Things to Do – 3 to 5

Pre-schoolers love the thrill of an adventure, whether that's jumping in muddy puddles, rolling down hills or climbing a tree!  Have fun trying out these nature play activities.

  • Jump and play in a muddy puddle.
  • Make a picture frame out of sticks on the ground. Inside the frame, create self-portraits out of sticks, leaves, stones and sand.
  • Weave mini baskets with dried leaf fronds.
  • Weave a mini mat using a frame of sticks and dried leaf fronds.
  • Weave and twist thin seaweed strands into a bracelet.
  • Make mud pies and decorate with found nature.
  • Have a treasure hunt. Leave a map of  signs and signals on the ground (eg. Arrows, symbols to represent water, trees or tracks) made from sticks, leaves and stones.
  • Draw dot pictures in the sand with the end of a stick.
  • Make an area in your backyard specially for digging and keeping stones.

  • Make a flower chain garland. Kids can  poke little finger nails in the stem and thread through the stem of the next flower. They love to wear them as a crown.
  • Make sand paint with different coloured sand and water. Use small found branches as a paint brush to paint it onto stones. Talk about how  colours change.
  • Make music by banging sticks on rocks.
  • Keep a nature memory box. Take a shoe box with you on your journeys and collect special non-living things eg. Feathers, stones, leaves or shells.Talk about how they feel, smell and where they came from.
  • When the kids outgrow their gumboots, use them as containers for plants.
  • Collect seeds, stones, sand or leaves to put into clear containers for toddlers and young children to shake, listen to and talk about. Relate the sounds to wildlife or sounds of the water or weather.
  • Float nature in a puddle. Be creative and join together leaves or build nature boats from sticks, leaves and feathers. Young children can float them down a shallow creek.
  • Wear your gumboots and walk through a shallow creek. Use a stick to check and watch for holes or rocks.
  • Search for and guess what animal tracks you see.Blindfold children and guide them to guess what nature they find.
  • Climb a tree and watch the clouds.
  • Crawl through the grass and discover creatures and nature. Talk about and ask questions about what is living and non-living.
  • Go walking in different places to quietly spot birds. Take along binoculars, bird books, ask questions about eggs and nests.
  • Make a trail of leaves to follow on a track. Walk along the leaf trail and see what you discover.
  • Do somersaults in the grass.
  • Roll down a grassy hill.
  • Play leapfrog.
  • Have a tree bark and gumnut race.
  • Make a pile of stones and sticks in your own backyard. Every now and then gently check them and talk about any minibeasts that make themselves at home.
  • Catch and release snails or earthworms. Temporarily keep them in a jar with leaves and sand. Talk about what they need to survive. Ask questions: How do they move? What do they eat?
  • Ride bikes through water – especially muddy puddles!​
  • Put on your gumboots and go looking for tadpoles.
  • Use loose parts and nature  to play with in puddles or shallow water ie. Pipe, sticks, buckets.
  • Do water painting with brushes or even branches and sticks.
  • Make tracks in mud with sticks, leaves or feathers. Wear old clothes so the kids can get dirty.

Words and selected pictures contributed by Cindy Addison. 


Williams, L. & Featherstone, S. (2006). Baby & Beyond: The Natural World – progression in play for babies and children. A&C Black Publishers Limited: London

Danks, F. & Schofield, J. (2007). Nature’s Playground: activities, crafts, and games to encourage children to get outdoors. Chicago Review Press: Illinois

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