastic bin about half full with aspen shavings that I purchased at the local pet store. I added pine wood slices that I ordered from Amazon, driftwood sticks that I bought at Hobby Lobby, pinecones, large stones, a coconut shell, some large seashells, wooden peg people and small wooden bean pots. This was a wonderful sensory experience—so different from my usual rice or dried beans. I love that the children decided to add some wooden animals to enrich their imaginative play.
- Wind Socks: I gave each child a piece of Pacon 12×18 inch drawing paper onto which I had glued about twenty inch lengths of crepe paper streamers. I also gave each of them three different flowers, a daisy, a carnation and a mini button pom. Then they each got a dollop of yellow, green and orange paint. I told them that they could use their flowers to stamp, or they could paint with them like a paint brush. It is always so interesting to watch the Littles and see which ones carefully print, keeping all of their colors separate and which ones swirl everything together! After they had finished their painting, I rolled the papers into tubes and stapled them. I punched two holes in the top of the wind sock directly across from each other. Finally I tied a string from each hole so that the Littles could hang their windsocks outside.
- Spin Art Rocks: This idea comes from Meri Cherry I bought a couple of bags of black rocks from the dollar store. I have a salad spinner that I only use for spin art and I put three rocks into the salad spinner. I had a few complimentary tempera paint colors out-I found that brighter colors worked best-and then one of the Littles would squirt a little paint onto each rock. Next, that Little would spin, spin, spin the salad spinner. Upon opening the top we would ooh and aah over the funky paint designs on the rocks. I took the rocks out—it was too easy for the Littles to smudge the designs. And then the next Little would take a turn and we would repeat the process. This is an easy, but really fun project.
- Ribbon Wands: When I have made ribbon wands in the past I have used a dowel to tie the ribbon onto. However, since our theme is nature I wanted to use something a little bit more, well, natural! If I had had more time and woods nearby, I would have taken the littles on a walk to find sticks to use, but since I didn’t I bought two packages of driftwood sticks at Hobby Lobby! I let the children paint their sticks. Some painted designs, some just painted the stick a solid color. I bought ribbon at the dollar store and also used up some extra ribbon that I had. i cut approximately 2 foot lengths of ribbon, but you could cut them a lot longer, I would say up to about 5 feet. I let the children choose four different colors of ribbon. I laid them on top of each other, put a dot of hot glue in-between each ribbon so that they were glued together. Then I put a small line of hot glue on the stick and tied on the ribbon. These are so fun to take outside and run with the ribbon streaming behind the child. There is something magical about swirling and looping the ribbon. I am sorry that I am short on pictures of how the actual wands turned out, but I was having issues with my phone that took a while to fix!
- Outdoor nature watercolor paintings: The children and I went for a walk around the yard and each child collected leaves, seed pods, flowers and sticks in their buckets. Then I gave them each a piece of heavy watercolor paper. They arranged their nature collections in a design on their watercolor paper. I had put liquid watercolors into small spray bottles and had watered the colors down. (I did this with two different groups of children and learned after the first time not to water them down too much!) Then we sprayed the paper. While the children ran off for outdoor play, we let the papers dry. After they dried we took off the natural materials and the white negative space remained. I will say that this project was a mixed success as far as the outcome. The first time I did the project, I had watered down the watercolor too much and the Littles were really liberal in their spraying! The colors ran together under the natural materials and so there wasn’t much negative space left. But, they loved the process and even loved the outcome and so I deemed it a success! The next time, the watercolors were stronger and I talked to the Littles ahead of time about going lightly on the spray, and so the finished products better resembled what I had envisioned in my mind!
Nature Scavenger Hunt: I gave the Littles pictures of things to find on our walk. When they found the item on their picture, we all gave a cheer and had a good look and then that child would get another picture of something else to find. Things that I included were pictures of a snail, a rock, a worm, a brown leaf, some red berries, a bird, a pinecone, a bug, a tree stump, etc. You could include whatever is indigenous to your area. We had some lovely rainy days and so the worms were out in abundance much to the delight of my Littles. My biggest piece of advice is to revel in nature. It is a gift from God and a sign of His grace. Children are naturally curious about nature, and it is often only our attitude that turns them from wonder to squeamishness. Help them to see the beauty and intricacy and splendor of the natural world.