- Get up close to plants or point them out while walking in nature.
- Talk about and touch the seeds, nuts, berries and flowers. Let babies and toddlers feel different textures with their bare hands and feet.
- Stroke leaves or flowers on arms, legs and cheeks. Give babies and toddlers time to explore and focus on nature.
- Look at and talk about the colours, textures, shapes and sizes.
- Sit with babies to use their senses with nature; you will be close so they don’t swallow anything. Let them touch, smell and even taste sticks, grass and leaves.
- Roll gumnuts or bigger seeds. Bury them in the sand to dig up again.
- Float flowers, leaves and feathers in puddles or shallow water.
- Use seeds, grass and leaves to mix into mud with a stick.
- Point out small creatures: spider webs, dragonflies, ants, butterflies, bees. Hold some on your hand or a stick: ladybugs, caterpillars or a praying mantis.
- Be brave when discovering small creatures so you can encourage curiosity and interest – not fear! Catching and releasing minibeasts shows respect and concern for nature.
- Use a long stick to lift and explore underneath sticks or bark.
- Let babies try nature experiences several times to get used to different textures e.g. sand, bark and sticks.
- Watch and listen to the birds. Bigger birds like swans or ducks can be easier to see. Visit different waterways, like rivers, creeks and beaches. Talk about and compare what you find.
- Make a birdbath for your garden to encourage the birds. Keep it simple and cheap: place a shallow terracotta plant base on a tree stump.
- Let young children dry out seeds from fruit and vegetables. Plant, water them and watch them grow.
- Dress in waterproof clothing and have short visits in gentle rain. Let the rain drop on hands and faces.
- Hold your baby while they paddle hands and feet in muddy puddles or shallow water – good for senses and gross motor skills for strength with walking and standing.
- Be fascinated and explore the reflections and shadows in water – go for a walk near a lake or creek or find some clear, shallow puddles.
- Let young children wear gumboots and splash and stomp in puddles.
- Ride little bikes through puddles.
- Run through sprinklers (on your watering day).
- Plant an edible herb and flower garden to touch, taste, look at and smell.
- Watch the clouds or the shadow of the sunlight in the trees. Let toddlers chase their own shadow and compare their shadow with yours.
- Feel the wind and breeze on their face to express feelings.
- Let babies and young children mix and poke their fingers in mud and clay.
- ‘Paint’ mud on things outside with brushes or branches.
- Make mobiles out of found objects – feathers, leaves, sticks, to move in the breeze.
- Attach material, ribbon to trees and bushes to watch fluttering in the breeze.
- Watch and chase the leaves on a windy day - watch what the wind does to light things: hair, feathers.
Story and 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.